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Thoughts on ” Doubting” Thomas

Easter 2

Gospel Reading John 20:19-31

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Short homily for Easter 2

In the National Gallery in London there is a painting  called ” The Incredulity of Thomas”  by Guercina – 1591-1666

It depicts  the disciples gathered round  the resurrected Jesus and a man placing his fingers into Jesus’ wounds. This man has come to be known Doubting Thomas. Thomas has become a byword for believers – but is this deserved?

Thomas doesn’t only appear in this crucial episode. He is mentioned on two other occasions, both in the Gospel according to St John, although we infer that he was present on many other occasions.

In John 11, Thomas and the other disciples are informed by Jesus that he has knowledge that their very dear friend Lazarus has died. Jesus says “I am glad that I was not there, so you may believe. But let us go to him”

Now Jesus and the disciples knew that to go to Bethany, so near to Jerusalem, was to take them into the very most dangerous place. So when Thomas says, “let us also go that we may die with him”, Thomas is declaring himself willing to die with Jesus? Hardly the words of a coward  afraid to commit! Thomas shows himself to be a passionate and committed follower of Jesus.

On the second occasion when Thomas, it is Maundy Thursday.
According to John’s Gospel, Jesus is cramming in many profound and beautiful prophecies, trying to teach them all they would need to understand the future without Him. Thomas intervenes after Jesus’ mysterious remark about going somewhere to prepare the way. It is Thomas who objects “Lord, we do not know where you are going – so how can we know the way?” Do you suppose all the other disciples knew what Jesus meant ? Of course not!  Only Thomas, had the courage to say what they were all thinking – that they didn’t know what Jesus meant. Thomas’ question paved the way for Jesus’ wonderful answer- “I am the way, the truth and the Life”.

So we gain a very positive image of Thomas, courageous, very much Jesus’ man, a man of honesty who is willing to sacrifice his pride in order to learn the truth. With this knowledge in mind, we turn back to the story narrated in the gospel reading.

The disciples were in utter disarray, having been shattered by the loss of Jesus . The story that Jesus had some how come back to life, had been seen by witnesses was related to Thomas. What must have been his feelings? Perhaps he was angry that their hopes should be raised in such a ridiculous manner? Perhaps Thomas felt joy at the prospect that Jesus had cheated death?  But he is not willing to just go along with the crowd. He has to see for himself.

Eight days later Jesus again appeared to the disciples and this time Thomas was there. Jesus obviously knew what Thomas had said about the need to touch and see the resurrected Jesus for himself, because Jesus immediately offered him the chance! We can perhaps imagine Jesus’ eyes twinkling as He held out his wounded hands to be inspected.

In an instance, Thomas assured himself that the thing he most wanted to see was true, that the beloved master was back. He was in no doubt as to what the resurrection meant – it meant that Jesus was His Lord and His God! An acclamation which took a leap of faith and courage to make.
Jesus does not seem to be annoyed by Thomas’ need to know for himself. The passage is of great help to all who ask the question – was Jesus a ghost? Was He perhaps a product of the imagination of the distraught followers? The proof that Thomas had the courage to ask was offered in the most concrete way. Jesus chided him gently that there would be many who would believe without being given the chance to touch, see and hear Jesus in bodily form. But of course we don’t need to because Thomas asked the question on our behalf.

Doubting Thomas should be renamed Honest Thomas. His inclusion in the ranks of the disciples was part of Jesus’ plan. Without him, vital evidence about the Resurrection would be missing, key questions would have gone unasked, key answers never made. The presence of Thomas reminds us that Christianity demands that we must engage with our minds as well as our hearts, that Jesus is unafraid of close scrutiny and gives us the freedom to question. Ours is a religion for adults with brains, which we are invited to use Thomas is a helpful reminder that although Jesus is our shepherd, He doesn’t want or expect us to be merely sheep.

A blessing for Easter:

May Christ

who out of defeat brings new hope and a new future

fill you with his new life

and the blessing  of God Almighty, The Father, Son  and Holy Spirit be upon you and remains with you always.

Amen


April 10, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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