Be Thomas

Now Thomas (also known as 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.”

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.”

John 20:24-29

Hello Church Family, this is Pastor Phil-

I want to take a few moments in our meditation today and to hear Thomas. Jesus’ disciple often gets such a bad reputation and is labeled with the title “Doubting Thomas.” When we hear a label, like doubting Thomas, it automatically gives us an impression of what that person is like that is often far from the reality of who they are and just gives us idea that we don’t want to be like that guy. 

That is unfortunate because we, all of us, are a lot like Thomas and don’t deserve a label either or to feel like we have one. Let’s take a moment and look at what Thomas had just been through. 

First, he witnessed the horrific execution of his friend, mentor and teacher, Jesus. Thomas, like the 12 was very, very close to Jesus and now he had just seen the betrayal of Jesus by one of his own friends, Judas. There was the public arrest, beatings, vehemence of the crowd and the execution all in the public eye for everyone to see. 

During this reading, it was after the resurrection, but Thomas had not seen the risen Jesus for himself. Thomas was grieving. He was hurting all over. Tears would well up in his eyes when he would least expect them to be there. He was looking for comfort in how it used to be and how his life used to be. He was angry and resentful at anything and anyone around, often not even knowing why. He was angry at the Romans, at his friends, at the Jewish leaders, especially at Judas, maybe at God, maybe even at Jesus for dying. Thomas, I’m sure was trying to figure out what this life looked like for him now, without Jesus.

Then Thomas, receives this message from his friends that they’ve seen Jesus, alive and well. I can only imagine the emotions Thomas was having at that moment when his friends had said that. Personally, I would have been so angry at them. It would feel like the cruelest of jokes that someone was playing to say that my dearest friend who I had just seen with my own eyes on the cross had just appeared to them. Of course, had appeared to them, right, and not to me, would have felt so much worse. Either his friends were drinking someone’s crazy kool-aid or they were just the worst and playing a cruel joke on him and who knows which one of those two options is worse? 

Yeah, he was having a hard time believing Jesus and I’m sure believing God in general at that moment. It wasn’t that he didn’t believe but he didn’t know what to believe when it appeared that all of Jesus’ promises we’re all falling flat with His death. 

To call Thomas doubting is unfair. He was hurting Thomas. He was scared and angry Thomas. He was grieving Thomas. But I don’t buy at all that he was really, doubting Thomas. He was just sad. 

Then He saw Jesus. I don’t know and can’t imagine what Thomas felt at that moment. It must have been one of the most confusing moments of his life. In front of Him was the truth that all of Jesus’ promises were true. That Jesus is alive and well and that in Jesus all of his hurt and sadness could be met with everlasting comfort and eternal peace. Yet, he would still be so sad and grieving. Here was Jesus, yes, but not how Jesus was with them before. Thomas placed his hands in his pierced side and in his nail holes on his hands and feet. Proof that Jesus had been executed. But Jesus was also alive here; but also, different. He appeared from nowhere, walked into locked rooms, would later simply ascend into heaven. It was all good things and all signs showing that what was ahead in glory with Jesus was where the best was yet to be. But Thomas, at that moment, was still in the here and now in his earthly life. All of the things he enjoyed most doing with his friend Jesus weren’t there anymore, whether it was eating fish by the campfire or learning at Jesus’ feet. Those things and that time was over, and Thomas was and would still be grieving that loss while at the same time filled with joy at what was to come. 

It was a mess of thoughts and emotions. Then there were Jesus’ simple words to Thomas, transliterated in English, “and not be unbelieving but believing.” I want to bring out the translation into the English like this, even though it sounds choppy, because I feel it brings out more of the nuance of Jesus’ words better than this English translation of “Stop doubting and believe.” Stop doubting has this harsh abrupt tone to it, stop feeling what you’re feeling and feel something else. But the phrasing really is a lot different. The Greek word for “to be” is γίνομαι and it is more of a sense of “to come into being or become or be born” than a stop what you’re doing and do something else. We don’t tell someone that is grieving to just stop grieving and be happy. Jesus doesn’t do that either. This is much more of a “continue to grow in your trust of me and learn to look to me for the answer to all of your needs.” Grow in your faith Thomas and trust in Jesus. 

Each and every one of us is a Thomas. We are hurt. We are scared. We are grieving. We are in pain. Sometimes we don’t know which way is up or maybe if our friends have all lost their minds. Sometimes we’re mad at God, mad at each other, mad at ourselves, or just mad. Sometimes we’re afraid and wonder if we can really trust Jesus or if this whole Christianity thing can really be as amazing as it seems. But don’t call us a doubting Thomas, because we’re not and that’s not fair. Also, don’t tell us to stop feeling what we’re feeling and just “believe” because Jesus doesn’t do this to anyone, and we follow His example. 

Instead, whatever you are feeling, look to Jesus. See that in the resurrected Jesus all of God’s promises are true. Allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling but keep looking to the Resurrected Jesus. Let the Good News of the bodily resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ grow your trust in Him as you learn to look to Him for the answer to all of your needs. Watch the joy of the Resurrection grow inside of you until one day that faith gives full birth to a life in your Heavenly Home with our savior Jesus and all of the Saints before us. Continue to live and grow in Jesus’ community of saints here on earth and look forward to being in that same community in Heaven. 

Continue to grow in your faith and trust Jesus. Be Thomas.

Published by philipmcclelland.org

​I am a recovering burned out workaholic​ who forgot I couldn't change the world. From the ashes of that not only have I found a peace from God that I never knew but a focus on what matters, God, family and loving my neighbor as God has loved me. My burning out experiences really drive my writing and how much I want to share all of the good God has worked through the hurt I've experienced. Currently I serve a great little parish in Northern Ohio with my wonderful family and our furry farm of five dogs, four cats and the oddball handful of fish. You can find me at www.philipmcclelland.org.

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