Do not doubt, but believe
John’s story of Thomas’ encounter with the risen Jesus comes around every year on the Sunday following Easter Day – John 20:19-31.
Thomas wasn’t there when the risen Jesus miraculously passed through locked doors and appeared before his frightened disciples on that first Easter.
When his colleagues told him excitedly that they had seen the Lord, he thought they were victims of some kind of mass delusion. “Unless I see the marks of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails, and my hand in his side, I will not believe,” he said.
I can understand Thomas’ need for factual verification. He had been travelling in the company of Jesus for three years, sharing meals, sleeping in the same quarters and walking from town to town over the dusty highways of Palestine.
Thomas had been part of that sorrowful company to whom Jesus had said goodbye on the night when he washed their feet and shared their last meal together.
Thomas needed to know that the person the other disciples reported seeing in that barricaded room on Easter evening was truly the person he loved and not some kind of apparition.
Thomas was in effect saying, "Let me be sure it is really Jesus, my master and teacher… let me be sure they are his hands, the same hands that touched, healed and blessed people when he walked on this earth… hands that broke bread in the upper room and washed my feet."
For Thomas, when Jesus appeared a week later, it was that moment of seeing that made real joy possible for him. Now Jesus was real and alive to him! Now he was part of his life once again!
In response, Thomas uttered words that are the strongest confession of Christian faith in the entire Gospel, "My Lord and my God!"
John has given us this story to alleviate our anxiety and to encourage our faith. It is not intended as a rebuke of Thomas, or as a reprimand to those for whom belief doesn’t come easily.
"Here!" Jesus said. "Look! You can even touch!" Jesus was not so much offering proof – that really wasn’t Jesus’ way of doing things – he was offering himself. Here is what you need. This is my body, given for you.
Thomas was invited to enter into a holy mystery. He was given the gift of seeing Jesus as his Lord and his God.
Alleluia. Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia.