Thomas can sometimes get a bad press (from some) in Christendom.
In that he doubted. In fact “doubled down” on doubting that Christ had risen from the dead.
Maybe, just maybe, there’s more to Thomas and his story than the fact he had doubts…
He knew what it was to be outside.
He asked his questions.
He knew how to respond when faced with a new reality.
For whatever reason, on the day of the Resurrection, Thomas was not with his fellow disciples when Christ first appeared to them. He too, was most likely hiding “fearful of the Jews”, beyond himself, believing his Master had been crucified. (John 20 v 19 to 20). Thomas missed Christ showing his crucifixion wounds to his friends and he missed Christ offering his peace by way of a greeting. (John 20 v 20 to 21).
He was, “outside” when Christ appeared “inside” to the other disciples on that first Resurrection Sunday and breathed the Holy Spirit on them (John 20 v 22 to 23). There is not much fun being “outside”, removed and confused.
So. Thomas reconnects with his fellow disciples and no doubt (excuse the pun) is overwhelmed with their account of having seen and experienced Jesus. Alive. Reassuring them. Gifting the Holy Spirit for courage given the time’s ahead. In response, Thomas dismisses their claims. This is way too much to take on board. Rightly, he has his questions and rightly, given all that is at stake, he asks his questions…
“”But he said, ‘Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.”
Thomas needs proof and answers and is not holding back on seeking truth despite his buddies claims. This is personal and he knows it.
Responding to a new reality.
There is something deeply humbling and very human in Thomas’s response to the “new reality”. The new reality that is that the grave no longer is humanity’s full stop. At Christ’s invitation, Thomas (the Doubter as history records him), in asking his questions, in owning his doubts; is given hands on experience of the “new reality”…
“Then he focused his attention on Thomas, “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.” (John 20 v 27 The Message).
Thomas the doubter becomes Thomas the believer and his response?
To put Christ front and central in his life with the acclamation…”My Master! My God!”
There will be times in following the Jesus way when we will find ourselves “outside”, needing to “ask our questions” and even if there are no easy answers; having to “respond to a new reality”. Sometimes the call to a resurrected life seems beyond us. I know it does for me.
But, maybe such a life includes the questions, hang ups, “re-workings” and the move towards one’s owned faith.
We owe Thomas a lot for his doubts. He reveals a deep, broken, yet hopeful and ultimately faithful humanity.
Is it time to change this disciple’s moniker from “Thomas the doubter” to “Thomas the honest believer”?
Picture of the Mourne mountains from Slieve Commedagh, Co. Down. Northern Ireland.