Doubting Thomas. Our weekly ecumenical lectionary study group pondered this passage from John’s gospel that’s scheduled for every Second Sunday of Easter. To refresh your memory, disciples were gathered late on the day of resurrection, in a room where the doors and shutters were closed. Suddenly, Jesus appeared to them bodily, which began the hard work of understanding the reality of the resurrection, and the greater reality of who Jesus is. One disciple, Thomas, wasn’t there. A week passed when they were again gathered in the same place. This time Thomas was present, dismissing the credibility of their testimony. Suddenly, Jesus appeared as he had before. Ignoring the others, he invited Thomas to touch him, even his wounds, to prove his reality. Ever after, Thomas earned the nickname, Doubting Thomas.
The theme my sermons on Thomas have been built around the story of the faithful disciple and his untrustworthy friends. Face it, why would Thomas believe these characters? They all proved faithless. They all ran away. Peter denied he even knew Jesus. Why should he believe anything they had to say about having seen Jesus suddenly appear to them in their shuttered room? If there was ever an untrustworthy gaggle of disciples, they were it.
Thomas alone, says John, was willing to follow Jesus to the cross. Thomas alone, says John, had the courage to interrogate Jesus about what he meant by “I am the way…,” demanding more explanation. Thomas, it seems, was the one with more steadfast integrity, making it reasonable that he would demand verification from a source other than his untrustworthy friends. What source? Jesus of course. What other source could there be? It might have been Mary Magdalen, had Thomas been there when she announced her meeting with the resurrected Jesus. But he wasn’t, and the disciples had accused her of bearing an idle tale. No. It had to be Jesus or no one.
Jesus didn’t chastise Thomas, but honored his integrity by inviting him to examine closely, touching his flesh and wounds. It’s not recorded that he did so for any of the others. So away with Doubting Thomas, and in with Faithful, Courageous Thomas. The others did catch up with him, each in their own time, but it took a while.