Thomas the Griever
A Reflection for Easter Time on John 20:24-29
Jesus spoke to Thomas, “Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving any more but believe.”
Thomas the doubter. Thomas the unfaithful.
Poor Thomas. He’s been called a lot of things. Not that his behavior didn’t make them plausible. But I’d like to think of him as Thomas the Griever.
Let’s stop for a moment and take a closer look at the man. He was an apostle, called specially to follow Jesus in very close way. He got to know him very well and journeyed with him along the Way. He was privy to Jesus’ everyday activity, how he lived the ordinary, the obscure and the laborious. How Jesus viewed these rather unglamorous but essential parts of life and spent his time spreading the word that they are doors to the presence of God if we will but open the doors through faith. What a life-changing experience to know that God is never absent and that this man who is spreading the message enshrines its essence. Maybe not enough to know that he is God just yet, but to know that in the core of his being, his teacher, his friend WAS the message, WAS the essence.
And then that terrible day when this man, this man, dare he say it?, who seemed to verge on the divine and break forth from the ordinary “stuff” of life, was killed as a common criminal. What now? How could he be gone? He meant too much to Thomas. It was a loss too great to bear.
Did Thomas really doubt or was it the pain speaking when he said, “I want to see the mark of the nails and put my hand into his side.” He just couldn’t take it on the other’s word. A lover’s heart needed somehow to connect. And Jesus, knowing exactly what his friend needed, addressed him first on that second appearance. With compassion and gentleness, he invited Thomas to explore his wounds, to see that once again, Jesus was the incarnational bridge to the divine. “Touch my wounds, Thomas, and in touching them, allow me to touch yours. Yield to my love and let me take you to those wounds in yourself that only I can heal and that without me, you will never even acknowledge.” Jesus’ words were not a rebuke but an invitation to find him on a deeper level. And Thomas followed Jesus again, to that place in himself that he couldn’t face before. The place of loss. Or seeming loss. But unless he went there with Jesus, he would never know that the loss was a door to something better, deeper. Once he said yes, he could see Jesus again but this time in Jesus’ fullness: “My Lord and my God.” I don’t think Thomas doubted in the full meaning of that word. I think he felt the absence of Jesus so deeply that the only way he could express it was in words of pain at his loss. And Jesus acknowledged that and moved him into the level of faith that, since his resurrection, we all know.
And so here we are,with that same invitation to walk through the door of faith into the ordinary, the obscure and the laborious. Another day. Another invitation to know Jesus in a deeper way. To allow him to be for us, “My Lord and my God.” In others, in my work and responsibilities, in the smile I give to my sister when I don’t really feel like it. In kindness and compassion. In touching the wounds of Jesus in the gentleness and genuineness of how I relate to others and to myself.
Thomas, help us to yield to this friend of yours, and ours, to let him lead us deeper this day, wherever it is he wants to lead us. And may he bring us all together to life everlasting.