Reputations can be difficult to change which has proved to be true of the disciple named Thomas who famously said, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”* Sunday marked one full week since Resurrection Sunday on April 5th, 2015. In 33AD Jesus appearing alive had been the topic of conversation in the entire city of Jerusalem, the surrounding towns, and possibly beyond the borders as Passover travelers returned to their faraway homes with supernatural stories they had heard and experienced. A pause in the story is in order to ask: are we still talking about His miraculous resurrection? It is still relevant and just as miraculous as it was then.
Back to Thomas. Though he’d undoubtedly been told dozens of times by dozens of eye witnesses who had seen the risen Christ that week, he stubbornly refused to believe what his fellow disciples and friends said. Like many of us he drew a line in the sand and declared specific conditions be met before he’d back down. Leaders of nations do this as do those in business, in academia, and all of us in marriages and everyday relationships. In Thomas we see ourselves.
Jesus could have refused Thomas for being stubborn and hard hearted, but what I love so much about our Savior is that He knows each person’s heart. He saw something in Thomas; a deeply disappointed heart, or a heart that hurt so badly over his loss that he couldn’t see past the pain to hope again. To choose to believe again, to open his heart to love again, felt like too great a risk.
And so we see Jesus gently, lovingly, without any condemnation, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8:1) saying to His still beloved Thomas, “Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.”* Immediately Thomas replies, “My Lord and My God!” And though John doesn’t record every detail of the scene I cannot imagine Thomas making such a strong declaration without falling on his face to the ground in both repentance and awe struck believing worship.
For us Jesus graciously added words which I have always loved hearing: “Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” Most of us who make up the church today started by these who walked with Jesus but have not yet seen His face. To us Jesus pronounced that we are blessed. And some day we will see Him face to face. What a joy that will be!
Peter’s reputation as the one who denied Christ three times was granted the rest of his story be told in the book of Acts and in his own words on the books of 1 and 2 Peter. Thomas however is not mentioned again after the day of Pentecost, but history and tradition record that he went east when the disciples scattered from Jerusalem. To present day Turkey Thomas took the gospel of the risen Christ and the Armenian people today claim him as the one who brought them the good news. A cross design commonly found in this region, called the St. Thomas cross, features a dove atop the center beam, a reminder of the Holy Spirit Who empowers us who believe to be His witnesses to all the world.
And such a witness was Thomas, empowered and bold because His life had be forever changed by the power of the cross. May it be increasingly true of you and me as we watch our world moving toward the end of days.