When you hear the stories about Jesus and his encounters with people, is there any character you consider a favorite? Do you resonate with the John, who wrote so much about Jesus’ love and about himself in the third person, saying of himself, “the disciple whom Jesus loved?” Some people love Peter, bold and brash and headstrong, ready to take up weapons to defend Jesus, only to be called out by the Master, ‘get behind me Satan!” - Peter, who excelled so famously and failed so epically. A lot of people love Paul, because he could explain so brilliantly and so selflessly his passion for everything that it means theologically that Jesus is God, and that we are saved sinners powerless to effect any grace other than by His working.
Right now, I am completely fascinated by Thomas. How special was Thomas that Jesus seemed to make a visit specifically to get in his face?
After Jesus’ crucifixion and burial, and after the singular event in human history – that not only defines the nature of our existence in God’s Creation, but our understanding of which determines our ultimate and eternal destiny – that is, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, there are eye-witness accounts of the risen Jesus that are astounding.
One such was with Thomas, the one we know as the doubter.
Jesus had appeared to Mary Magdalene walking around the garden outside the then-empty tomb. Then He appeared to the gathered disciples who were hunkered down and hiding in fear behind a barred door, except Thomas wasn’t with them at the time. Hearing about Jesus’ visit after the fact, Thomas is incredulous:
“So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." (John 20:25 NIV)
For over thirty years I worked with brilliant men and women, scientists and engineers and doctors with wonderful minds and hard heads who would challenge and teach, and pontificate and preach, and who would doubt just about everything that they hadn’t proved for themselves. What does Jesus have to say to some such as we?
“A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." (John 20:26-27 NIV)
Thomas, says the risen Lord, come and touch me and see for yourself. Jesus knew Thomas, had personally chosen Thomas to follow Him, had walked with him and worked with him for some three years, and now personally gets in his face to put Thomas’ own words up in front of him.
Gracious effrontery. To know that my Lord would come and meet even the doubters, to boldly get in our faces, to show us the impertinence of our words in light of His immutable reality – my heart melts within me.
May we along with Thomas affirm today, and every day He sees fit to allow breath to remain in us: my Lord and my God.