Jesus appears to Thomas and the disciples
24 Thomas, the one called Didymus, one of the Twelve, wasn’t with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples told him, “We’ve seen the Lord!”
But he replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my finger in the wounds left by the nails, and put my hand into his side, I won’t believe.”
26 After eight days his disciples were again in a house and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus entered and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here. Look at my hands. Put your hand into my side. No more disbelief. Believe!”
28 Thomas responded to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Jesus replied, “Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe.”
30 Then Jesus did many other miraculous signs in his disciples’ presence, signs that aren’t recorded in this scroll. 31 But these things are written so that you will believe that Jesus is the Christ, God’s Son, and that believing, you will have life in his name.
Thoughts on the passage:
When it comes to believing in the resurrection, the story of “Doubting Thomas” best captures the challenges we all face. It is easy to be like Thomas and insist that until we have felt for ourselves, the tangible signs of the risen Christ, that we are not ready to believe. Even in our increasingly digital world, there is great value in those things that are tangible, that we can feel, taste, touch, see, and experience. Those direct interactions with an object give it a reality that we cannot get in some other way. I don’t think Thomas doubts in the resurrection because he does not trust Mary, or Peter, or any of the other disciples. I think he doubts in the resurrection because he has not felt it personally. Without that tangible experience for himself it is hard to believe.
When Thomas was struggling to believe, Jesus once again entered into a locked room, showed him the wounds in his hands and side, and through that interaction Thomas found his faith once again. While Jesus does gently chide Thomas for his lack of faith, it is not important. What is important is that Thomas has come to believe in the resurrection. This is emphasized by the author, who reminds us that all of these stories are recorded so that we, the readers, might also come to believe that Jesus is the Son God and offers us a way that leads to life. These stories are told so that we too can believe in resurrection.
What do we do if, almost two thousand years later, we are also longing to touch the wounds so that we can also believe? There are stories of people who have visions of Jesus. There are stories of people who experience stigmata, or physical wounds similar to those of Christ. All of these seem like concrete experiences to grasp on to. For those of us who do not have that kind of experience, what are we supposed to do? How can we get our hands around resurrection?
We often talk in the church about how we are called to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world. Think about that phrase for a minute: the hands and feet of Christ. Hands and feet, marked with the nails, reminders of Christ’s crucifixion and also a testament to his resurrection. We usually talk about being the hands and feet and of Christ as doing Christ’s work in the world. We think of it most directly in terms of things like mission. Instead what if we think about what it also means. We are meant to be signs of the resurrection to others. We are meant to help people like Thomas, who are struggling to believe without a tangible experience of the resurrection. We are to be that experience.
What does resurrection look like in our lives? Resurrection is an alcoholic who has turned her life around with the help of friends. Resurrection is a cancer survivor who was given three months to live and who is still going ten years later. Resurrection is a person who wandered down the wrong paths, hung with the wrong crowd, and turned his back on God and yet thanks to the patient love of others has come to know God’s grace. If we look around us, the stories of resurrection are there. We might know them in our own lives, the lives of our husbands and wives, our brothers and sisters. We have seen resurrection over and over again.
John writes his gospels so that others might come to know God’s love. He knows that it is hard to believe in the stories. He knows that we will need to hear the message over and over again in different ways. Some of us will be like Thomas and need to experience it for ourselves. He tells us these stories because he knows that we need to hear them. He knows that centuries later, people like us will be just as need of resurrection as the people of his time. We too will be looking for that way that leads to life.
We need Christ in our lives; we know people who need Christ in theirs as well. Believing in Jesus when all you have is words is hard. It is easy to become like Thomas and struggle to believe. It is hard not to believe when you touch the hands, you feel the wounds and yet know they are alive. All around us are people who need to hear the story of resurrection. We need to be those hands and feet of Christ, marked by our own failings, our own sins, our own mistakes. We need to show people we are broken. We need to show people that we have been given new life. We need to show people the power of Christ’s resurrection.
Questions to Ponder:
What is something you were better able to understand because you could touch and feel it?
Who is someone you know who struggles to believe?
What can you do to be those hands that show others the power of God’s resurrecting grace?