Thursday, July 02, 2015

See the Glory of God

By Colleen O'Sullivan

(A) week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them.  Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”  Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”  (John 20:26-28)

They have been saying all our plans are empty.
They have been saying "Where is their God now?"
Roll away the stone. See the Glory of God. Roll away the stone.
(from  Roll Away the Stone, Tom Conry, 1993)

I remember hearing the story of “Doubting Thomas” as a child.  No one ever wanted to be a doubter like him.  (How ironic that at some point or another in life, we all have doubts.  Condemn Thomas and you condemn yourself.)

Today, I see him a little differently.  He’s only mentioned a few times in the Gospels, but what is recorded paints a picture of someone who cares a great deal for Jesus.  In John 11, Jesus receives word that his friend Lazarus is seriously ill.  He wants to go back to Judea to see him, but to get there, he would place himself in danger of being captured and perhaps stoned to death.  The disciples are frightened and counsel Jesus not to go in that direction.  Thomas is the lone voice speaking in solidarity with Jesus.  Thomas says something along the lines of:  Let’s go.  If Jesus is captured and dies, we’ll share his fate. We say we love him and he is our friend; we follow where he leads. 

In John 14, during the discussion around the table after the Last Supper, we hear Thomas’ voice again.  Jesus says he’s leaving to go and prepare a place for them.  He says they know the way.  Thomas is the only one who speaks up and gives voice to what they all must have been thinking.  We don’t know the way.  We want to be with you.  What is the way of which you speak?

I picture Thomas sad and disheartened after the Crucifixion.  He must feel hurt when Jesus appears to all the other disciples but him.  He doesn’t want to think he’s been left out, so he adopts this stance that he won’t believe his friends until he sees Jesus for himself and can actually touch the wounds he saw inflicted on him on Good Friday.   When Jesus enters the room a week later, Thomas is there.  Jesus takes Thomas’ hand in his and Thomas feels the gaping wounds left by the nails.  He puts his fingers on the spot where Jesus’ side was pierced.  For Thomas, at this moment the stone is rolled away.  His heart is filled with joy and awe-filled reverence.  No more wondering.  No more taunting cries about Jesus’ absence.  Here is his Lord and his God!  His friend has returned to see him!  I think this is the only place in any of the Gospels where Jesus is referred to as “God.”

Calling him “Doubting Thomas” seems unfair.  He has no more doubts than any of us.  He’s willing to march into danger if that’s where Jesus wants to take him.  He is loyal.  He wants to be by his friend’s side.  He is willing to put into words what others are afraid to say.  The other disciples aren’t willing to speak up and admit they have no idea what Jesus is talking about on Holy Thursday.  Thomas is the only one with the temerity to ask.  And his response to being in the Risen Lord’s presence is one of great faith, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus isn’t putting Thomas down with his words about how blessed those are who believe without seeing.  He’s not even talking to Thomas as much as he’s speaking to you and me.  When you are praying today, reflect on Jesus’ words and exactly what it is that makes you a person of faith.

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