Thomas Sunday: a confirmation of Freedom of Faith!
John 20:19-31 New International Version (NIV)
There is a very clear message emerging from this wonderful dialogue between the Risen Christ and his disciples. As we are humans and can have weak faith and wavering belief we often need tangible evidence that what people tell us is the truth can be verified. Quite simply: Christ appears to all of the disciples apart from Thomas. Thomas is then told by his friends that it is true that Christ is Risen from the dead. They tell Thomas that they have seen Him and have seen the marks of the nails on His hands and also the mark on His side which was made by the Centurion’s spear from which poured Blood and Water.
Thomas does not dismiss the fact that they have all seen this and yet he wants not only to see the marks for himself but to touch the wounds and then he will believe.
Christ appears again to them all including Thomas and without prompting and without rebuke, offers Thomas to see and touch the marks so that he will clear his doubts and confirm his belief in Christ’s Resurrection. Thomas does not ask: Thomas is simply told.
Even though the women have already spoken to the disciples, taken them to the empty tomb and tell of mistaking Christ for the gardene, Thomas continues to have doubt until he has physically seen and touched Christ’s wound. Even though the disciples as a group of honest and faithful believers told Thomas the good news Thomas needs more evidence before he can stop the doubt and confirm his belief. The other disciples were shown the wounds without asking to see them: they had faith in Christ. Thomas also had faith but needed to be absolutely certain before he could declare “My Lord and my God”.
Thomas is acting as a template for the future; he displays his doubting faith so that we may learn. Thomas like us all had the gift from Christ of freedom. Freedom of choice and freedom to speak in Christ’s presence. It is perhaps a gift which we rarely think about but we should not take it for granted. We can all accept miracles and really believe that they happened as written or told. We did not see the miracles and we can’t watch a replay. We are free to believe or not believe. We are given this wonderful dialogue to allow us a better understanding in the reasoning of the saints and the church. We are placed in Thomas’ shoes. We have no need to re-question what has already been made concrete: Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and to those in the tombs bestowing life. Proof is not always what is necessary: it is Faith which is essential.
Jesus Appears to His Disciples
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Jesus Appears to Thomas
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 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.”
26 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!” 27 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.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
The Purpose of John’s Gospel
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.