Today Christians celebrate the Apostle Thomas. It’s a comforting remembrance for me. When we think of the saints, the list includes theologians and martyrs and people of all manner of greatness. Thomas was one of “The Twelve,” those chosen members of the inner circle of Jesus, the ones who walked with him for the three years of his public ministry, saw the expressions of his power and the depth of his love for people—all kinds of people, especially the most needy. They listened to him preach and saw him go away by himself to pray. They were his closest companions and in the end, most of them died in the service of his mission.
Thomas stands out in one gospel passage. After all that they had experienced with him, they were nevertheless frightened after Christ’s resurrection (as I presume I would have been if I had been there) when he appeared in that “Upper Room” to let them know he was still with them. Thomas was missing from that visitation and therefore had to be told of the event. Clearly, Thomas could be seen as a concrete thinker, willing (able?) to believe only what he could see and hear and touch. And so he became, for all time, the one who is remembered as “doubting Thomas.” He wanted to see Jesus, touch him and feel his wounds to know he was truly the one who had companioned them.
We know the whole story concisely reported in John’s gospel (20: 24-29). I do not believe that Jesus came back to shame Thomas in the midst of his companions. It must have been very hard for Thomas but my hope is that the others were relieved for him, that having seen what he asked for, he could then believe what the others had already experienced. But it seems that this event is for us as well as for Thomas.
Christ asks Thomas a question which I’m sure caused Thomas a lot of deep reflection. (“Have you come to believe because you have seen me?”) Then we are addressed, we who have not seen the Lord “in the flesh.” It is not a question, but rather a hope, a promise—and likely for some a challenge. When you hear the words, “Blessed are those who have not seen yet have believed,” are you a “doubting Thomas” sometimes? Am I?