Poor Thomas, if anyone in history has a bum rap it would be him, saddled for all time with the moniker Doubting Thomas. The gospels don’t mention where he was when Jesus came to the upper room. It’s not important. He was absent, that’s all we know. It seems to me, though, that since Jesus knew that the apostles were gathered in the upper room, he would have known that Thomas wasn’t there. So why didn’t he wait until everyone was present?
Thomas had to hear about it second hand. The biggest thing to happen in the history of the world and he missed it. We have to admit that the very idea of someone resurrecting from the dead and dropping by for a visit sounds like a whopper. Perhaps he thought that Peter was playing a cruel joke. I’m sure he was in no mood for it. Just imagine if someone came up to you and said, “Remember your best friend that you saw cruelly tortured and murdered? Remember how you saw him dead in his mother’s arms? Well, he stopped by last night while you were out. Yep, walked right through the walls. No, really.” I don’t blame Thomas a bit for saying, “Yeah, right. I’ll believe it when I see him and touch his wounds.”
I’m convinced, though, that Jesus came to them while Thomas was out for a special reason. When Thomas finally got to see Jesus he delivered one of the most important acts of faith of the New Testament, “My Lord, and My God.”
Jesus didn’t seem the least bit upset by Thomas’ hesitation. After all, he had just spent 33 years in human form complete with all it’s feelings and emotions, surely he understood why Thomas wouldn’t just jump on the bandwagon. Yet, Jesus was the supreme teacher and, like all good teachers, he used this as a “teachable moment.” “You believe in me, Thomas, because you have seen me. Blessed are they who have not seen me, but still believe.”
As hard as it is for me to believe based on the testimony of the scriptures, it had to have been more difficult for Thomas because he witnessed the crucifixion. My belief is a gift from God, a legacy of Thomas’ encounter with the Risen One and Jesus’ teachable moment. My belief has been tested several times in my life and in my darkest moments I’ve had to struggle to see him.
I think about those who suffer terribly every day of their lives from chronic illness, terrible loss, mental agony, addictions; those who must battle daily to see the hand of God in the hand they were dealt. I pray for those who feel completely abandoned by God. How can you believe in a good and gracious God when your heart and spirit has been broken?
Blessed are they who have no good reason to believe, yet still believe.