The Tale of Doubting Thomas
Second Sunday of Easter—Year C
April 28, 2019
How do you dwell in the midst of doubt?
The story of Thomas, more popularly known as “Doubting Thomas,” gives us a tiny peek into one of Jesus’ disciples experience of doubt. However, it is truly a tiny peek. There must have been so much more going on “behind the scenes!” Today I invite you to join me and imagine. Imagine that we can peek behind the scenes and see more of what was perhaps going on in Thomas’ world. And as we imagine our way into his story, perhaps we’ll discover our own as well.
Night has fallen in Jerusalem and the disciples were huddled close behind locked doors. They are confused and they are frightened.
The rumors are already beginning to spread—Jesus isn’t in his tomb. The giant stone that had been put in place has been rolled away and all that remains in the grave are some linen wrappings. No one knows who moved the stone or carried away the body, or for what purpose these things were done. And to make matters worse, Mary Magdalene and the other women are claiming Jesus has risen from the dead!
Suddenly a familiar voice echoes through the room, speaking familiar words, “Peace be with you.” Jesus’ followers stare in unabashed shock and disbelief. He is there, standing in their midst.
“A ghost,” someone utters.
“No,” Jesus responds, smiling, “I’m not a ghost. Here, look at my hands, and my feet. Touch them, see, it’s me.”
They stare, incredulous, and then shouts of joy and laughter erupt as the reality of what they are seeing begins to take hold. Jesus is risen!
And before they know it, he’s gone—departing as unexpectedly as he arrived.
All of the disciples stand in awe, wondering at what they have just experienced—all of the disciples, that is, except one.
Thomas, who the others called “The Twin,” had risen early that morning. Well, risen implied he had slept the night before. In truth, Thomas had spent much of the previous night lying awake, staring at the ceiling; the image of his friend and teacher nailed to a cross, bleeding from the wound in his side had been seared into his mind’s eye. He rose quietly, the soft glow of the sky revealed dawn was approaching. He slid his feet silently into his sandals and slipped quietly out the door. The tears that had flowed freely earlier, and whose traces could still be seen on his cheeks, had dried up. His earlier sobs of grief had been replaced with a dry, aching pain so intense it felt like a gaping wound in his soul. Thomas spent the day wandering the streets, staring blankly at the masses rushing past him, lost in his sorrow.
As night fell, he turned back toward the house. Arriving at the door, he rested his head for a moment against the hard wood. Closing his eyes, he tried to call to mind Jesus’ face, that smiling, laughing face he had seen so many times as they had sat and broken bread together. But now all he could see was the bloodied and beaten face of his dear friend and teacher. Thomas pulled his head sharply away from the door, shaking away the haunting vision. Taking a deep breath, he turned the handle and pushed open the door.
The shouts that greeted him as the door opened almost knocked him down. The rest of the disciples had all leapt to their feet, they ran at Thomas, shouting and laughing. Their words ran together as they drew him into the middle of the room. Excited faces flashed before Thomas and he caught snippets of what each was saying, “Jesus,” “here,” “risen.”
Dizzied, Thomas threw his hands into the air and yelled for quiet. “Please, I can’t hear all of you at once! Will just ONE of you tell me what’s going on?”
Peter caught Thomas in an embrace, and pulled him aside. “We’ve seen the Lord.” And proceeded to tell Thomas all that had transpired that day.
Thomas stood, staring in disbelief. He blinked, looking at each of the eager faces staring back at him, awaiting his response.
“No. No, it can’t be. He’s dead. I saw him, we all saw him. He died.”
“Yes, and now he’s alive.” Peter said.
“No.” said Thomas more firmly. “No, You’re all suffering from some weird grief-induced delusion. No. Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe. I was there, I saw him. He died.”
With that, Thomas turned and walked away, as his tears began to flow again.
The next few days were some of the hardest Thomas had ever experienced. Questions swirled in his head and in his heart. He wondered at what his friends told him about that night; that they had seen Jesus’ nail pierced hands and feet and the wound in his side. He struggled to make sense of what he was hearing, how could they believe something so unbelievable? He wondered if his friends were growing tired of his questions, tired of his attempts at other explanations, tired of his doubts, and tired of him. And he wondered, if it was true, why didn’t Jesus wait until he was in there to show up? Why was he left out?
Over and over that week, Thomas found himself standing with his bag in hand, ready to pack up and go home to Galilee. Yet something held him in back. These were his friends, his family, and as hard as it was to stay, he knew it would be even harder to leave.
So Thomas kept showing up. When the group gathered for meals, he was there; when they gathered for prayer, he was there; when they came together to discuss “what’s next” he was there—all the time wondering if he still belonged among them, and hoping and praying that he did.
A week passed, and the group gathered together as usual for their evening meal. Thomas sat in the midst of his friends, as he had every other night that week, breaking bread together.
Suddenly a familiar voice, speaking familiar words filled the room. “Peace be with you.”
Thomas’ eyes grew wide, his mouth went dry, and his hands began to shake. He turned slowly, and found himself face to face with Jesus.
Tears welled in Thomas’ eyes as Jesus reached out and took Thomas’ shaking hands in his own nail-pierced ones and smiled.