Picture this: Jesus has been crucified. The disciples are locked in a room, afraid for their lives, but Mary Magdalene comes to the disciples and proclaims that she has seen the risen Lord. On Resurrection Sunday near evening, the disciples are still shut behind closed doors and the Risen Lord appears to them. “Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “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.” (John 20:19b-25, NRSV)
The scene described above has led many to label Thomas, “Doubting Thomas,” a nickname with a slightly derogatory feel. John goes on to recount how Jesus a week later appeared to the disciples still in the room, but this time Thomas was present. Thomas touched Jesus’ wounds and proclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” (John 19:28) to which our Lord replied, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:29)
On the surface it seems that Thomas is being chastised for his unbelief. How about we look at it in a different light. Jesus knows Thomas. He has been with him throughout Jesus’ ministry. Jesus knows his heart and mind. Jesus knows Thomas is analytical. He thinks in empirical terms. Thomas must see to believe. So what’s wrong with that? For me, absolutely nothing. It is OK, and perhaps even necessary, for some of us to look for “proof” of Jesus’ in order for faith to grow. That may not sit very well with some people who do only need their heart to accept the truth that Jesus is God’s only Son, who came to in the flesh, suffered on the cross, died and rose again to save us from our sin. Jesus calls them “blessed” for they have not seen him in the flesh nor in his resurrected state, yet believe.
I, for one, have spent years questioning, probing, using my rational mind to accept the Truth of the Good News. I know God is big enough to accept my questions and challenges (ever heard of Job?). I know that he loves me no matter what. It’s not that I doubted Jesus’ existence. It’s not that I doubted he died for my sins. From the beginning of my faith walk with my Baptism at the age of 19, I have professed with all my heart the Apostles’ Creed. I have opened my heart to the leading of the Holy Spirit, the promised Advocate sent by Jesus to guide us and fan the flames of discipleship. What I have not been able to do is simply accept what others tell me about our Triune God. I must examine it, pray about it, and let God show me the way. I need to use all of my faculties to try to comprehend revelation of God to the ancient Israelites in the Old Testament, how Jesus’ fulfills the messianic prophecies, how the Scriptures come to us a both Law and Gospel at the same time, and how, I, an unworthy sinner, am so loved by God, my creator. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NRSV)