This post is part of the weekly series, “His Encouragement: Thursday Thoughts to Strengthen Your Soul.”
Scripture: John 20:26-29
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”
Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Full Lectionary Reading: John 20:19-31, Year C- Second Week of Easter
I Empathize with Thomas
When I was a little girl, I was frightened of going to the dentist. There was just something about the large imposing chair and those bright lights that made me nervous. Over and over, my mother promised that it wasn’t going to hurt. Despite her assurances, I was terrified when we walked into the dentist office for my very first cleaning.
“Hello,” said the doctor kindly as he helped me up into the large chair. “There is no need to be afraid. This isn’t going to hurt at all. Can I see that lovely smile?”
I clamped both hands over my mouth in defiance.
The doctor continued to smile as he pulled out a stuffed giraffe. The giraffe had a large set of pearly white teeth. It looked as if someone had glued a set of dentures into his fluffy mouth.
“Look,” said the doctor as he took a toothbrush and began to scrub the stuffed animal’s teeth in a circular motion, “Your friend the giraffe likes getting his teeth cleaned. Don’t you want to have a nice white smile like your friend the giraffe?”
The sight of that preposterous giraffe with his large teeth made me even more unnerved. I thought that perhaps he was going to bite me. I kept both hands clamped firmly over my mouth and started to cry.
The doctor gave an exasperated sigh and looked at my mother.
My mother leaned down and looked me directly in the eyes, “Come on,” she said, “Be a good girl and open up. You have to trust me. It’s not going to hurt and you will thank me when you’re older.”
I didn’t like that stuffed giraffe and I was afraid of the dentist, but I did trust my mother.
Slowly, I removed my hands from my mouth, leaned back in the chair, and opened wide.
Okay, Mom- You Were Right About Everything
Don’t tell my Mom, but she was right.
Actually, she probably already knows.
I don’t remember the rest of that visit to the dentist’s office, so it must have passed rather unremarkably. Now, many years later, I’m grateful that my mother such a great effort to make sure that I had healthy teeth. I think of her every time I’m able to smile for a photograph (Speaking of which, I really do need to schedule a dentist appointment for myself…)
We are All Like Thomas
In many ways, we are all like Thomas in the gospel story. All of us have doubts and fears sometimes. I was afraid of the dentist, and despite the fact that I loved and trusted my mother, I had to experience a dental visit for myself so that I could fully realize that she was right.
I have no doubt that Thomas loved Jesus. It would be terrifying to watch a friend or loved one suffer death by crucifixion. How horrific it must have been for Thomas.
There is a good chance that Thomas was not with the other disciples when Jesus first appeared to them after the crucifixion because he was hiding. All of the disciples were afraid of the Roman authorities and the religious leaders. To them, it made logical sense that if the authorities had crucified Jesus, they would attempt to have Jesus’s friends and followers killed as well.
Sometimes Faith Doesn’t Make Sense
If you told me my best friend had risen from the dead, I wouldn’t believe it. My friends are pretty awesome, but they aren’t that awesome. Even though Thomas had seen Jesus calm the sea and raise the dead, how could he have ever imagined that Jesus himself would come back after such a brutal demise? Therefore, it makes sense that Thomas would ask questions.
It makes sense that Thomas and the others would be afraid. What no one ever expected, and what makes no sense at all, is that their friend and teacher had the power to rise from the dead. “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1.18.”
We All Have Doubts Sometimes
The beautiful thing about this story is that Thomas’s questions bring him closer to God. He is brave enough to ask questions and voice his doubts. Thomas’s insistent questions bring him into a face to face encounter with the risen Christ.
The scripture does not tell us that Thomas touched the wounds on Christ’s hands and feet. Instead, Thomas’s response is one of deep faith. Thomas cries out, “My Lord and my God (John 20.28).”
When he experiences an up close encounter once more with the risen Lord, all Thomas can do is proclaim him as God.
We Can Still See Jesus
We all have doubts sometimes. Like Thomas, we all have questions. No mortal can begin to comprehend the complex workings of this vast universe. There are times in all of our lives that we all need to experience and encounter Christ for ourselves in order to believe.
In today’s world, we do not have the opportunity to see Jesus in the same way that Thomas and the disciples did. Nevertheless, we are blessed. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe (John 20.29b).”
I pray that we will all have the opportunity to experience Christ in our lives. I see the face of Christ every time our church family helps those in need, partakes in the Holy Eucharist, or in the faces of the children. Sometimes the face of Christ is old, sometimes he is young, sometimes he is black, sometimes he is white, sometimes he is disabled, and sometimes he is a woman. The face of every person reflects the face of God. Through our questions and our encounters, I believe we will all find deeper faith.
May we never be afraid to ask questions.
May we all see with our hearts.
And May we tell others of the joy that we have seen when we look upon the Lord.
This post is part of the series, “His Encouragement: Thursday Thoughts to Strengthen Your Soul.”
Thursdays are always a really long day of the week for me. As a pastor, Sunday feels like the natural beginning of my week. By the time I get to Thursday, I am tired and drained. That’s why I’m excited to join with a group of blogging friends in order to offer you a weekly devotional which will be posted every Thursday.
Please be sure to check out the other great bloggers involved in the His Encouragement weekly series!