We hear from Thomas several times in the gospels. When Jesus insists on going to Judea to visit friends in Bethany, Thomas declares, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:16) At the Last Supper, as Jesus tries to prepare the disciples for his departure, Thomas interjects, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” (John 14.5) And as we hear today, after Jesus’ resurrection, Thomas will not accept the disciples’ account without seeing Jesus’ wounds. When he finally does see Jesus, he declares, “My Lord and my God.” Thomas was thoughtful, passionate, and loyal. But Thomas was also skeptical, had doubts, and asked questions.
Though we often refer to Thomas as “Doubting Thomas,” I actually really love Thomas. His passion is overwhelming and inspiring. But even more compelling to me are his questions and his doubts. Thomas feels very real to me: he openly exposes his doubts and questions – something we all have done at some point in our lives, even if we are not as bold as Thomas to admit it. Thomas shows me how hard believing was even in the presence of Jesus Christ – how much more reassuring to know that our doubts are that much more to be expected.
But perhaps what I love most about the Thomas stories is Jesus’ reaction to him. Though Jesus may sound like he is scolding Thomas today, Jesus still comes, knowing that Thomas needs reassurance. When Thomas asked his panicked questions, Jesus also responds pastorally. Jesus’ relationship with Thomas is even more inspiring to me than Thomas himself. We find in their relationship a Godhead who is patient, open to question, giving, and kind. Of course, Jesus pushes Thomas, too – but any good relationship with God involves both challenge and grace.
In some ways, that relationship is revealed in our Old Testament lesson today. The author says, “I will stand at my watch post … I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint.” God responds, “Write the vision; make it plain …” Through relationship with God, we know that we have a God who responds – maybe sometimes with grace and sometimes with challenge. But the promise of a responsive God is ours. Thanks be to God! Amen.