Thomas and Me

Opposites attract would probably describe the relationship I have with my husband. He’s direct, I am not. He says what he’s thinking, I do not. He cannot get enough of being a social butterfly, I like it some, but also enjoy being alone. The list could go on and on. The other night we were “discussing” our differences after a stressful day. He aptly pointed out that he was an optimist, I am not. I am much more of a realist. I like to look at a situation and prepare to deal with it. He would prefer to look for the hope in a situation and expect a favorable outcome. In our conversation we came to the conclusion that of the twelve disciples Jesus picked he would be more like Peter, quick to believe, ready to jump out of the boat to walk on water, ready to take action, quick to shoot off his mouth, etc… I on the other hand am more like Thomas, doubting… Or is that really his hallmark after all?

Since that conversation, I’ve been contemplating Thomas. Probably the only thing I really knew about him was his nickname, “Doubting Thomas”. I can remember hearing about him in Sunday school as a kid and shuddering at the thought of being the one to “Doubt Jesus”. As a kid with a lot of fears, the very thought of how mad it would make God for me to doubt terrified me. I never wanted to “tick God off”. So being like Thomas, was definitely not a goal of mine. Until today…

There are three places in the Bible where Thomas is actually recorded as saying something. The first was John 11:1-16. Jesus disciples had just learned of Jesus’ friend Lazarus being near death. He and His disciples also were aware of people in Judea that were plotting to kill Jesus. The disciples tried to convince Jesus that going there wasn’t the best plan, but Jesus insisted. Thomas told the others, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Optimism of a good outcome wasn’t Thomas’ forte, but Loyalty was. He was realistically aware of the chances of death to accompany Jesus, and he was willing to do it. An attribute that followed through in his later years, Church tradition counts Thomas as a martyr after his extensive missionary work in India. Loyalty… not too bad.

The next place we see Thomas is in a conversation Jesus is having with his disciples in John 14. Jesus is trying to give His disciples an understanding that He would leave them soon, and that He would prepare a place for them to come and be with Him forever. He concludes by saying, “you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas being the thoughtful questioner, said “Lord we don’t know where You are going, so how can we know the way?” Thomas didn’t just sit there and nod his head “yes” like he got everything Jesus was talking about. He questioned. Jesus didn’t scold him or kick him out of the disciple group either, He replied with one of the more famous quotes that Jesus said about Himself, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” I’m sure Thomas took that tidbit with him to bed that night and pondered over and over, “what exactly does he mean?” I’m sure I would have… Desires greatly to understand.

Finally the event that got Thomas the infamous nickname as a “doubter”, Jesus resurrection. I’m not too sure why Thomas wasn’t in the room when Jesus appeared to the disciples. I’d say watching the man you admired, followed, and believed in beaten beyond recognition, nailed to a wooden cross, and die would have probably played a part. The realist in Thomas probably saw his hopes, that he didn’t place lightly on anyone, dashed to pieces. I can’t fault him for wanting to see for himself what the rest of the disciples were excited to proclaim. I’d like evidence too. The thing about this scripture isn’t so much Thomas’ shortcomings, it was about Jesus’ grace. Jesus knew that Thomas had said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25) That was an ultimatum that many people would say “lacked faith”. Yet Jesus when He encountered Him didn’t rebuke him for his statement. Jesus didn’t reject him for his doubt. He instead addressed Thomas specifically, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (John 20:27) I take comfort that Jesus didn’t reject “the doubter”. When Thomas saw what he needed to see he stated what was in his heart, “My Lord and my God.” When the realist believes, the realist BELIEVES…

Jesus told us that “In this world we would have troubles, but take courage I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Wind of adversity certainly blow. Considering that all the disciples, with exception of John, died a martyr’s death and suffered persecution, points to this reality. Thomas got ahold of something the day that Jesus had him feel the very things that had killed Him days before. The believing, understanding, loyal realist got ahold of the anchor for when times would get tough on the mission field later in India and ultimately staying true in a martyr’s death. I too have got ahold of Him as well. My questions, my doubts , my realism doesn’t surprise Jesus. Every once in awhile He graciously invites me to feel Him and see Him as He is. It is then that I gain courage as I understand. His love for me doesn’t depend on how much I have it together. His love for me is there period He wants me to feel it in the nail scars that He bore for me. He wants me to touch it in the depths of the hole in His pierced side. He wants me to believe that He is bigger than what seemed to separate us when in darkness I couldn’t see. Because that is who Jesus is, realistically.

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