John 20:24-29 – Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "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 it." A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (NIV)
Some time ago, my husband served as the pastor of a quaint little church in our home state of Pennsylvania, USA. Often, he spent hours putting together creative sermons using a unique blend of biblical and contemporary language. Although I enjoyed all his messages, a few of them made long-lasting impressions, including one in particular entitled "Missing in Action". This sermon raised some thought-provoking questions regarding Thomas' absence from the scene of today's gospel narrative.
Still contemplating the significance of Thomas' role in the resurrection story, the following is a short version of my perspective on the events which took place:
- Why was Thomas absent from the upper room on the first evening of Jesus' resurrection? Perhaps he had family obligations or was delayed somewhere by no fault of his own. Yet, I think the most logical explanation was his state of mind: mourning the loss of his Saviour, he simply preferred to be alone. In any case, Thomas missed the blessing of seeing the risen Lord.
Why did Thomas reject the testimony of the other disciples? Conceivably, he wondered why his Master had not appeared to him also; after all, wasn't he just as important as the others? Thus, a troubled spirit may have led to doubt and resentment.
What does Thomas' testimony mean for believers today? I think that God in all His wisdom allowed Thomas to be missing in action for a divine purpose. When he was finally confronted with tangible evidence that Jesus was alive, Thomas immediately responded by boldly proclaiming, "My Lord and my God!" Interestingly, he was the first apostle to fully and openly declare Christ's divinity, a testimony for future generations. Moreover, I have no doubt that the Lord has used this occasion to encourage uncounted millions who have never seen Him physically.
Therefore, I conclude that Jesus used the example of Thomas to reveal a greater truth; however, it is up to us to respond in faith. Then, with our eyes unveiled, we can truly say, believing is seeing.
So how about you? Are you missing in action? Or have you seen the risen Lord today?
Prayer: Lord, help us through eyes of faith to see the nail prints in Your hands and the wound in Your side. In Your great mercy, forgive us for the times when we have failed to believe Your Word, missing opportunities to do Your will. Like Thomas, renew our lives with the hope and power of Your resurrection. Give us the courage to bear witness to the truth, as we seek to walk in the path of everlasting life. In Your holy name, we pray. Amen.