–By Elizabeth Ahlman
Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, 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 in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although 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, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, 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 believed.”
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:24-31 ESV).
Many translations add a heading to the first part of this reading: “Doubting Thomas.” The ESV, I am happy to say, titles this “Jesus and Thomas.” These section dividers, of course, are not original to the Scriptures but are only a helpful tool in finding passages, etc. But, still, “doubting Thomas.” Kind of not fair, as a recent cartoon circulating among my Facebook friends jokingly portrays:
Here’s the thing. Thomas is being unfaithful. Thomas refuses to believe the proclamation of the risen Christ — He refuses to believe the words of the apostles, Jesus’ chosen men to proclaim His Gospel. But even if he insists he will “never believe” unless he sees the risen Lord, well, he’s at least looking for the right sign! It’s actually quite the confession. Thomas wants to see the right Jesus: he wants to see the CRUCIFIED and risen Jesus. He wants to see the Jesus who was pierced for his transgressions. He wants to see the Jesus who was scarred and wounded for him. He wants to see the Jesus who bears the marks of His sacrificial death. Some glorious Jesus won’t do. The report of a risen Lord alone won’t do. Thomas wants to see his dead God risen again. Thomas is on to something.
Earlier in the Gospel of John, the Jews ask for a sign after Jesus cleanses the temple and calls God His Father:
So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking about the temple of His body. When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken (John 2:18-22 ESV).
Jesus answers that the only sign He will offer is the destruction of the temple and its raising in three days. Of course, John tells us what the Jews don’t understand: He’s talking about His body. Jesus does do many other signs throughout His life and ministry (the wedding at Cana, the bread from heaven discourse, etc.), but this is the sign that He points to in order to show that He is the Son of God and can speak of God as His Father. So, Thomas asks for a sign, yes, but he asks for the right one. Thomas is on to something.
Thomas seems to have at least an inkling that the right Jesus, the Jesus he wants, is the Jesus Who bled and died for him. Thomas wants the Jesus Whose scarred resurrected body testifies to His death! Thomas doesn’t want a glorious shining Jesus. He doesn’t want a perfect-looking completely “healed” Jesus. He wants a bloody Jesus. A Jesus Whose wounds are so deep as to be probe-able with a finger. A Jesus Whose pierced side gapes so fully that a hand can go into it. Because, when it comes right down to it, no other Jesus than a dead and raised Jesus, a scarred and bloody Jesus is a Jesus FOR THOMAS.
And Jesus proves that He is for Thomas when He enters with peace on His lips and opens His garments and holds out His hands to offer those bloody scars to Thomas. And that is enough. Thomas cries out in confession, “My Lord and my God!” Because the Jesus Thomas needed was the Jesus Who came to him in that room. A dead and raised Jesus. A bloody Jesus. A scarred Jesus. A gloriously unhealed Jesus Whose body bears always the marks of His love for Thomas and for us.
And blessed are we, for we have believed the word of the apostles. We have been given the same gift as Thomas: the dead and risen Jesus before our very eyes. He is placed before our eyes as our pastors proclaim His death and resurrection. He is placed before our eyes as we descend with Him into His death and resurrection in the waters of our Baptisms. He is placed before our eyes as His body and blood are placed and poured into our mouths. And we, with Thomas, fall down upon our knees before such a gloriously scarred Jesus and cry out, “My Lord and my God!” Because we, like Thomas, have been given THE sign. We, like Thomas, have received the right Jesus: the bloody, beaten, dead and risen FOR YOU Jesus. We would have no other.
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus Christ, You are the crucified and risen one; daily place Your scars, death and resurrection before our eyes through faithful Apostolic preaching and teaching, and remind us always of Your sacrificial death for us so that we may live in hope and confidence; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
- Did you miss last week’s devotion? You can read it here.