In our reading today, front in center is the Apostle Thomas who is sometimes referred to as “Doubting Thomas”. In her commentary on the Gospel, Karoline Lewis brings up the idea that you could translate the word “doubt” here as “unbelieving”, which then takes away a bit of the negative look at what Thomas is going through here.
A great song by the group Nickel Creek!
Thomas is grieving and all the sudden he is told something incredible: Jesus is alive! How would we respond? I feel like I would respond in much the same way but not out of doubt of but of careful disbelief. We are told in our world to not be “naïve” or “that/he/she is too good to be true” because sometimes we fall prey to false hope and are hurt. We also expect the worst in people instead of letting them surprise us. We tell ourselves we are not good enough instead of taking a risk. Disbelief is what we are good at, because it is easier to stay safe in disbelief than to have the audacity to believe in something that will subvert our expectations and not make sense. Jesus coming back from the dead does not make sense. But does God’s grace ever make any sense? Is it ever predictable? God is constantly subverting our expectations in a way that inspires our imagination in ways that do not make sense to our minds but hopefully appeals to our hearts.
Here is what I like about Thomas: he demands his own encounter. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” In true Christ fashion, Jesus shows up to see him. And he responds with “My Lord and my God!” full confessing that Jesus has risen.
Maybe there is a way for us to realize that truly we are always going to be naïve in the ways of the God. That grace will always escape our understanding and that our expectations will continually be subverted. Maybe there is a way for us to realize that we encounter Jesus every day in the places and the people that we have doubts about. Maybe the knee jerk reaction to close ourselves off from such an unsafe notion like belief is the place we need to wrestle with most, and where Jesus will appear to us often.
We are left with the message to Thomas that says, “blessed are those whole believe but do not see”, which is always a difficult pill to swallow. But if we believe in the possibility of wonder, and in the possibility of grace that we cannot understand, but believe that it is possible, we can encounter the risen Christ in our world.