John 20 is one of the Gospel chapters I cannot escape in trying to understand and perhaps encourage new communities of faith.
In this chapter, we meet four very different people as they encounter the risen Christ in ways that speak, to me at least, of Jesus’ tailor-made love for each and all of us.
We have Mary, who ‘wears her heart on her sleeve’ and encounters Jesus with all the emotions we experience. Perhaps that’s you?
We have ‘boots and all’ Peter, who elbows John aside at the tomb and steps right in. He’s a bloke who grabs this Jesus journey with calloused workman’s hands. Perhaps that’s you?
We see John – very much a Uniting Church fellow 😉 – not rushing in, stroking his chin. He thinks this through and wants to understand the theology. Perhaps that’s you.
However, in Thomas’ encounter, we meet each of us and all of us!
Have you ever felt like you were late to the party? Everyone else in the church is fired and enthused, seeming rock-solid in their faith and discipleship. (By the way, we’re bluffing most of the time 🙂 ) Then Thomas finds the courage to doubt. He puts his cards on the table!
Notice verse 26: “A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them.” THAT’S a community transformed by the power of the resurrection! THAT’S a community I want to belong in!
That verse could have said, “So the brethren said unto Thomas, “Be thou dismissed from among us, doubter! On yer bike, son!” What they said was, “Stay, mate. We know this truth and will wait with you and make space here in our community for you, and your honesty, because we believe Jesus will turn up in His good time and show Himself to you in the way He knows you need.”
BTW… The Orthodox Church does not know him as Doubting Thomas. He is Thomas, the Believer. If we follow the early church’s traditions, Thomas went further than any apostles – to India’s west coast, beyond even the Roman empire.
Ps. Phil Smith, BELLS Faith Community.