No Nonsense Thomas
John 20:19-31

By Michael Price, Seminarian

Do you know anyone like this Thomas character? Boy talk about a guy that really puts it all out on the table. I get the feeling that Thomas is what we might call a "no-nonsense" kind of guy. He "calls 'em like he sees 'em." Do you know anyone like that? I have to say that I see a lot of myself in Thomas. I'm not prone to believe something unless I've got the cold, hard truth accessible at my fingertips. Maybe you too can relate to these feelings. In fact, that very thing has gotten me in trouble at times.

For example, Dr. Vitalis-Hoffman at LTSG asks us to participate in groups of two for our Gospels class assignments. My partner and I would meet and get started on the particular assignment of the week. Now my esteemed partner who is a very intelligent human being perfectly capable of answering a question posed by the illustrious Dr. Hoffman would find an answer to a certain question in the book. He gives me the answer. Now, at this point, any good partner will be able to offer a word of thanks to the faithful partner for doing his or her job, record the answer that has been so graciously offered, and continue on to the next question. However, being the spiteful conditional Thomas-like character I am, I'm afraid I, after barely acknowledging his answer, crack open the book, skim to find the answer, look it up myself, then share it with my partner as if I were the one to come up with the appropriate response. I'd like to say that my looking it up was a double check, but in essence, I must admit my shortcomings that this is my own insecurity, which Bobby Brown once instructed me in one of his 1989 singles, where he says plainly at the beginning, "If you want something done, you've got to do it yourself."

When Thomas was met by the disciples who claimed to see the resurrected Christ, I'll bet he was thinking something similar to "It's obvious these guys are in a heightened state of mob mentality." Now it's up to Thomas to shed some rational light on the subject. Who can blame him? They're seeing and saying some strange things.

However, contrary to popular belief, Thomas does not just simply doubt. Is he just a rational guy that seeks to help his misguided friends? Perhaps, but in this text, Thomas shows us here his true personality. He does not speculate. It's almost as if he has no doubts at all. No, Thomas demands! He hears from his friends that he's been with for at least a year vehemently witness to him that they have seen the resurrected Christ! But Thomas, not succumbed by others' experience, DEMANDS that he experience this for himself. Not only does he ask for the experience, but undeniable proof that this guy the disciples are seeing is really Jesus. He wants to cast his hands on the wounds of Christ.

To capture the strength of Thomas' statement, maybe we can rephrase it to, "If and ONLY if I can put my hands on his wounds, then and ONLY then will I believe." The Greek here is "ou mei," I WILL NOT believe. Although these demands are very forceful, they are not outright ridiculous. After all, he did miss the first appearance by Jesus, and if that were one of us, we may also feel a bit short-changed. Many have likened Thomas to a modern-day skeptic. And why not? Heck, even among us believers here today, we oftentimes seek proof. We want the cold, hard facts. And this doesn't just apply to the skeptics among the believers, but those who consider themselves quite faithful. There are Christians who have this fixation of "proving" the things in which they have faith. It seems many if not all of us suffer from this "proof" bug that Thomas has in this text.

Now comes the part of the story where Jesus shows up. Now when I first hear this, I think, "Ohhhh boy! He's gonna get it now! Jesus is going to wail into him about faith and trust and how demanding from God is the most arrogant thing you can do. Oh man. Thomas is in deep trouble." But Jesus doesn't. Instead, he greets all of the disciples as he had before, "Peace to you." He approaches Thomas and simply says, using the exact words that Thomas had made his demands in, "Cast your finger in my hands, and cast your hand in my side." This is what happens? Jesus is going to meet the demands of Thomas? Just like that? Thomas falls to his knees and proclaims, "My Lord and my God!" The text never mentions that he does the things that he said he had to do to believe. Thomas never cast his hands or fingers on any of Jesus' wounds. The very proof he demanded to see and do, he never did.

This is the power of God's Word. Thomas is confronted with God's Word in its rawest form, in the flesh. Seeing it, Thomas realizes its glory, despite his conditions of the "cold, hard facts," and falls to his knees in praise. This is the power of God's Word. While we make demands upon ourselves and upon God, the Word confronts us, revealing to us the power of faith, causing us to realize what sort of state we're in, and in the presence of the Word, realizing the grace of God.

We may disassociate ourselves with Thomas at this point. We may say to ourselves, "Thomas had the opportunity to be face to face with the resurrected Christ. Of course he is able to fall to his knees. We do not have that opportunity. We have to be what Jesus calls 'those who have not seen but yet believe.' That's harder." Friends, we must constantly be assured that just as Jesus was the one to act in Thomas' faith, so it is now with us. Thomas did not believe under even his OWN terms, but under the terms of Christ. It was Jesus that acted, sending Thomas to his knees. Despite Thomas' intellectual rigorous assertiveness, despite our own demands, God acts. God seeks US out under GOD'S terms. When Thomas is, and when we are, confronted with this grace, we see ourselves in relation to the Almighty, and we are awed and fall to our knees.

And how more appropriately can this be seen than when we come to Holy Communion? We are met by Christ, who offers himself for us, and we partake of his body and blood. Body and blood not in the sense that it can be proven or observed or seen, but because of the Word and our hearing the Word in faith. "This is my body given for you…This is the new testament in my blood shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin. Do this for the remembrance of me." You're invited to a table of grace, because it is "for you," as Christ, himself said. It is for those with questions, as well as those with answers, for those with doubts, as well as those with immense faith, those with guilt and grief, as well as those with joy and gratitude. Jesus Christ meets the "Thomases" as well as the "Peters," those with faith that can move mountains and those whose faith seems small, so that in this encounter, we might all proclaim with Thomas "My Lord and my God."