Re-Imagining Thomas

The text we looked at in church this past Sunday was the story in which Jesus appears to Thomas. From the text, Thomas was given the nickname adjective "Doubting." I'm not sure it was a fair monicker. We aren't given much description of the event. And in Thomas' defense, it had been two weeks since Jesus' resurrection, and Jesus had first appeared to the women, then to the two people on the road to Emmaus, and finally to all the other disciples, but Thomas still hadn't been in the right place at the right time. One of my friends at church pointed out that at this point, Thomas was probably feeling quite left out and upset because of that. I know I don't like to feel left out.

As I was listening to the story the other night, I heard the story in a different light. I don't know if it's an appropriate reading or not (again, there are few details), but this is how the story spoke to me in a way I hadn't heard before:

I think Thomas wasn't so much doubting as desiring. He wanted what the other disciples had experienced. The resurrected Christ (I mean, get your mind around that in the first place--the Messiah had been crucified and buried--clearly dead--but was now alive again) had shown up to all the other disciples. Thomas had been with Jesus just as long as the other disciples. He mourned Jesus' death. He missed his friend, whom claimed to be the Son of God. Thomas had heard all the other disciples' experience with seeing Jesus alive again. Thomas just wanted that--to be in His presence again. It wan't so much that Thomas doubted (though he may have), but that he just wanted to have the same experience. If Jesus wanted him to believe, then Jesus had better show up in the same way for Thomas to see Him. (That's how I heard the story as I listened to it on Sunday at least. I'm not saying that's how it happened, but only that it's how it spoke to me.)

And Jesus obliges. Not right away, mind you. It's a whole week later--two weeks after many others have seen Jesus alive again. But He shows up. And He shows up in the same way for Thomas that He did for the other ten disciples: in a locked room He suddenly appears and says, "Peace be with you." He holds out His hands, allowing Thomas to know that His presence was real.

So here's what hearing the text in this way meant for me: when I desire to experience Jesus more deeply, He will grant my request. It may not be in the way that other people experience Him and it may not be in the timing I desire, but He desires that I know Him better. Whether or not that's what was going on with Thomas, I hope that it holds truth, none the less.

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