Wednesday 03 July 2013

Bible Book:

John 20:24-29 Wednesday 3 July 2013


Today, the Church commemorates St Thomas, traditionally thefirst Christian evangelist to reach India, and founder of the MarThoma church, which still flourishes today. He is characterised as'doubting Thomas', but his story is more about emotionalinvolvement than the wish for rational certainty. Earlier in theGospel, it is Thomas who says to the other disciples "Let us alsogo [to Bethany], that we may die with him" (John11:16). It is Thomas who challenges Jesus "Lord, we do not knowwhere you are going. How can we know the way?" (John14:5). John's Gospel uses these few phrases to depict someonewhose relationship with Jesus can be critical, and who then deniesthe evidence of his fellow-disciples vehemently, even angrily, whenthey claim to have seen Jesus.

The sense of touch was widely regarded as the most reliable ofthe senses, and so Thomas emphasises his demand in this graphic,gruesome way. But what will he "not believe" (v. 25)? He doesn'tsay, 'I will not believe you'. The meaning of the sentence mustrange wider. He will not believe that the figure they have seen isidentical with the crucified Christ. Unless this mysteriousresurrected person has this specific continuity with the brokenbody of Jesus, Thomas will not believe - and will not let his lifebe changed by the event the disciples describe.

Jesus' gift of the Spirit to his disciples (verse 22) did nothave the same dramatic impact as Luke describes at Pentecost (Acts2:4). When he returns, eight days later, they are still hidingin a closed room. Do they share some of Thomas' uncertainty? Jesusmakes himself physically available for Thomas's inspection, andperhaps Thomas speaks for them all when he acclaims Jesus "My Lordand my God!" Even though Jesus distinguishes between himself andGod (John 20:17), for Thomas, at this moment, God isfully present to him in Jesus. These words combine the spiritualand political - Roman emperors claimed to be 'Master and God' - andThomas proclaims an alternative, life-changing allegiance.

Like us, John's audience had not seen Jesus for themselves. Thestory ends with Jesus' affirmation that their belief, and ours, isequally valid as a source of God's blessing. The witness of thedisciple community (1 John 1:1) is enough to assure us that thecrucified Jesus is indeed alive.

To Ponder

  • How far is Thomas a helpful role model for Christiandisciples?
  • Is there anything about being a Christian that makes you cryout "I will not believe" (v. 25)? 

Previous Page Tuesday 02 July 2013
Next Page Thursday 04 July 2013