But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘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.’
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’
Today’s gospel is about two of the many appearances of Jesus after his resurrection. Today’s account is special because Jesus appears to a larger group of his followers. The Disciple Thomas the Twin, however, is missing and refuses to believe that Jesus is alive and demands proof. Later, Jesus appears again, this time Thomas is present and believes!
The words ‘faith’ and ‘knowledge’ are not the same and must not be confused. We can know something in our head and not really believe it down in our heart. I know that Jesus is God, but Satan knows this also! It is how I respond to that knowledge that leads to faith.
Faith comes from experienced knowledge, rather than academia, something learnt from a textbook. Thomas was told the Good News of the Resurrection, but he was not prepared to believe until he experienced it for himself.
Faith, in a way, is in my feet; it enables me to step out with confidence in my decisions and in my deeds. Let face it; it is difficult for the human mind to know anything of God. Our terms of reference are so limited and so conditioned. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that when we speak about God, there is only one thing we can be sure of; that we could be wrong!
God is so much more than anything your or I could say or think about Him/ Her! But God does not wish to be clouded in mystery. The coming of Jesus on earth, with his action-packed-life and his public death was a down-to-earth statement from God. And if the Apostle Thomas wanted to touch the wounds of Jesus, then Jesus made that possible, and invite him to do so.
A very real invitation of the gospel is ‘Come and see’ ~ from personal experience I believe that if you genuinely and truly want to know the Risen Christ he will meet that wish, and through the action of his Spirit within your heart you will come to know him in a deep and personal way.
Let me end with a simple story.
Every African village had its own wise old man to whom people came for advice on everything. His wisdom and knowledge is greatly respected by all. A young man from a village was given the opportunity to go to college and obtained an education. He achieved several degrees and in his heart considered himself to be so much more intelligent and informed than the wise man of the village.
One day he decided to demonstrate that he was so much cleverer then the village wise man and contrived to embarrass him by setting up a situation where he would prove the wise man wrong.
He caught a little bird, which he held firmly concealed in his hand and went to ask the old man if the bird were alive or dead. If the old man said the bird was dead, he would release his grip and allow the bird to fly away. If he said the bird was alive he would squeeze it so tight that the bird would immediately die.
He approached the old man, showed him the beak of the tiny bird sticking out from between his fingers, and asked, “Old man, tell me, is this bird dead or alive?” The old man looked at the scholar, and very calmly replied: “The answer to that question, my son, depends totally on you.”
On that first Easter morn the grave was empty; ironically, this year, so were our churches! And so I say, “Look into your heart and answer this question, is Jesus dead or alive to you today?”
Revd. Rob Eardley