John 20 19-31
Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house.
Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side.
The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.”
Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?”
But Thomas, sometimes called the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We saw the Master.” But he said, “Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.”
Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands.Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.”
Thomas said, “My Master! My God!” Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.”
Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.
These two stories serve us well as background for the story of the appearance of the Risen One in the midst of the disciples. The Lord arrives when Thomas is out. The disciples are gathered in fear behind locked doors. Jesus appears and fills them with joy. He confers on them a mission and gives them his own Spirit to continue his saving work. Jesus makes his presence and power known to his closest friends and offers them the spirit-gift for the sake of the kingdom. At least that’s what the Scriptures tell us.
But Thomas isn’t present. He’d just stepped out briefly. Maybe he was doing a grocery run. Perhaps none of the others would put a toe out the door – but not so, Thomas. He ventures forth. He is either fearless or just plain foolhardy – or maybe both, which may be what we also need to be – but that’s to get ahead of ourselves.
Thomas returns and they tell him they have seen the Lord –- but for Thomas, something doesn’t ring true. If they have seen the Lord why are they still locked up tight in that room? If they are filled with such joy, why couldn’t he read it on their faces? If they have been empowered by the Spirit of God to “complete Christ’s work on earth” as we say in the Eucharistic Prayer – what are they waiting for? For Thomas to return? Surely not, or they would have been so breathless and eager that he would have seen the transformation in their eyes.
So Thomas says to them, in so many words, “I don’t find you believable.” Thomas – simple, loyal, loving, straightforward, down to earth, direct -– who didn’t understand but wanted to, who longed to follow Jesus but who needed to know the way — Thomas didn’t doubt the Lord; he found it highly unlikely that the Lord was Risen because he was surrounded by a group of witnesses whom he simply did not find credible. There is an ancient saying in the Eastern Church:
If you want to know if Jesus is really Risen,
look around you at the faces at the Easter vigil.