“Then [Jesus] said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!'” — John 20:27-28
Thomas gets a bad rap! Year after year, we go around calling him Doubting Thomas, like school children on the playground trying to get under his skin. I’m sure he didn’t expect that his one moment of grief would define him.
The truth is, Thomas only asked for what the other disciple’s received. After the Resurrection, Jesus came into the midst of ten of the disciples and he showed them his wounds, spoke peace over them and commissioned them to the work of the kingdom. When the ten disciples saw this, they were “glad.” I think to myself, surely that is an understatement, but that is what the text says — “the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.”
When Thomas returned from where he had been, the disciple’s excitedly told him all that they had seen. They told him of the wounds, they told him of the peace, they told him of the mission. Thomas’, with a heart full of emotion, only longed for those very proofs that Jesus offered to the ten. Thomas statement could be more accurately read, “When I see what you saw, I’ll believe like you believe!” or “I want to experience what you experienced!”
One week later, Thomas was given that chance! Behind locked doors, Jesus appeared to them. He walked straight over to Thomas and offered his wounds. Thomas didn’t ask Jesus for proof, he had asked the other disciples. But Jesus, knowing the heart, walked straight to the one who had been away and freely offered his wounds. Thomas’ response, however, was slightly different than that of the other disciples. Thomas answered him, “My Lord and My God!”
Thomas was the very first (that I can find) who asserted the Divinity of Jesus. Oh, sure, I know we all think it was Peter, but I’m not sure Peter had quite grasped that aspect of Jesus. Peter declared that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Those terms, however, which are found in Psalm 2:2 and 2:7, were simply Davidic or Messianic. The Jewish people did not associate the messiah with Divinity. Messiah simply meant “anointed one.” Son of the Living God comes from God’s statement to David in 2:7, and likely refers back to 2:6, which reads, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.”
Peter recognized that Jesus was the Lord’s Anointed, but he was speaking in royal terms, he was looking for a King. It was Thomas who first recognized that Jesus was far more than Israel’s conquering king. Jesus was, Thomas recognized and declared, God himself in their midst!
I often wonder why Jesus chose to reveal himself to all but one. Was Thomas slow getting the Mary’s report to meet Jesus in Galilee? Was it on purpose that Jesus came when he was gone? Did Jesus want to test Thomas’ belief? Did he want to set Thomas up for the revelation of Jesus’ divinity? Did Jesus want to create a moment where he could bless all of those who believe and have not seen?
All we, who have not seen and yet believe, are blessed by the faith, revelation and declaration of Thomas.
Homework this week: Meditate on the declaration, “My Lord and my God!”