JN 20: 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Little is recorded biblically about Thomas the Apostle but because of the gospel account of John, his personality and character is a bit clearer to us. When Jesus announced his plan to return to Judea to visit Lazarus, Thomas boldly said to his fellow disciples: “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16). Such a statement revealed Thomas’ capacity to be daring, courageous and yes, even heroic. But later, when the other apostles testified that the Lord had indeed risen from the dead as he claimed, Thomas replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”
That very defining moment in the life of Thomas was captured in a famous painting entitled The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio. The work, which was completed between 1601-1602, was the artist’s interpretation of John’s gospel account of the meeting between the resurrected Christ and Thomas. In the painting, we see Jesus showing his pierced flesh to Thomas while guiding his hands to touch his wounds. In John’s gospel account, Jesus said to him, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” The words of Jesus pierced Thomas to the very core of his being. It was a very powerful moment. His doubt, his arrogance and his misguided intellectualism were all exposed before the presence of the Lord. Jesus did not have to say many words, nor did he have to embarrass Thomas. Thomas himself did not even have to ask many questions. All Thomas could say were precious words of faith, “My Lord and my God.”
Only eight days before that life-changing encounter with Jesus, Thomas felt betrayed. Like all the other disciples, he had given up many things in order to follow the Lord. The unexpected and brutal death of Jesus seemed to have ended things so abruptly in his life. Some even expected that with the leadership of Jesus, the restoration of the kingdom of Israel was at hand. Although Jesus said to his disciples that the Son of Man will be betrayed, and that he will be condemned to die but in three days, will raise again, no one really believed or understood it, including Thomas himself.
27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe. To stop means to discontinue, to bring to an end, to finish and to terminate. In Hebrew, to stop literally means to restrain. In the midst of the worldwide economic crisis, the Church of England published in their website in September 2009 a special prayer entitled, “Prayer for the Current Financial Situation.” The prayer, written by the Rev. Peter Moger, the Archbishops’ Council’s National Worship Development Officer, received worldwide attention as thousands visited the website to get a copy of the said prayer. The prayer is simple but quite profound. “Lord God, we live in disturbing days: across the world, prices rise, debts increase, banks collapse, jobs are taken away, and fragile security is under threat. Loving God, meet us in our fear and hear our prayer: be a tower of strength amidst the shifting sands, and a light in the darkness; help us receive your gift of peace, and fix our hearts where true joys are to be found, in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” In these very crucial times, we need to stop many things – – – to stop thinking that we are the masters of our own destiny – to stop relying on our own wisdom and strength – to stop ignoring God’s admonitions – to stop living aimlessly – to stop focusing on material wealth and worldly pleasure – to stop living in fear and insecurity of the future.
To believe is to trust, to depend, to rely and to a great extent, to work. Certainly, the Lord was calling Thomas to a higher level of faith and discipleship. In the gospel of John, we read that Thomas was among the disciples who went fishing. They caught nothing that entire night. They were about to give up but Jesus told them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. The result was miraculous. The fish they caught were not only many but were unusually large. Since that prophetic moment of faith, Thomas never stopped fishing, for souls, that is. He eventually went as far as Persia and India to proclaim the gospel. A place in Madras, India has been named in his honor, the Mount of St. Thomas where was believed to have suffered a violent death because of his faith in Jesus.
Friends, no matter what ahead, may we continue to be assured of the presence of Christ, our resurrected Lord. Every time we stop doubting and start believing, we are encountering the presence and glory of God in our lives. To this day, the world continues to insist that to see is to believe. But for us, people of faith, we know better – – – to believe is to see. Thank you Jesus!