Thomas is far more complicated than to be known only as the doubter. He certainly did doubt, but he also demonstrates a sense of stoicism and practicality in his approach to faith in Christ. In the first episode Thomas is willing to suffer and die with Jesus. This stoic quality is incongruent with the man who doubts that Christ rose from the dead. In the second episode, Thomas is asking what appears to be genuine interest in following Jesus, but he is not clear about where Jesus is going. There are all sorts of arguments about Thomas’ and the other disciples’ lack of faith and understanding; but he does ask the question. It is the third episode that forces Thomas to be remembered along with all the other nonbelievers. Let’s face it; Thomas got a bum rap in John’s Gospel. We don’t remember Peter as “Peter the Denier”, or the young man, sometimes known as Mark or John Mark, in Mark’s Gospel who followed the arrested Jesus, but ran away naked when the Temple guard grabbed his clothing. There is no reference to “Naked Mark”. We could remember the rest as “Afraid Andrew, Cowardly Philip, Deserter James” and so on because the disciples deserted Jesus when he was arrested. The point is that we do not remember any of them by these monikers except for poor Thomas.
Perhaps I sympathize with Thomas because his reactions are so often mirrored in our reactions. I think there are times when we are stoical about things that we are getting ready to face or going though. There are times when we stand up for our faith and what we believe and do not give even a second thought to what criticism might follow. There are times when it is important to ask questions about things that are not clear to us. Thomas was asking Jesus for direction; don’t we do the same thing in our prayer life. Finally, is our faith so crystal clear that we never question the Scriptures, the Creeds, the teaching of the Church and the Church’s direction about certain matters?
The revelation of God did not cease with the close of the Apostolic Age. God continues to teach, to disclose God’s love and will throughout all the ages of humankind. Thomas’ statement that gave him the nickname of “doubting” was answered in just seven days by a direct appearance of Jesus. Blessed are you who continue to hope and wait for answers all the while remaining faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ.
A blessed Eastertide to all of you!
[i] John 11:16b
[ii] Ibid, 14:5-6
[iii] Ibid, 20:25b
~ Fr. Al Jewson