Monday, April 17, 2017

John 20.19-31: Thank You, Thomas

The first Sunday after Easter uses the same gospel reading in all three years of the lectionary: John 20:19-31. This is the story of Christ's appearance to the disciples post-resurrection and Thomas' after-Easter moment in the spotlight. Thomas is often criticized for his desire to see for himself, but I would suggest that there is another way to consider this story and Thomas' actions.

Thomas was asking, essentially, for proof of life. And interestingly, he will recognize life by seeing, by touching, Jesus' wounds. That is how he will recognize Jesus, how he will know that the one standing before him is Jesus: by his wounds. He doesn't ask Jesus to come back and perform a miracle - strike down the officials who sought to squash the Jesus Movement, heal more paralytics, elevate Thomas to a position in the inner circle of disciples, make it snow in summer.

Instead, what Thomas wants is to know that this is the Jesus who suffered. In fact, Thomas seems to be the only one willing to remember the suffering of Jesus. The other disciples seem ready to move on - and so they should - and so should we. It is after Easter, after all. And yet, moving on doesn't mean forgetting. How quickly we want to forget that Jesus suffered (because of us!). It is sometimes a battle to have people dwell in the betrayal, crucifixion and death of Jesus for even the 48 hours between Maundy Thursday evening and an Easter vigil. Too often there is a quick move (Sunday's coming!) that, intended or not, minimizes the suffering of Jesus and the reminder of all those in our world who are suffering.

For Thomas and the disciples, Sunday had come, and Thomas alone seems to remember the cost of Jesus' act of love and sacrifice. Wounds as proof of life. Thank you, Thomas.

Illustration is Carl Bloch's "The Doubting Thomas". 1881. Ugerlose Kirke, Denmark.

For additional thoughts about Thomas (John 20:19-31), click here or here.
For thoughts on Acts 4:32-35, click here.
On Art&Faith Matters' Facebook page this week: the disciples tell Thomas it's time to move on. Click on the link.

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