A week on from Easter Sunday, my thoughts turn to Thomas. Esther Phillips once sang a song, ‘What a difference a day makes/ Twenty-four little hours’, and nowhere do we see this more plainly than at Easter, when the sorrow of Easter Saturday changes to the joy of Easter Sunday and the realisation that Jesus is alive.
But for Thomas, who was not with the other disciples when Jesus appeared to them and spoke peace to them (John 20:19-24), this realisation was still not his experience. He could not believe their testimony (‘We have seen the Lord!’ Jn 20:25) without the evidence of his own eyes. (Jn 20:25)
I often wonder how the week that followed felt to Thomas. Was he irritated by the other disciples’ testimony? Did he feel resentful that this ‘miracle’ had happened to them in his absence? Did he feel alienated from his friends who claimed to have seen Jesus? We don’t know, but the following Sunday, he was with them.
The doors were still locked (it takes time for Jesus to change us, it seems), but locked doors don’t keep Jesus out. (Jn 20:26) Once more, He repeats His message of peace (Jn 20:26) But to Thomas, the message was more personal as He offered the visible evidence of His scars and the challenge: ‘Stop doubting and believe!’ (Jn 20:27)
Thomas’s response is immediate: ‘My Lord and my God!’ (Jn 20:28) He has seen with his own eyes. Now he believes.
The difference a week makes to Thomas is that now he has seen Jesus for himself. Now he believes. We all need to see Jesus if we are to experience resurrection for ourselves.
But Jesus constantly issues the challenge of faith. ‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’, He says (John 20;29) Seeing was believing for Thomas, and most of us readily identify with that. But Jesus reserves a blessing for those who have not seen and yet have believed. This goes beyond the mere boundaries of time. Jesus invites us into the realm of faith, where the invisible becomes visible through faith, where there are untold blessings if we will step out in faith without all the proof Thomas demanded. God was gracious to Thomas and gave him the proof he needed. He is often gracious to us and gives us proof too. But there is a blessing too for those who continue to believe even when apparently there is no reason to. Believing without seeing is precious indeed.