The Gentle Invitation to Believe
by General Linda Bond
Time changes one's perspective, does it not? That is so for me and perhaps for many of you when you reflect on the Easter story. Maybe it has to do with our life experiences which make us see things differently. Or maybe the gracious way the Lord has dealt with us has taught us to read the Scriptures differently. Whatever the cause, the account of Thomas's reaction on hearing that Jesus was risen illustrates this point for me.
Many of us perhaps think he deserved the name 'Doubting Thomas'. The Bible tells us that he was not with the other disciples when Jesus came, but they were quick to tell him the good news: 'We have seen the Lord!' (John 20:25). Then comes his famous response: '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' (v25). 'Seeing is believing' - or at least Thomas felt so.
A week later, Jesus showed up again. This time Thomas was with the disciples. After greeting them all: 'Peace be with you!' (v26), Jesus initiated the conversation with Thomas. He said to him: 'Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe' (v27). These words of Jesus are not written in our Bibles with exclamation marks, in bold print or in capital letters. Yet sometimes they are read as though they were a shout, a stern rebuke from the Lord to a stubborn disciple.
Have you considered that this was no shout but a gentle invitation to a struggling soul? That day, Jesus showed up especially for Thomas.
The risen Lord knew his disciple's heart. Thomas truly wanted a personal encounter with Jesus as his friends had experienced. He had been honest enough to admit his struggle. He could not believe the impossible or comprehend the incredible. Having witnessed the miracles of Jesus, he should perhaps have seen this as yet another of those amazing moments. But for him, resurrection after crucifixion was beyond the realm of possibility.
Maybe this was no embarrassing moment for Thomas, no public shaming in front of his friends. Surely Jesus did not expose him before the others as a 'doubting Thomas'? Rather, don't you think that as Thomas was invited into Jesus' wounds, the Lord whispered a word of faith into his ear?
It is true that we can't go beyond what the Scriptures tell us. But we can read them with the knowledge of how Jesus deals with us. Knowing how understanding and gracious he is, the story of Thomas can be read as our story.
How often we have heard others share their joy about their experience with Jesus and somehow we just can't relate to it? Rather than declare our doubts, we have kept silent or even tried to express a conviction that we did not hold. But for those who truly want to know him, Jesus comes, doesn't he? No rebuke, no word of condemnation, but a whisper. He gives us a moment so convincing that we know with absolute certainty: He is alive. He is real.
Thomas's response may surely also be ours: 'My Lord and my God' (v28). What a wonderful Saviour! What a wonderful Lord!
- Scripture quotations are from the New International Version