Who is this person? Can we trust him? He is not coming in the package we have known, the context in which we’ve loved him. How do we know he’s the same person? He is strange, foreign, unfamiliar. How did he get in here anyway? The doors were locked! We never welcomed this person here!
“Peace be with you.”
He looks frightening…but he speaks blessing.
“I don’t believe it! You are all being hoodwinked! This man is an imposter. I know my Lord, and this is not him. I want physical evidence and nothing more. I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Thomas was concerned about his friends. They all had freaky looks on their faces, like they had seen a ghost and were happy about it. “Snap out of it!” He was sure they were being led astray. He knew what the Scriptures said. There was nothing in there about this craziness.
A week later, Thomas got the evidence he was looking for. “Here, I’ll give you what you want,” the man said. Thomas touched the nail marks. He put his hand in the man’s side. Still, he couldn’t believe it. He didn’t want to believe it. But he also couldn’t deny this powerful presence. It still frightened him. “My Lord and my God!” He felt defeated, like he had been missing the point his entire life.
He also panicked, fearing the loss of control. Faced with evidence he couldn’t deny, he had to admit that Jesus was not the man he thought he knew. This experience was different. It was wild and unorthodox. Out-of-bounds. Uncharted territory.
Have you ever had such an experience? Have you had to face evidence that goes against what you believe? How did you handle it? Did you try to deny it? What about unique experiences that challenged your worldview? How do you handle those? Do you allow yourself to be interested? Or do you push those away too?
These are not loaded questions. They would be loaded if it was my agenda to convince you of Jesus’ resurrection. No, this story of Thomas’s experience of the risen Christ has much to teach us. But if we find it comfortable and easy to digest (for example, because we ourselves believe in the Resurrection), then we are missing the point. If we decide that the story is simply about “doubting Thomas” and his failure to believe that Jesus rose from the dead, then we’re cutting ourselves off from how the story’s wisdom might apply to us. The story is not just about the particulars of the story. The wisdom lies in the structure of the experience. There is a pattern to it. It is the story of a worldview in crisis. A worldview unraveling.
Now that is certainly applicable to us. We are bound to have experiences or be confronted with evidence that challenges how we see the world. Thomas was lucky. Jesus didn’t let him stay in the dark, in the prison of his own mind. We might not be so lucky. We may be allowed to return, again and again, to our own comfortable views. Our tidy theories of the world. Our tidy moral beliefs. They may remain nice and tidy until we’re forced out of our complacency by something even more persistent, such as sickness, tragedy, or unbelievable love. If we had to choose, we’d probably prefer it to be love, not suffering. That appears to be what Thomas received. The powerful love of Jesus quickly dismantled the worldview he was holding to so tightly. But, in the end, the change is the same, and the cost of that change is the same. When your worldview or your self-image is dismantled, it feels like you are being dismantled. But the truth lying behind this story—and the truth of the Resurrection—is that it’s only a feeling. You are not dismantled. Your true identity lives on, far beyond the death of all that you thought you knew.
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
—1 Corinthians 15:55