But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’ (John 20.24-25)
Thomas came back into the room. When he’d left, to go off to do what he had to do (we don’t know what that was) they were all despondent. He was glad to get out of the intensity of the space and to be able to walk a bit and clear his head. He was a practical kind of guy – he liked things clear. Some weeks ago Jesus had been speaking about going and preparing a place for them and that they were to follow. He’d shouted out from the sidelines
‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ (John 14.5)
The others had laughed – but it was true. Unless they knew where he was off to how could they follow him? He wasn’t trying to be funny – but to be honest the others sometimes had their heads in the clouds. And the answer from Jesus, which came immediately, sounded great, but, well, it was hardly a set of coordinates!
Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ (John 14.6)
But there was no doubt about his commitment. As Thomas walked, keeping in the shadows so that no one spotted him as one of the ‘out-of-town’ followers of Jesus, he remembered when they were heading to Bethany because they had the news that their friend Lazarus had died. When Jesus said that they were going to see Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ sisters, for some reason he’d again shouted from the edge
‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’ (John 11.16)
It seems ironic now that Jesus was dead and he was still alive.
But when they let him back into the locked room, they all descended on him, not to find out where he had been and for so long, but to tell him that Jesus was not dead, he was alive and he had been with them in that room. Their faces were beaming. They were mad, thought Thomas; they should get some fresh air – once more, heads in the clouds.
And when he said to them
‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’
they looked crest-fallen. But why should he just believe their words? He was a man who needed evidence, he wanted a map to know where they were going, he had his feet on the ground, not his head in the clouds and they knew that and they’d have to accept it. Unless he had the evidence in his hands he was not going to believe, however many times they told him – and they did – time after time, that Jesus had been with him. He wanted, he needed to see for himself.
We talk a great deal about mission and evangelism in the church and that is right. But it can make me feel a bit guilty. How do I convince the sceptical, how to I convert the uninterested, how do I change the cynical, so that they believe in Jesus as I do. ‘Show me … prove it to me … where’s the evidence’. What can I show them, how can I prove it, what evidence have I got? If the disciples in the Upper Room couldn’t convince their friend about the resurrection when he had been with them all the time, when he had seen Lazarus walk from the tomb, when he’d seen the son of the widow of Nain come down from his bier, when he had seen Jairus’ daughter brought back to life, then what chance have I got?
St Francis of Assisi is always quoted as saying something like
Preach the Gospel at all times; use words if you must.
When people met Francis they knew they met Jesus. He bore on his body the marks of Jesus. It may not be quite like that for us, but the only way we can witness to, prove, explain, convince is by people meeting Jesus in us and by showing that for us he is ‘the way, and the truth, and the life’, that those are our coordinates for our lives. Our lives have to be an eloquent sermon, a living word for the Living God.
whose Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life:
grant us to walk in his way,
to rejoice in his truth,
and to share his risen life;
who is alive and reigns, now and for ever.