My Lord and my God

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’ (John 20.26-29)

A whole week had passed; a week in which they could come to terms with what had happened to them, what had happened to Jesus. For most people life had moved on, but not for them. They were still behind closed doors, still living in fear of facing death as Jesus had. So they kept together in the place where they felt safe and with the people with whom they felt safe.

A whole week had passed in which they had been trying to convince Thomas about what they had seen, what they had experienced in that room. But it didn’t matter who told him, or how forcefully they tried, it made no difference. He kept coming back with the same phrase

‘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.’

‘I will not believe’ – it was like a nail in the hands, like a spear in the side. For him to say that to them, for him not to believe them, ignoring the testimony of his ten friends. But he stayed with them and they stayed with him.

And now it was a week since the message had come to this room from the women that the tomb was empty, since Peter arrived back to tell them it was true, since Cleopas and his wife had hurried back to tell them of their experience on the road, since Jesus stood among them and showed them his hands and his side. And Thomas was with them – and so was Jesus. Just as before, all of a sudden he was there, and with the same greeting, ‘Peace be with you’.

Jesus immediately turned to Thomas, who was amazed.

‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’

A contemporary update on the Caravaggio classic

A contemporary update on the Caravaggio classic

We are not told that Thomas actually did this. The invitation was made but would Thomas really have done that – or was seeing sufficient? He had said

‘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.’

but when push came to shove did he really need to do this?

Instead, what we get is the most beautiful profession of faith as Thomas simply says

‘My Lord and my God’.

The great Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon said in a sermon delivered at the Metropolitan Tabernacle at the Elephant and Castle in 1884

Thomas cries in ecstasy, “My Lord and my God!” He is amazed at the discovery which he has made and probably, also, at the fact that he has not seen it long before. Why, he might have known it and ought to have perceived it years before! Had he not been present when Jesus trod the sea? When He hushed the winds and bade the waters sleep? Had he not seen Him open the blind eyes and unstop the deaf ears? Why did he not cry, “My Lord and my God,” then? Thomas had been slow to learn and the Lord might have said to him, as He did to Philip, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet have you not known Me?” Now, all of a sudden, he does know his Lord—knows Him to such a surprising extent that such knowledge is too wonderful for him!

Spurgeon is right. This is an ecstatic utterance and Jesus does not deny it. Thomas has expressed the truth that so many find it hard to believe, that Jesus is both Lord and God, our Lord and God.

This declaration of faith I was taught to say as the host is lifted before us in the Eucharist. As the priest invites us to communion – ‘Jesus is the Lamb of God ..’, ‘Draw near with faith …’ – in our hearts we should be saying with Thomas – ‘My Lord and my God!’. It is the perfect way to approach Jesus who approaches us in the Mass and gives himself fully to us as he offered himself fully to Thomas.

It is true that we do not have what Thomas was given, the joy of seeing the Lord in that way. But there is a sting in the tail for Thomas. Yes, he has come out with the shortest, neatest confessional statement, but he needed the evidence to do this. But Jesus calls us ‘blessed’ because we believe without seeing – and that, as Jesus acknowledges, is much more difficult. There is no dishonour in doubting, no disgrace in questioning, no shame in challenging the things that we are taught as Christians. But when the questions have been asked we need to have the confidence to stand before Jesus and say with Thomas, ‘My Lord and my God’, and we can only do that when fear has been cast out by love. Fear is the true opposite of doubt and often holds us back from believing, but the love of God casts out our fear and leads us to deeper faith.

Jesus,
when it is fear that stops me believing
cast it out with the love
I see on the cross
and in the empty tomb
and give me the confidence to say
‘My Lord and my God’.
Amen.

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