In the evening of the day of his resurrection, Jesus appears to his disciples, filling them with joy that he’s actually alive. All the disciples are present except for Thomas. Maybe he needed time alone to process the events of Good Friday and the women’s reports of the empty tomb from earlier that day. But by not being with his friends, Thomas misses encountering the risen Christ. (If there’s a moral to learn here, it’s got to be: “Show up with when your brothers and sisters in Christ are together!”)
When Thomas later hears his friends say they’ve seen Jesus, he is brutally honest and says, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hands into His side, I will not believe.” And he’s been known as Doubting Thomas ever since.
The following week, Jesus shows up again when his disciples are together – and Thomas is with them this time. And Jesus’ grace towards Thomas is amazing. Jesus doesn’t kick Thomas out for his doubt or even reprimand him or demand some sort of confession or apology. Jesus invites Thomas to do exactly what Thomas demanded: “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put into my side.” Jesus comes to Thomas where Thomas is at. Just as he did before his crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus – the Victor over death and Lord of life – continues to accommodate, honor, and serve others.
Personally, I think we should start calling him Honest Thomas and stop seeing him as a negative role model. Jesus is not afraid of Thomas’ honesty and doubt, and he is not afraid of yours or mine. (Of course it helps if we’re sincerely searching for truth and not just being negative and cynical.) In short, Jesus meets Thomas where Thomas is. And Jesus is still doing that with you and me.
Jesus did not die on the cross and rise again on the third day only for people who have their acts together and who always make the best decisions and who hold perfectly to the truth. (Are there even any people like that?) The risen Jesus desires to encounter you and me just as he met Thomas. Regardless of how faithful (or faithless) you or I have been, Jesus is faithful and gives us new opportunities to meet him and grow.
The Bible says Thomas has a twin, though it never says who his twin sister or brother is. Maybe it’s an invitation to admit how I sometimes feel like I have a twin inside me: On good days, I’m filled with faith and certainty, but I have a “twin” who likes to show up with doubt and even fears. Or maybe by not saying who Thomas’ twin is, the Bible invites me to think of myself as Thomas’ twin so I can join him as one who can doubt with the best of them, and one for whom Jesus comes alongside with grace, inviting me afresh to believe and trust in him as “my Lord and my God!”