Where is Thomas when Jesus first appears to the disciples? Why isn’t he with his people? The rest of the apostles are apparently gathered together. Only Judas and Thomas are missing. Judas is dead but where is Thomas? Why does Thomas need to touch the wounds of Jesus? None of the other apostles seem interested in that but Thomas says he has to feel those wounds in order to believe. And what brings Thomas back to the apostles? How is it that, being separated from them, he decides now to join with them a week later? What changed in Thomas? Or what changed in the other apostles?
Where is Thomas? I think I know. It’s the third day since the crucifixion. The horrid meaning of it all is beginning to sink in as the shock is wearing off and the deeper grieving is now starting. Anyone who’s gone through a traumatic or sudden death of a loved one knows about this. At first you’re numb, and then you start to feel things, and it hurts. Where is Thomas? When it comes to things like this, some of us are like dogs and some of us are like cats. Some of us, when we get hit with that kind of pain, naturally seek the embrace of another. Dogs are like that. Usually when they are hurt, they will run toward their master; you can see the pain in their eyes and hear it in their whimper. They need help and they look for it in someone. Some people, when they are in great pain, naturally turn to others. They want to be held while they cry. It appears the other ten apostles are like this: they have sought out the community of each other to help them bear the pain.
But some people are more like cats. Some people, when they get hit with great pain, run for the woods. Cats don’t seek the company of others when they get hurt. They want to hide all by themselves until they feel better. They’ll disappear, often for days at a time, and lick their wounds. Some of us, when we are hurt, don’t want a bunch of people asking us how we feel and trying to make us feel better. We want to be left alone. Some people are like dogs and some people are like cats: Thomas is more like a cat. He’s hurting and he runs for the woods.
And while Thomas is licking his own wounds, Jesus appears to the gathered apostles. As they are with each other, probably trying to find some way of reassuring each other, their Lord comes to them. The first word out of his mouth is “Peace”. He shows them his wounds. Maybe he is letting them know clearly who he is. And maybe he is letting them see what they have helped cause. And showing them his wounds becomes part of their own healing. “Yes, this is what you did, but I am well. You caused me to suffer, but the Father has raised me.” He speaks to them of the Holy Spirit and of forgiveness. And they are changed. They are given something they cannot keep to themselves. Soon they will stop clinging to each other in the dark and offer their own lives in witness to this risen Christ. But first they start looking for Thomas. They want him to know first.
Eight days later, the next Sunday morning, the apostles are gathered together. That makes sense to me. Dogs like to hang out with each other. Thomas is there with them this time. Something’s different for him to be there. Maybe time has helped him. And maybe the others are so changed that he is drawn to be with them. Maybe that forgiveness and peace given to them make them different. But something attracts Thomas and he is there. And the Lord comes again!
“Peace,” he says. And he walks right up to Thomas and allows him to feel the wounds. He is not cast out for not being there the first time. He is honored and given the individual experience he knows he needs. It’s more than proof that this is really Jesus which the wounds indicate. It is a participation in accountability and forgiveness. Maybe each one of us, as we enter the kingdom on the other side, will have those wounds presented to us. Maybe we’ll have to go through that hard and wondrous time of acknowledging our part in wounding our Lord with our unfaithfulness and the healing in knowing that the Father has made all things well. Maybe each of us has to look the Lord in the eyes and say, “We meant it for evil, but you have made it good.” “We sought our own glory, and now we seek yours.”
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.