Locked doors and doubts

April 18, 2020

STRANGELY , for my Holy Week reflection, I thought the Apostle Peter or John would be prominent. Instead, my thoughts took an unexpected turn to Thomas. Thomas is us: we with a wounded soul, desperate to believe, but dreading to be hurt again. He loved Jesus so much that when he saw his beloved Master hanging naked and bleeding on the cross, his world collapsed. Clovis Chappel imagined an encounter with Thomas this way:

If I had met Thomas on the streets to Jerusalem on that day and said, “Thomas, I saw your friends going together to the Upper Room. Aren’t you going? Jesus might come while they are there.” Thomas would have answered, “No, I’m not going. Jesus will not be there. He is dead. Don’t you know if I thought I would see Him I would go? Don’t you know that I loved Him and love Him still better than life, but Jesus is dead. Dead! Dead!

“I was in the garden when Judas kissed Him. I saw them lead Him away. I saw the soldiers scourge Him. I saw Him crowned with the crown of thorns. I was out on Calvary when the black night came on at midday and I heard that wild, bitter cry. Oh! I will hear it forever more: ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ I saw His head bowed and I saw the brute of a soldier thrust the spear into His side. Don’t talk to me about seeing Jesus again. Jesus is dead.” 

When he heard the rumors that Jesus had risen again, it was more out of anguish than scorn when he spat, “Unless I see my finer where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” If we long to be healed, what is it that we want Jesus to reveal to us? His presence? His compassion? His meekness?

The wonderful thing was that it was not Thomas who sought Jesus; Jesus was the one who sought Thomas. All the remaining Apostles were in a locked room and Jesus came. There is no locked room in our hearts that Jesus cannot enter, if we are willing – but unable – to open that door. Jesus does not barge in or kick the door open. But He does make His presence known when we least expect it, even when we are stewing in our own neurosis.

I find comfort that Jesus greeted everyone in the room, “Peace be with you!” and then He turned to Thomas. We may be in a crowd, we may be in a congregation, but the Good Shepherd intimately knows each of us. In the story, He has singled out a sheep wandering in doubt. So, too, His eyes are always upon each of us.

Jesus did not scold or deride Thomas for his doubt. “After all these three years, how dare you?!” No, in tender grace, He offered Thomas to see and touch His hands and side.

We are never told if Thomas actually touched the hands and side. I get the impression that just one look at the Risen Savior was enough for him to fall on his knees and worship. Perhaps the antidote to anxiety and despair is not information, but incarnation. Have you noticed that although Jesus had a resurrected body, He chose to keep the marks on His hands and sides? That is perhaps the most amazing lesson of all.

When we are tempted to worry about our finances, health, career or relationships, perhaps what we need is another hard look at those marks. In Jesus’ wounds, we find healing for our own. Thomas lived on to be a staunch follower of the Risen Lord, forsaking all, even his own life. Tradition says that he has brought the Gospel all the way to India and was eventually martyred.

I wish we can carry the consolation of Holy Week every day. But in one sense, we can. When we are tempted anew to despair, when we find ourselves again in a locked room, our magnificent Lord finds us and shows us His marks: “See? This is how much I love you. After what I have gone through, will I ever abandon you?”

Thank you, Thomas.

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