Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. (N.T. Wright)
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here. Look at my hands. Put your hand into my side. No more disbelief. Believe!” Thomas responded to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus replied, “Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe.” (John 20:27-29; context)
Day four of celebrating the Resurrection with statements from the Risen Christ. Today we fall to our knees with the disciple Thomas who, upon seeing the Risen Jesus, makes the most extraordinary statement of Jesus’ divinity in the entire New Testament: “My Lord and my God!”
This happens following Jesus telling him to believe. I love this. Jesus invites Thomas to fulfill the criteria for belief that Thomas had set out to the other disciples (the finger and hand stuff), but the text never says that Thomas goes through with the examination. Rather, it seems that Jesus’s command that Thomas believe is enough to bring out Thomas’s exclamation of Jesus’s divinity.
“No more disbelief. Believe!” So says Jesus – and Thomas obeys. This immediate, face-to-face encounters contrasts with the next words that Jesus says: “Do you believe because you have seen me? [Blessed*] are those who don’t see and yet believe.”
Here Jesus is no longer talking to the people in the room. He is talking to the readers of the Gospel – back when it was written and today. Jesus is not taking Thomas to task for his need for physical proof; rather, Jesus – through the pen of the writer of the Gospel – is encouraging all those who believe in him and yet have never seen him. This is dialogue that takes place outside of time and speaks to people of all times.
We who have never seen Jesus might think that his first followers are the blessed ones because they got to walk around with him, hear him teach, see him perform miracles. But Jesus says the opposite. He says that we are the blessed ones (not that they weren’t – Jesus just makes a point to say that we are). This encouragement to believe with no proof is the basis for the life of faith. Jesus commands Thomas to let go of his disbelief and believe. Jesus says the same thing to us. And he blesses us to actually be able to do it.
Dear God, in the quiet of the night you knit your faith into my very being. Help me to hold onto your promises when I feel myself slipping away from you, that I may hear Jesus calling me once again to believe, and in hearing him, follow his voice. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.
I leave this moment with you, God, rejoicing that you raised your Son from the dead and showed me that nothing in all of creation can separate me from your love.
* I put the word “Blessed” here instead of “Happy” as it is above because, while I love the CEB translation, I think “happy” is a poor choice here. “Happiness” in today’s context is just too shallow for what Jesus is really talking about.