Regular readers of this blog will know that I grew up attending St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church in Lancaster, PA. Underneath this grand stained glass window, I cut my teeth on the Book of Common Prayer, made a joyful noise in VBS, learned what it means to pray for one another, fell in love with that one note in “O Holy Night,” and even preached a time or two. More than anything else, however, this window has remained in my memory. It shows the risen Lord offering the wounds in his hands to Thomas with is usual symbols of the spear by which he was martyred and the carpenter’s square indicating his profession before joining the 12.
Despite the fact that neither Jesus nor Thomas appear to have eyes in this window, it seems clear that Jesus is looking at Thomas with compassion. Despite what our common reading of the standard Gospel lesson for Easter 2 might try to tell us, I am convinced that the encounter between Jesus and Thomas is not one of rebuke by Jesus or doubt by Thomas, but of mutual affection and joy. See, Thomas didn’t want anything more than what the rest of the disciples had received. He wanted to see Jesus risen from the dead. He wanted to know that it wasn’t some sick joke. He needed to have some proof before he could give his life back over to the one in whom he had placed so much hope. Jesus, for his part, seems more than willing to give Thomas what he needs.
His hope for Thomas is the same hope Jesus has for all of us. “Don’t continue to be unbelieving, but believe.” Jesus goes on to assure the many of us who would follow after Thomas and the others, that faith need not come from seeing and touching. Instead, those who do not have the opportunity to see Jesus face-to-face are even more blessed by their faith. Even so, we who follow Jesus may not see him physically, but if you stick around long enough, you’ll have the chance to meet him, to feel his wounds, and to know the power of his resurrection.
As you prepare your sermons for Easter 2, dear readers, please don’t wag your finger at Thomas. Refuse to call him doubting. Instead, offer him up as the example of all those who had the opportunity to see the resurrected Jesus in the flesh. Remind your flock that while we don’t have that chance, each of us can meet Jesus in faith and be blessed.