Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe. (John 20:29)
In John’s Gospel account, Mary Magdalene was the first person to see Jesus after his resurrection. Jesus then appeared to the disciples in a locked room. Although that account does not mention that Thomas was not present with the other disciples, his absence becomes apparent in the retelling of Jesus’ next appearance. Since Thomas had not yet seen the risen Lord, the other disciples were telling him about their experience. Thomas, who had witnessed Jesus’ arrest and death on the cross, was not sure that he could believe what the other disciples were saying. Thomas wanted to see Jesus for himself.
Because of his desire to see the nail marks in Jesus’ hands before he believed that Jesus was alive, Thomas has earned the nickname “Doubting Thomas.” That nickname does a disservice to Thomas, because it implies that Thomas’ faith was not as strong as it should have been or as strong as the faith of the other disciples. How quickly it’s forgotten that the other disciples weren’t willing to take Mary Magdalene’s word as proof that Jesus was alive. In wanting to see Jesus for himself, Thomas was no different from the other disciples.
When Jesus did appear to Thomas, he offered to let Thomas touch his wounds and told Thomas to believe. Jesus was giving Thomas what he needed to be able to have faith. Thomas immediately recognized Jesus without needing to touch him and proclaimed that Jesus was Lord. Thomas shows us that it’s OK to have a questioning faith.
When Jesus said, “Happy are those who don’t see me and yet believe,” he wasn’t admonishing Thomas for wanting to see him. Rather, Jesus was assuring those of us who were not there to witness his post-Resurrection appearances that seeing isn’t a prerequisite for belief.
• It’s OK to have questions about faith.
• Even though we can’t see Jesus, we know he is alive.
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