Easter to Pentecost: Missing Out
By Morag Barker
Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’
But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’
Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’
Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’
John 20: 24-29
Have you ever missed out on a really big and important event, but known someone who was lucky enough to be there? How did you feel? Did you feel happy for them? Did you grill them for every bit of information you could in order to live the experience vicariously through them? Or did you avoid them, feign disinterest in the whole thing, hide your disappointment and secretly feel jealous of them?
Thomas misses out on a face-to-face meeting with the risen Jesus and I’m interested in his reaction when his fellow disciples tell him about their experience. His response leaves me thinking he felt pretty miffed he wasn’t there and there appears to be a lack of interest and openness to receiving this mind-blowing news (or perhaps it’s only me who would ever feel like that?!)
I’m also left wondering why Thomas wasn’t with the rest of the disciples on that Sunday evening of the resurrection? We are told that, ‘the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders.’ Was Thomas more afraid than the rest? So afraid that he hunkered down in the safety of his own home, rather than venturing out? (Or is that just me again?) Was he in a funk? Was he disappointed with how things had turned out that weekend? After all, this man Jesus, who he had given the best part of three years of his life to, hadn’t turned out to be the saviour he had set himself up to be.
Perhaps Thomas was angry at Jesus and even himself for believing such things and getting his hopes up. Or maybe he was grieving or just weary? What an emotional rollercoaster those last few weeks must have been. It’s possible he didn’t have the energy to put on his cloak and sandals again and trudge out into the dark to another meeting! (...anyone?!)
Whatever the reason for him not being present, Thomas missed out BIG TIME! He had to sit with the consequences of his ‘no show’ for over a week - ample time for him to mull over his mistake, to allow resentment to sink in and for disbelief to fester.
Despite his feelings and apparent reticence to believe his fellow disciples’ reports, Thomas makes sure he is present the next time they all meet together. And what happens? Jesus graciously comes, meeting this ‘doubting’, ‘doesn’t-have-it-all-together’ disciple exactly where he is at – no harsh judgement, no shaming, just the gentle challenge to check out his doubts: ‘Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!’ And he did!
I’ve grown to love this short passage as I’ve sat with it over the last few weeks. It shines a light on my own short-comings and the way my reaction to things, and subsequent feelings, if left unchecked, can cause me to miss out. Ultimately, it encourages me to keep putting myself in a place where I meet with Jesus, being confident that when I do, I will be met with grace. Our doubts and failings may have the potential to delay our full participation in God’s plans for our lives, but this account shows that they don’t disqualify us. And this is great news! ‘Peace be with you’.