Christ is risen!
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:19-31)
Origen writing in the 3rd Century puts a very positive spin on the doubting Thomas Gospel lesson. He sees Thomas as being the Apostle to all unbelievers for all unbelievers can follow the path of Thomas from doubt to Christ. One doesn’t need to worry that one’s unbelief will be condemned by God, for the Apostles themselves displayed a fair amount of unbelief in their time with the Lord Jesus and yet Christ forgave them. God is merciful, and we too can be patient with those who cannot believe in Christ. Origen writes:
After the resurrection, he entered through closed doors and invited Thomas, and through him all unbelieving souls, to open their hearts and receive the whole fullness of the resurrection. He invited him to say, finally: ‘My Lord and my God!‘ (John 20:28). (SPIRIT AND FIRE, p 277)
We can trust that our Lord who came to seek and save sinners and the lost, will give each of us that opportunity and invitation to finally believe in Him.
I find it interesting that in the upper room, following the crucifixion, the apostles are hiding behind locked doors, fearing for their lives. There are no women present, neither the Virgin Mary nor any of the women disciples are with them. Remember it is the women disciples of the Lord who go to the tomb to anoint Christ’s body – the women disciples are publicly displaying their love for Christ, while the male apostles cower in what they hope is a safe room.
Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told this to the apostles; but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. (Luke 24:10-11)
Despite the fact that the women disciples of the lord (the Myrrhbearing Women) have witnessed to them about the risen Lord, the chosen male disciples either don’t believe or can’t see how that good news helps protect them from those hostile to Christ and they are in self-preservation mode (self-preservation is actually condemned as a sin by patristic writers). And to be fair, Thomas doesn’t believe his fellow male apostles any more than the apostles believed the women disciples of the Lord.
So, the male apostles are all terrified and hiding. They have excluded the women from their presence – the apostles don’t believe what the women do believe and have faithfully reported to them. They apparently don’t want to share in fellowship with the women disciples of the Lord as they don’t yet share in the faith and hope which the women have. This will change. The chosen apostles will eventually come to faith and share in fellowship with the women disciples as we read in Acts 1:12-14 –
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away; and when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. (emphasis added)
At some point the male apostles reconciled with the women disciples of the Lord. Did these men ever apologize to the women for doubting them or excluding them from their fellowship? The Scriptures are silent about that. Even though the women disciples of the Lord lead the apostles to faith, it will be men who unapologetically claim leadership in the church. Men who will at times exclude women from leadership or even from full fellowship in the Church.
Be that as it may, the significance of Thomas Sunday remains – he and all the apostles are reconciled to Christ despite their initial disbelief of the women disciples, and through them all nonbelievers are offered a reprieve and a chance to embrace the Savior. The women disciples of the Lord show it is possible to be faithful to Christ even if the male leadership fails completely. Thomas shows it is possible to disbelieve the apostolic witness, and yet still to be reconciled to Christ. The failures of the chosen apostles also offer hope to all of us who either struggle with faith or who find our evangelical efforts seem to fail. It is another case where faithfulness may be our calling rather than apparent success.