Monday, 1 July 2002

St Thomas

The third of July is the festival of St Thomas, our very own saint.  We don’t usually have a service on a Wednesday so we will be marking the festival on the following Sunday.
We all know the expression ‘a doubting Thomas’.  It’s not one that I like, because the way it is usually used suggests that to be like Thomas is to be weak and wishy-washy, someone who sits on the fence and doesn’t have the courage to make and sustain commitment.  Thomas certainly wasn’t perfect, but neither was he weak.  He was his own man and the way he doubted showed, I think, strength rather than weakness.
It is only in John’s Gospel that we are given any insight into Thomas’s character.
Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” ….
Then Thomas said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” 
John 11vs7,8,16
Okay, so it’s not exactly the most positive contribution to the conversation, but at least it shows a deep sense of loyalty when the others are probably more concerned about their own safety.
(Jesus said) “In my father’s house are many rooms … I am going there to prepare a place for you … You know that way to the place where I am going.”
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 
John 14vs1-5
Jesus is trying to paint a reassuring picture; but such rosy ideas simply bounce off Thomas’s hardened head!  He’s down to earth and stubborn.  Perhaps not the easiest person to have around when you’re trying to develop a vision of better things.  But then how often have we failed to challenge someone when, to be honest, we haven’t got a clue what they are going on about?  As a little boy Thomas might well have been the one to challenge the emperor’s birthday suit!
And then we come to Thomas’s main scene (John 20vs19-31).  From what we’ve seen already, it’s not surprising that he doesn’t take the word of the other disciples – after all it’s not everyday news that they are telling him.  But why does the situation arise in the first place?
The disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews.
… but Thomas was not with them.  That seems to sum him up.  While all the others were huddling together in secret, he was out and about, doing his own thing!  And I don’t suppose the rest were best pleased with him.
But when Thomas does see the risen Jesus for himself his exclamation “My Lord and my God” and the subsequent response of Jesus (vs39-31) are considered to form the climax of the whole of the Gospel of St John.

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