Today, the Second Sunday in Easter, is often called Thomas Sunday. Mention the name Thomas and we tend to think of Doubting Thomas. Right or wrong Thomas has forever been labeled Doubting Thomas.
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, I will not believe. Unless I put my finger in the mark of the nails, I will not believe. Unless I put my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
“Unless I” – fill in the blank with whatever you want – “I will not believe.”
Thomas has put conditions on his faith, his believing. He wants tangible evidence that can be see and touched. He wants objective proof that is consistent with the testimony of his companions.
In some ways it is difficult to fault Thomas. We are not so different from him. We live in a world that relies on the marks of the nails. And I suspect most of have our own “unless clause.” We want something tangible in order to believe. It is the basis for our legal system. Give the jury evidence so they will believe you. Scientists make a conclusion based on observable data. Doctors use test results to make an objective diagnosis. Parents want to see their child’s report card as proof of learning.
Like Thomas we live in a world where seeing is believing. So Thomas’ request is not that unusual. In fact, he does not ask for anything the other disciples did not have. Just the week before, on the evening of the resurrection, Jesus appeared to the other disciples. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he showed them his hands and his side and they rejoiced when they saw the Lord. He breathed on them giving them the Holy Spirit and then sent them out.
And yet, one week later those same disciples are in the same place. They are in the same house, behind the same locked door, in the same fear. How was their life changed? What did seeing do for them? Not much, it seems.
Seeing is believing may work for scientists, the legal system, doctors, and report cards. It works pretty well for the world around us but not so well for the world within us. Seeing is believing just does not work when it comes to ultimate matters, matters of the heart. It simply does not apply to things like faith, love, relationships, real life, or resurrection.
Have you ever asked someone to prove their love to you? It is like a bucket with holes – it can never be filled. But if you believe that person’s statement and live out of that belief you begin to see and experience that person, their love, and your relationship together in a brand new way.
We are so used to the Thomas who wants to see in order to believe that we forget there is another way, another Thomas. After all, Thomas is called the Twin. That Twin, the other way, says that believing is seeing.
Remember the Easter story we heard just last Sunday? The women go to the tomb and it is empty. There is nothing to see. There is no Jesus there. But the women are told that Jesus has gone ahead of them to Galilee and there they will see him. If the women wait to see in order to believe they will miss Jesus. But if they believe and get on the road to Galilee they will see the risen Christ.
We are left with that same choice – seeing is believing or believing is seeing. That is also Thomas’ choice. Jesus is calling Thomas to live into his Twin side, the side that believes and then sees. It is out of believing that Thomas confesses, “My Lord and my God.” That belief will forever color the world Thomas sees, the people he meets, the way he lives, and the way he dies.
Believing is not simply an intellectual agreement or acceptance of a fact. Believing itself becomes a way of seeing, a way of being, a way of loving, a way of living, a way of dying, and ultimately, the way of blessing.
“Blessed are those,” Jesus says, “who have not seen and yet believe.”
We are one week out from our Easter celebration and I wonder, are we still looking for nail marks or do we believe?