Thomas Sunday - Antipascha
Today is the first Sunday after the great feast of Pascha, the resurrection of our Lord and God Jesus Christ. On this Sunday we commemorate the Holy Apostle Thomas and the very important scene described for us in today’s Holy Gospel.
In the days and weeks following the crucifixion of our Lord, more and more of the disciples were reporting that they had seen and spoken with Jesus Christ. That He had risen from the dead as He had promised He would. The Apostle Thomas heard these reports from his friends, the other disciples, but he was overcome by doubt and uncertainty saying, “Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe.” Eight days later, the opportunity came for the Apostle Thomas. While they were gathered together in a shut room, the Lord appeared to them and invited Thomas to reach out and touch Him, to feel for himself the wounds of the crucifixion, and to know that this was indeed Christ risen from the dead. Having felt the wounds, Thomas fell at the Master’s feet and said, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus replied, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
There’s a lot going on in this Gospel account!
First of all, I think we can hardly imagine what it must have been like for the disciples of Christ in the days following His crucifixion. Those days were filled with confusion, sorrow, and fear mixed together with anticipation, hope, and prayer. Their beloved Master, the One Who had healed the blind and the lame, Who had demonstrated such tremendous love and care for all, Whom many already recognized as God Himself – this Lord and King had been dragged through the streets of Jerusalem and nailed to a cross to die.
Three days later, some of the women disciples of the Lord claimed that they had seen Jesus, alive… risen from the dead! And now, others were also proclaiming that they had seen Him, spoken with Him, and even dined with Him.
The Apostle Thomas had not been with the other disciples when our Lord appeared to them and his heart was troubled when he heard their words that they had seen the risen Christ. What was going on here?... Hadn’t Christ warned them to beware of those who would say ‘He is here’ or ‘He is there’? Apostle Thomas steeled himself against all of this and declared, “Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
In many ways, the Apostle Thomas sounds very much like a man of the 21st century here… not knowing who to trust and falling back on his senses – unless he can see it, hear it, touch it, and otherwise verify it himself, he will not believe. This sounds so familiar, doesn’t it?
And what is the prescription for this uncertainty and doubt? Is it to retreat behind the wall of our pride? No… the thing to do when we are beset by doubt and uncertainty is precisely the opposite, we are commanded to reach out to God. To stretch forth our hand from within that darkness of uncertainty toward the clarity of Light.
Think for a moment about what our Lord did for Apostle Thomas… Our Lord Jesus Christ, the pre-eternal second Person of the Holy Trinity, after having abased Himself to become incarnate, to lie in a lowly manger as a human infant, to subject Himself to this world and to the devil’s temptations, and to the humiliation of His voluntary sufferings and death… After all this, when He has already emerged triumphant and reappears in His glorified body, He continues now to demonstrate His mercy and tender lovingkindness by offering Himself to physical examination by Apostle Thomas.
He does this out of love, out of concern for what is needful for Thomas’ salvation. This is always God’s concern for each and every one of us. He will do with us whatever is necessary in order to facilitate our salvation. That may entail some pain for us… it usually will… but we have to have faith and trust in God that He loves us and that He will make use of whatever comes our way to help transform us toward what we may become, toward our eternal salvation.
It is interesting to think about how the Lord revealed Himself to His various apostles… Just some days earlier, before He was to enter Jerusalem and suffer all that He would suffer, He took James and Peter and John up to Mt Tabor and there He revealed Himself in glory. These apostles beheld Him in the Transfiguration, shining in glory amid Moses and Elijah. They needed this encouragement and clarity of Christ’s glory as they stood on the threshold of His sufferings and death.
And now, for His beloved apostle Thomas, whose faith required proof, our Lord reveals Himself, not in His glory, but in His wounds.
It is a startling and humbling thing to realize that God will come to us to meet us where we are. We, on our part, must always be ready to receive Him.
When Thomas felt the wounds in Christ’s hands and side, he fell at the Master’s feet and said, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus replied to him, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
This statement and promise of our Lord should be the cause of great hope for us. Though we may not see the risen Christ standing before us with our eyes, we can perceive Him with the eyes of our heart and soul. We must have faith and gratitude, we must have love and trust, we must believe and we will be blessed. It is in reaching out to Christ that we do indeed feel His wounds as we participate in the life of Christ and His Church. Christ’s concerns become our concerns… His wounds become our wounds as we embrace the whole world in love and prayer. And His victory and life and light become ours as we unite ourselves to Christ and His glorious resurrection.
May the blessing of our risen Lord be with us as we strive to reach out to Him. May God grant us purity of heart, that we may see Him and fall at our Master’s feet and exclaim ‘My Lord and my God!’