This reflection is by Seán Mullan, from Irish Bible Institute, and he reflects with us today on Thomas, the famous doubting Thomas.
Only two of the twelve apostles have names and reputations strong enough to be a part of modern parlance. “You Judas,” is a title reserved for betrayers. And the dubious sceptic is a “doubting Thomas.” No doubt, Thomas would prefer his epithet to that of his companion. But a recent reflection from the woman of my life made me realise that Thomas’ bad press is unjustified. I propose we rename him, “Honest Tom.”
Even readers who don’t know the Scriptures will probably know the Thomas story. Not part of the group who first saw Jesus alive after he was crucified, he stated that he would not believe that Jesus was alive unless he saw the crucifixion wounds and touched them.
Often read as a statement of defiance – “I refuse to believe” – it could just as easily be read as a statement of self awareness. Perhaps Thomas was saying that he knew himself well enough to know that he would require in order to believe the unbelievable. Thomas knew where he was as regards the faith issue and wasn’t afraid to say so.
His friend Peter did not have a similar self-awareness. A few days earlier Peter had rejected Jesus’ warning that he would deny him. “Never” was his response. But within hours he was doing just that – not once but three times. Peter’s words, though admirable, were not backed up by an understanding of where he was. Thomas, on the other hand, was under no illusions about his own spiritual resources. “Here’s what it will take for me to believe!” And that’s exactly what Jesus gave him.
Maybe there are lessons to be learned in the Thomas approach. In Ireland when asking for directions I have more than once been told that “if I was going to ‘such and such’ I wouldn’t start from here.” Which is all well and good but not a lot of help!
And when it comes to the possibility of starting, or changing, a relationship with God we tend to take the same approach. “I’m not really religious.” “That’s not for people like me.” “I’m not in a good place.” “I don’t think God would be too impressed with me right now.”
The Thomas way presents an alternative approach. “Here’s where I am right now.” “Here’s what it would take for me to believe and commit.” The Thomas approach certainly didn’t faze Jesus. He turned up a second time, looked at Thomas and told him, “Come on; look and touch.” It was what Thomas needed. Complete belief and absolute commitment followed: “My Master! My God!”
If you ever get tired of the waffle that so often passes for honest reflection these days, then consider that maybe God feels the same. And a little bit of straightforward inner honesty might be just the point at which to start, or restart, a process of engaging with him. Sure where else are we going to start from?