Easter lasts until June 3. From Resurrection Sunday to Pentecost the church celebrates Easter. In the Gospels there are multiple appearances of the raised-from-the-dead Jesus. There’s doubt and skepticism and fear in the disciples, but they are also thrilled, excited, and encouraged. From a scattered, scared-out-of-their wits bunch, they start gathering once again for prayer, for Bible study, for communion. One by one they return. One of the last to come back is Thomas.
What matters about Thomas is what the story is doing. Concentrate on the story of Thomas and not all the awful things preachers have long said about Thomas. The story’s action is that we can bring our doubts to church, parade them right up front, let them out for a walk, and find help for them. Doubt is not to be feared or shunned. Look at Thomas and know that you don’t have to have all your beliefs lined up before showing up on Sunday.
Thomas has been dragging the millstone of a critical modifier for over 2000 years: Doubting Thomas. What modifier would the church hang on each one of us? Back in the day, I gave modifiers to church members to mollify my anger. Whining Willie, Crazy Charlie, Grumbling Gus, Angry Albert, Proud Mary, Devious Dan. We should have empathy for Thomas because he is only one in a long line of people unfairly castigated by the church, spurned by the church, mistreated by the church, left in the ditch bleeding and dying by the church. I want to give Thomas his good name back. I petition the court to drop the charge. I say Thomas is crying for help. He’s merely the last holdout.
Thomas is no more or less a doubter than all the other disciples. There are more suspects for the body of Jesus being stolen than in a Sherlock Holmes case: The soldiers, the gardeners, the chief priest, other disciples or someone else might have taken away the body. Mary was absolutely convinced that someone had taken the body. Numb with grief and confusion, Mary kept repeating the same lines over and over. Again, Mary speaks to the angels (shouldn’t that have been a clue?): “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”
Cut THOMAS SOME SLACK! His lack of belief is aimed at his fellow disciples more than anyone else. He’s not sure they are telling him the truth. Look, most of you have been Christian long enough to know that you can’t believe everything a Christian tells you.
But you can believe the Gospel, and the Gospels tells us that Jesus comes back for Thomas. This is really good news. He doesn’t leave Thomas out there in the dark to struggle alone. He comes for him to offer him a new kind of future. “Do not doubt but believe.” When the new creation, the new previously thought impossible appears before him and brings history and faith together in a rush, Thomas cries, “My Lord and my God.” Give me a thousand men and women like Thomas: MY LORD AND MY GOD! I think the time has come to call him Honest Thomas.