Here we are, back to one of the most preached texts, ever. And Thomas is here again, poking at our assumptions and asking all of the questions. In my mind Thomas is not “Doubting Thomas” but “Brave Thomas.”
The first time Thomas speaks is in John 11, when Jesus’s close friend Lazarus has died. The disciples do not want to return to Judea, because the disciples knew the town wanted to stone Jesus there. Thomas says bravely not only should Jesus go but also, “Let us also go, that we may die with him. “
This is doubly brave of Thomas, if indeed Thomas’s title “Twin” comes from the fact that he looks like Jesus’s Twin. (We don’t know, if Thomas is actually a sibling of Jesus, or any other disciple or if he looks like Jesus, but it is interesting that he is called Twin throughout the narrative) If Thomas looks like Jesus, this means he is putting himself doubly in danger by promising to go to Judea with him.
And this carries even further implications, because Thomas was not locked in the room with the scared disciples, when Jesus appears. It is very clear that Thomas does not like to stand around and wait for things. But again, if he looks like Jesus and is walking around after Jesus is crucified, he should be the most frightened disciple of all. Even if he just looks like another of the disciples, it’s pretty dangerous for him to be out and about during this tenuous time. This clearly does not bother Brave Thomas who eschews hiding in a room–and misses Jesus’s first appearance.
Then Thomas asks for the same thing his friends, the other disciples got, a chance to see Jesus. And it is little wonder, that he says he wants to not only see Jesus and see him eat (to prove he is not a ghost), but really he wants to touch Jesus’s wounds. He wants to witness to the pain of his friend and teacher Jesus.
Brave Thomas, wanting to fully know how his teacher was wounded, before he believes he is alive. Jesus appears and says “Peace be with you” and invites Thomas to do what he wants “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” John 20:26-27 Thomas is not recorded having done any of that. He said he wanted to touch to believe, but apparently seeing was enough to believe. He goes into full confession mode and says “My Lord and my God!” John 20:28
Thomas is brave enough to face the consequences of following Jesus, more than once. And brave enough to admit he was mistaken about Jesus being dead and gone. And brave enough to declare his faith. So rests my case for calling Thomas, the twin, Brave Thomas.
Finally, an addendum. Jesus blesses those who believe without seeing, but note, John goes on to say Jesus performed many more wonders to get his disciples to believe. This line about believing without seeings seems to be a blessing to US the readers. For Jesus goes all out to convince his disciples so they might apostle and witness appropriately. The onus of believing without seeing lies on us, for “these are written so you might believe” John 20:31, which we can take as invitation to celebrate Easter all over again, as the disciples were able to.
Katy Stenta is a solo pastor at a tiny Presbyterian church that is bigger on the inside in Albany, NY since 2010 and blogs prayers & Narrative Lectionary at http://www.katyandtheword.com She is also the co-founder of the fledgling TrailPraisers inclusive Worship. When she is not dreaming up projects and ideas, some of which creep into the church, she plays with her three boys-boys or goes and visits her husband at the library, while he works, to read.
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5 thoughts on “Revised Common Lectionary: Brave Thomas”
I’ve been thinking about Thomas as a model for change, particularly in response to the trial of Derek Chauvin here in the Twin Cities. https://rachaelkeefe.wordpress.com/2021/04/09/white-supremacy-a-trial-and-the-possibility-of-resurrection/
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Thanks for this…when I preach this text I tend to do it as a “stop picking on Thomas” sermon but hadn’t thought of it from the “brave” aspect. Definitely a new way to read the text and change up the sermon.
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