A few years ago I reflected on the Sunday Gospel that told the post-resurrection story of Thomas, who did not believe that Jesus rose from the dead. Of course, he gets his reputation as a Doubting Thomas because of that incident.
And as we all know, a week later, Thomas is there when Jesus appears and he invites Thomas to touch his wounds as proof he is alive. Thomas proclaims his belief saying, “My Lord and my God.”
I have a new insight about Thomas because of the television series The Chosen. I highly recommend you catch it if you can— just download the Angel Studio app and watch it for free. There are three seasons so far. This is the telling of the story of Jesus more through the lens of his relationships with other people than directly through Jesus himself. Many episodes are about the growing cohort of people who come to believe him to be the Messiah. It’s more often their stories of coming to belief.
It turns out that in one episode Thomas is a caterer and he and his partner Rema prepare all of the food and drink and such for the wedding feast at Cana. He is fastidious, methodical, and is a bit of a challenge to Rema who is anxious to get to Cana to set everything up. Most of all he’s a bit of a worry wart, obsessing that he has plenty of food to supply this wedding. I think of him as a nervous accountant. He is a witness to Jesus’s miracle of the wine at Cana, and he is mystified by how this actually happened because, of course, he was in charge of the wine steward, a subcontractor for the wedding. Thomas just couldn’t figure out how Jesus was able to supply all this extra wine that was so wonderful. So he is left happy for the outcome, but mostly puzzled.
I can understand why Thomas is baffled by this miracle of the wine. It stands to reason, by virtue of his personality, that he would have a hard time believing that Jesus multiplied the wine, let alone that he rose from the dead. It’s this bent of personality that strikes me because Thomas didn’t so much doubt— in our contemporary way of doubting —as he was being skeptical. I think for Thomas it just didn’t add up and he was someone who calculated all the time. How many of this and how much of that do we need for the wedding?
Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” This is what condemns Thomas to his undeserved reputation — that he needed to see in order to believe. Thus, for 2000 years his fate is sealed by a moment when he actually asked a legitimate question. How many times have you said, “I’ll believe it when I see it”?
Sometimes we are like Thomas I would wager. There is so much of the world that is unbelievable, things just baffle us. It’s not really disbelief— it’s more like being mystified by things we cannot understand. Think of the latest pictures from the James Webb telescope. It’s hard to believe that what we see is what scientists say it is. And if by bent of personality, science remains a mystery to you then is it really that you doubt the scientists? Or are you just awestruck?
Maybe that’s it. Thomas was awestruck. It wasn’t doubt, it was his God-given personality that made him a skeptic, a bean counter. He probably would be a CPA today, but I think he would come to believe and say, “My Lord and my God,” just the same.
So let’s be a little kinder and not so quick to judge people who are skeptical because by bent of their personality they’re practical. Let’s give some slack to those who seem a little pie-in-the-sky, because by bent of personality they are dreamers. We all can come to belief in our own way.
5 responses to “Seeing and Believing (Revisited)”
I for a long time I have stopped calling Thomas a doubter. When I’m confronted by a group of people telling something negative about someone, I make sure I put in my two cents about what I like about this person. Like Thomas, “My Lord and My God”, he probably spoke that knowing that earlier he had made a mistake.
Years and years ago, I saw a play. I can’t tell you what city I was in, or theater, or even the name of the play. What I remember is a young male actor, about 20 years old, had a line in the play. He said that when he was about 1 years old he farted on day. Since then, his family has called him “Stinker.” It was funny because it was true. One moment events cling to us. Like Thomas being call Doubting Thomas for the last 2000 years. I am sure that Thomas got hundreds of things right before and after that one event. So, thanks to you, I will no longer call him that, but remember all the good that he accomplished in his life.
Thanks. Ceal. You make the point even more real.
An I/eye opening perspective on Thomas.
What a kind perspective! I always felt bad about Thomas’s
undeserved reputation, because I doubt and question a lot. Thanks!