I found myself this morning in the post-resurrection account of Jesus in the Gospel of John and was struck by the disciples interaction with Thomas. You remember that during Jesus’ first appearance to the disciples on Sunday evening, Thomas was absent. John points out to us how the other disciples told him all about Jesus’ appearing and then with strong language Thomas declares, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
Of course I muse on what happened next. The disciples offering up every evangelistic technique known to man to convince him of the truth, offers to pray for him, maybe even a search party to go find Jesus so Thomas wouldn’t go to bed in unbelief. John gives us none of that. But what he does give us is quite instructive — “Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them.” There it is! EIGHT DAYS LATER. They didn’t shun him, push him away, or in anyway distance themselves from relationship, they embraced him. A week had gone by and he still felt like he belonged to the band of disciples, yet remained unbelieving.
Of course we know the end of the story and Jesus’ appearance and invitation to doubting Thomas, but I find it helpful to note the response of the disciples to Thomas and Thomas to the disciples from his unbelief to his belief – belonging. It was Jesus, and nothing short of that, removing Thomas’ unbelief, but it was the disciples embracing that kept him there. Thomas belonged and through his belonging, at just the right time, Jesus shows up and belief comes with him. May we embrace the Thomas’ and invite them to remain, belong, find acceptance, until God opens their eyes and they see and believe.
With you in building a belonging community,