So I feel this. I feel the rejection, the separation, and the unfairness that happens when Jesus blesses others and not us. Even that very logical part of my brain that says “God can bless whomever he chooses, what is that to you?” has to take a back seat on this one.
I realize not everyone out there gets this, and that’s good. If the world were only full of emotional people then we would never accomplish anything! However I think we all need to be aware that if not us, there are some among us who are feeling this separation right now. Feeling hurt, rejected, and separated from Jesus is normal, and God allows it for a season. It does not mean you are being punished for some un-confessed sin or that you are loved less than those around you.
In Defense of Thomas
The days between Jesus’ death and resurrection must have been unimaginably difficult for the disciples. Those closest to him were now feeling stunned, disillusioned, abandoned and fearful. Yet for one of the disciples, this was just the beginning.
Thomas was a faithful follower of Jesus. He is the disciple who, in John 11:16, cries “Let us also go, so that we may die with him!” willing to follow Jesus to the death. Later in John 14 he freaks out that Jesus is going somewhere that he can’t follow. Thomas needed Jesus, and he needed him near. For Thomas the physical absence of Jesus was unbearable and left him without courage and direction.
Knowing this makes what Jesus does next seem cruel. In John 20, days after his death, Jesus appears to all of the disciples. He shows them his wounds, commissions them, gives them the Holy Spirit, and sends them out with the authority to forgive sins. Amazing! But wait, there is more! Thomas…where was Thomas?
Can you even imagine? I feel hurt just reading this! Thomas was left out. He was not in the room when Jesus showed up. A full week went by with all of the disciples trying to convince Thomas Jesus was alive, that they had seen and touched his scars, and that they had received this crazy thing called the ‘Holy Spirit.’ Wanting so hard to believe but feeling so hurt, so rejected, so separated from Jesus, the joy of the other disciples must have been a knife to the heart of Thomas.
In defiance of their joy Thomas proclaims “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my fingers where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Maybe this was an unreasonable request, but I bet all the other disciples did it when the resurrected Jesus showed up for them, and I bet they all kept telling Thomas about it.
The Good News: God will find you, and he will bless you beyond what you can imagine.
A week later Jesus met the disciples again, this time Thomas was there. Jesus spoke directly to him and invited him to inspect the wounds. Thomas simply said “My Lord and my God!” Yea, he didn’t even need to check, he just needed Jesus to show up.
I can’t tell you exactly why Jesus showed up when Thomas wasn’t there or why Jesus waited so long to show up a second time. My best guess is this: Jesus was preparing Thomas for a relationship that went beyond his physical presence and the fellowship of believers.
Tradition credits Thomas as being the first missionary to India and, as a result, the disciple who traveled the furthest distance to share the story of Jesus. I like to think that this encounter with Jesus is what gave him the vision and courage to go so far from home to bring Christ to those who had never heard.
While we should always be examining ourselves and quick to confess any sin, we should not be so quick to convict ourselves or others when Jesus doesn’t show up. Sometimes Jesus just asks that we wait expectantly for him to show up. As we wait let us remember the advice of the Psalmist:
“He says ‘Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.’”