Imagine with me for a moment:
You’re a guy who has spent the last three years traveling and working with your best friends. It’s been exciting and exhausting and oh, so much fun! That is, until it wasn’t. Your leader, the glue that held your fraternity together, was just arrested and killed. What now? You have no idea if the cops are looking for the rest of you. You couldn’t handle losing anyone else right now. You all go into hiding together. And you’re just sad…but you’re also hungry. Someone must make a grocery run. You volunteer and take your time making sure that you aren’t followed on the way back.
You come inside and something strange is happening. There’s a different energy to the group than when you left. Suddenly you are accosted by everyone speaking at once and they are telling you he’s alive. Your heartbeat quickens as you scan the room. Where is he? Now they’re telling you he’s not here, he disappeared. You’ve pranked each other before but this just seems cruel. If it is true…then why would he leave before seeing you? The prank would hurt but being overlooked…being forgotten…that’s a pain that would shatter you. You’ve got to shut this down before the pain overwhelms you. He’s alive is he? Well prove it!
I think Thomas has gotten a bad rap over the centuries. Three years of following Jesus and he’s remembered for one conversation with the other disciples. We’ve even attached the word doubting to his name. You say Doubting Thomas, everyone knows who you’re talking about. It must have been difficult for Thomas. For all the others, the resurrection was already a lived reality. Something that they had seen for themselves. For the reader, we already know that Jesus has risen. It’s easy for us to roll our eyes at Thomas and think, “get it together!” We forget that Thomas was being asked to risk hoping. When you are already feeling emotionally fragile, hope is risk. Hope is a risk because hopes can crash down around you leading to grief. More grief in Thomas’ case. Not only is he being asked to hope, but if his hopes are fulfilled…then there is a sense of being left out. I imagine Thomas thinking, “If Jesus is alive, then why didn’t he come when I was here?” Have you ever felt like hope was too big a risk? Have you ever felt overlooked or forgotten? Me too. So did Thomas.
The great thing about the Easter season is that the story doesn’t end. It doesn’t end with the resurrection. It doesn’t end with Thomas’ doubt. Jesus appears again. Jesus specifically takes time for Thomas. The risen Christ takes the time to address Thomas’ concerns. You see, to Jesus, he wasn’t “Doubting Thomas.” To Jesus, Thomas was just Tom. Jesus doesn’t define him by one moment of doubt. The risen Christ meets him as the friend and disciple that has been part of Jesus’ life for the last few years. He’s just Tom. That’s the beauty of the gospel. God meets us where we are, with love.
If you feel weighed down by how the world has labeled you…If hope comes at too high a cost…If you feel overlooked or forgotten…please know that the risen Christ is for you to. God knows your true name. You are not forgotten.
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
Oh risen Lord, reveal yourself to us today. Remind us of your presence. Give us eyes to see you and ears to hear you. Grant us the courage to hope. Amen