By Melanie Rigney
We shake our heads and click our tongues over Thomas and his refusal to believe Jesus lived, despite the witness of the other disciples. Did he really think they were all lying or hallucinating? Did he think it was a mean joke?
But (Thomas) said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25, NAB)
I’m betting there was a certain amount of envy and inferiority at play. Thomas tried, he really did. When the apostles got word Lazarus had died, it was Thomas who encouraged the others to accompany Jesus to Bethany, even though Thomas believed their own deaths would be likely to result. But sometimes, he struggled. He was a literal, linear thinker: At the Last Supper, it was Thomas who asked Jesus how they would know the way after he was gone. And then, days later, Thomas returned to the community only to find the others bubbling with joy and amazement over seeing the risen Christ. Once again, Thomas was out of step. The cool kids had seen Jesus. Thomas wasn’t a cool kid… at least, not for a week.
As an adult, much as it shocks me, I have become a cool kid in a number of Church-related situations. But I recently became aware of how behaving like a cool kid rather than as a loving member of the body of Christ can hurt others. I was staffing a parish ministry fair table, and started telling a passerby about our awesome women’s Bible study program. A woman who’s been in the same small group as me for most of the past two years walked by, and I engaged her: “See, Jane can tell you about how wonderful it is too!” I gushed.
Jane gave a little half-smile. “Yes, it is wonderful,” she said. “I had twelve years of Catholic education and four years at a Catholic college, but I never studied the Bible. We all learn together. Before we started, most of us didn’t know anything about scripture. That is, other than her.” She nodded her head in my direction.
I made a bunch of protestations about having barely made it through six years of CCD, and the moment passed. But later, I thought about it. Yes, there have been moments when I rolled my eyes at Jane’s questions. There have been moments when I interrupted her, anticipating her lack of understanding of a passage. I have boasted about the “profound” meaning I see in the verses rather than listening to her confusion and, yes, doubts and literalism.
Now, Thomas’s doubting was on him. But I suspect the excitement of those who had seen the Lord didn’t help matters. And I wonder, after my recent encounter with Jane, if the others rolled their eyes and thought, “Old news” when Jesus returned and the awestruck Thomas said, “My Lord and my God!” or if they rejoiced with him in his discovery. I hope it was the latter.
How can you gently help a Thomas in your life to see without discounting his or her doubts?
About the Author:
Melanie Rigney attempts to remember that to Jesus, we are all cool kids. She is the author of a forthcoming book on Proverbs 31, tentatively titled Finding Your Woman of Women. She lives in Arlington, VA. Check her out at www.melanierigney.com.