End of Story?

John 20:19-31 – 2nd Sunday of Easter – for April 12, 2015

“After eight days his disciples were again in a house and Thomas was with them…” (John 20:26)

The Doubt of St. Thomas by He Qi ©2001
The Doubt of St. Thomas by He Qi ©2001

Why can’t I ignore the disciple Thomas?

Each year, when reading the scripture for Lent, and then plunging into the intense, familiar verses about Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter, I rarely think about Thomas. Indeed, with a few exceptions—Peter’s bumbling betrayals, Judas’ fatal scheming—I’m hugely focused on Jesus.

Of course I am!

The scope of Jesus’ ministry expanded when he arrived in Jerusalem for his final visit. His disciples drank too much at “the last supper” and spent part of the night asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane, physically in a stupor when Jesus prayed and collectively helpless at his arrest. Then, and elsewhere, his devoted followers barely mattered. Soon enough, they’d literally vanish, cowards or clever or both. But what matters in all the Gospel accounts, with the cross looming and Jesus’ crowd-pleasing teaching and healing a distant memory, are the manipulations of the entrenched religious authorities and the raw power of the Roman empire.

Who will prevail? Continue reading →

Front and Off Center

John 20:19-31 – First Sunday after Easter – for April 7, 2013

“A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them . . .” (John 20:26)

This is from the Gospel of Mark’s (3:13…) list of Jesus’ disciples:

James (son of Alphaeus)
Peter (or Simon)
Simon (the Cananaean)

For completely manipulative reasons, I put Mark’s list in alphabetical order. I’ll explain my manipulation later.

But, whether alphabetical or as written by any of the Gospels, name for name, Matthew (4:23…) agrees with Mark’s list. Luke (6:12…) apparently swaps Thaddaeus for Judas, son of James. The Gospel of John has no list.

Caravaggio's "The Incredulity of Saint Thomas" (1601-02)
Caravaggio’s “The Incredulity of Saint Thomas” (1601-02)

Of the above listed disciples, whom would you prefer to write an essay about?

Maybe Peter? He’s probably the best known. Judas, infamous, will forever intrigue people within or outside the Christian faith. If I wanted an essay to be blessedly brief, I’d finger Thaddaeus. Who? As noted, Luke’s list doesn’t include him. The only place Thaddaeus received recognition occurred in Mark and Matthew where he landed on their top twelve roll calls. Unless I concocted juicy stuff about Thaddaeus, my essay could be completed in a terse paragraph.

And then there’s Thomas. If only Mark, Matthew, and Luke were read, Thomas would be as familiar as Thaddaeus. Who?

But John’s Gospel puts Thomas front and center. Or maybe, it’s more correct to say John’s Gospel puts Thomas front and off center.

During many Easter seasons, in the Sunday after the resurrection is celebrated, when the lilies have wilted and the sanctuary’s less crowded, Thomas (from John 20:19-31) makes one of his pivotal appearances. And he does seem off center, for he alone—according to John—had not yet seen the risen Christ. Thomas will claim that unless he sees “the mark of the nail” in Jesus’ hands, he won’t believe.

The doubter. Doubting Thomas. Continue reading →