The Apostle Thomas has been caricatured as “doubting Thomas,” but that’s unfair, and it’s inaccurate. I think the opposite is true. Thomas is heroic and exemplary. There are two scenes in the gospels prior to what we’ve just read that shed light on Thomas. One is when Jesus was trying to say “good-bye” to his disciples, just prior to his being seized in the garden at Gethsemane. Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled…. I go to prepare a place for you… and you know where I am going….” No. Not so. Not at least for Thomas. It seems only Thomas had the courage to admit that he is clueless. “My Lord,” Thomas says, “We don’t have the slightest idea where you are going! How can we know the way?”[i] (It’s a good question; an honest question for us, too. How can we know the way, especially when the path is dark and the risks are many, and the fear is great, and the route is unsure?) How can we know the way?
We all know the story, and my bet is that at one time or another we have all acted it out in our life. We have been that son or daughter who has squandered our inheritance away in dissolute living. We have been the envious and sullen elder sibling, resentful of the attention lavished on the returned prodigal. Perhaps we have even been the loving and generous parent spending our time hoping against hope and scanning the horizon for the return of the one who was thought to be lost. Perhaps at different times we have been different characters in the parable. Perhaps we have even been all three at the same time.