The gospel reading today reminds us that God’s plan is greater than our own, and that faith in our Messiah will sustain us. Peter’s understanding of Jesus’ role as Messiah is completely upended when Jesus tells of the suffering, rejection, and death that He must face in order to fulfill his mission. Peter understood the Messiah to be a great king, who would free the Israelites from Roman occupation, and usher in a golden age for his people. But God’s plan for Peter and his people would not include the things that Peter so desperately longed for, and yet, the message of our Gospel is the good news that that God’s plan for restoring a divided and broken world is far greater than we can imagine. Paradoxically, we sometimes need to let go of our previous understandings, resting in the hope that we are an intrinsic part of the unfolding of God’s kingdom.
John 20: 19-31
The story of Jesus’ appearance to Thomas is one of the most moving in all the Gospels. And for me, the most powerful evocation of the scene is found in that amazing painting by Caravaggio, called, ‘The Incredulity of St Thomas.’. If you don’t know it I really recommend it for a meditation. Jesus is standing in the room with Thomas and two other disciples. He has just said, ‘Peace be with you’. And now, in the painting, (although the text does not tell us whether this happened), Jesus grasps Thomas’ hand and thrusts it deep into the wound in his side. Thomas and the other disciples stare with utter astonishment. But Jesus looks tenderly at the amazed face of his friend, as he first uncovers his wound. As Jesus pulls back his robe to show the wound, it catches a ray of brilliant sunlight, and the whole scene is bathed in this light. It is a poignant moment of enlightenment, and of coming to faith for Thomas.
It was seeing Jesus’ body, in all its brokenness and woundedness which brought Thomas to belief. But this beautiful story is not a story of proof but a story of love. For me, the story of Thomas is not primarily a story of a sceptic who comes to believe because his list of doubts is answered; not an intellectual assent to something proven. The story of Thomas is rather the story of a man who comes to believe not because he has enough proof, but because he has actually touched the mystery of divine, self-sacrificial love.