Lenten Reflections

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John 20:24-31

April 4, 2024
John 20:24-31

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.


On that first Easter morning, Mary became the first person to discover the empty tomb and the first person to whom the risen Jesus appeared.  Later that evening, Jesus suddenly came and stood among his disciples who were hiding together behind locked doors, but Thomas - for some reason - was not there.  When the other disciples later tell him how much he has missed and that they have seen the Lord, Thomas famously responds by saying, “Unless I place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”  Thomas is not going to be duped. He lays down the conditions by which he will believe that Jesus has been raised.

A week passes and once more the disciples are gathered together indoors. Once again, Jesus stands among them, and this time Thomas is present. Notice that Jesus not only knows what Thomas had said previously “behind his back” as it were, but Jesus also demonstrates remarkable patience. He does not chastise Thomas for his lack of belief. Instead, he provides the exact evidence that Thomas required. Jesus invites Thomas to put his fingers in his hands and side and encourages Thomas to stop continuing in unbelief and to believe.  

Thomas believes.  Despite the tradition in visual art, such as Caravaggio’s painting of this scene, which often portrays Thomas sticking his finger into Jesus’ side, John never says Thomas ever did so.  The implication seems to be that Thomas has enough evidence based on Jesus’ words alone that he does not need to go through with his tests.  Instead, he proclaims, “My Lord and my God.”  His announcement is intensely personal and powerful.  He calls Jesus “my” Lord and “my” God, and he is the first person in the whole book to look at Jesus of Nazareth and address the word “God” directly to him.  

Jesus leads Thomas from skepticism to belief.  But Jesus also offers a gentle rebuke to Thomas - and a word of encouragement to us - because Jesus pronounces a blessing on those who have not seen and yet believe. The gospel writer assures us that Jesus performed many other signs which are not included in this book, but these are written so that we might believe for ourselves and find life in Jesus’ name. The only question is how we will respond.

What encouragement do we find in Jesus’ words to Thomas regarding our own doubts?