Lectionary | John 20
Love makes the soul crawl out from its hiding place.
-Zora Neale Hurston
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus, Greek for twin), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
Have you ever been surprised by love? The power of it? We like to think we operate by tempered logic and smart practicality—until we are zapped by love. Love will make us do illogical, impractical things. And such things often lead us to life’s beautiful and profound gifts, granting us access to transcendence that permeates our ordinary days.
If we have capacity to be transformed by the receiving and offering of human love, imagine what being zapped by divine love can do to the human soul.
Having led many classes for people who are curious about Christianity, I resonate with those who want to access faith by way of information, proof, and evidence—to be won over by debate. Yet, what I have found is that faith is not achieved by historical verifications or archeological findings, not by incisive theological arguments or persuasive textual interpretations. Faith is not achieved at all.
Faith is an overwhelming response to an encounter by overwhelming love.
While examination of Christianity’s claims is worthy and can be a point of departure for the spiritual journey, a life of joyful discipleship communing with Christ rests not on our ability to believe but on our turning to Christ’s love already here.
Until we are met by love as we are, until we are met by unjudging, uncalculated, unconditioned love, we will guard our unbelief with demands for proof. This is why Thomas is our brother. Maybe, given to us as our twin so that we can follow his journey from unbelief to love to confession.
God’s love surrounded Thomas when he made it be known to others that he is one of who operates by objective proof. Even in his protest against belief in something he has not seen, his desire to see, his desire to touch, his desire to know the resurrected Christ are the first pulses from which his spoken confession draws breath. How beautiful and profound a curiosity for Christ, a heart and mind that seeks God.
Jesus comes to the locked upper room to love Thomas. Jesus loves doubting Thomas. Jesus loves unbelieving Thomas. Jesus loves desiring Thomas. Jesus loved Thomas.
Jesus offers himself, his body, his wounds, to the one who demands for them. At this offering, Thomas’ pride collapses. Thomas does not need to reach his hand to touch the mark at Jesus’ side. Encountered by love, Thomas utters the confession of faith echoed throughout the church for generations to come: My Lord and my God!
Humble love overwhelms our insistence on proof in exchange for our devotion.
As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud person is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you. -C. S. Lewis
Beloved friend, the Lord is near.
Read again John 20:24-28. Sit next to Thomas in the upper room, as his brother, his sister, his twin. Turn with Thomas as he hears his Teacher’s voice: Peace be with you. Stand with Thomas as he sees Jesus draw near. Weep with Thomas as he sees the scars of Christ’s humble love. Fall with Thomas to your knees in reverence before perfect love that lowers to serve our imperfect pulses of faith.
Recite the scriptures below.
Offer the evening prayer.
Hold in your heart, Thomas’ confession.
Enter the morning light with your spoken confession.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. -1 John 3:16
Because your loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise you. I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call on your name. -Psalm 63:3-4
Sing us to stillness
Lead us by love
Guide us to faith
Bless the ending of this day
All that is complete
All that is unfinished
Grant us rest
as we call on you
through the night
My Lord and my God!