Did you know…
…that Thomas wasn't always the one doubting? In fact, earlier in John's gospel Thomas is the one courageously leading the disciples into the unknown. Look at this story from nine chapters earlier in the same gospel:
Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the religious authorities were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” . . . After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Look at who is ready to head into the unknown, with the possibility of death and all kinds of potentially painful outcomes lying ahead of them. It is Thomas. The same Thomas who, in this week's gospel, gets the unfortunate epithet "Doubting Thomas," is here the one courageously ready to follow Jesus to Bethany, with the ultimate mic drop line "Let us also go, that we may die with him." When we remember Thomas as the courageous one, living with an open heart, ready to put his life on the line to follow Jesus and help others, maybe we see him a little differently in the story from this week.
If Thomas is in fact the courageous one, maybe he was the best suited to be the one faced with the challenge of missing the appearance of the resurrected Jesus. After all, it must have taken a lot of courage to hold doubt in the face of his ten closest friends' belief. Thomas, the Courageous, shows that it takes an incredible, open-hearted courage to doubt, to leave room for mystery, and to be uncertain even in the face of pressure to claim certainty. How can we follow the example of Courageous/Doubting Thomas this week?