When Jesus appeared to his disciples the first time after his resurrection, Thomas was not there. When they told him that Jesus had risen from the dead he answered that he’d have to have better evidence than that. Before he could believe he’d have to feel the nail scars and the wound with his own hands. Then, once again Jesus appeared to them behind locked doors. After a greeting, Jesus turned to Thomas and told him to feel where the nails had been driven through and the sword had pierced. Thomas needed no further verification and exclaimed, “It is you! My Lord and my God!” What impresses me is Jesus’ willingness to adjust to the weakness of his disciple. He didn’t blame Thomas for not believing what the others had told him. He didn’t chide him for what could be called a weak faith. He adjusted to Thomas’ weakness and invited him to go ahead and prove for himself that the report of his return to life was true.
What is Jesus teaching us by his response to Thomas? One thing is that faith is more difficult for some than for others. While you wouldn’t call the faith of the other disciples robust, they did come, albeit somewhat slowly, to fully accept that their master was alive once again. Thomas needed a bit more. He said he had to ”see the wounds where the nails were driven through and touch them with his “own finger.” He insisted he could never believe until he had a chance to put his hand in the side of Jesus where “the spear drew blood.”
Jesus understood the weakness that had caused Thomas to demand that he himself inspect the wounds, yet he did not shame him. He didn’t say something like, “Look, the other disciples believed without some dramatic proof; what’s the matter with you?” He met Thomas at the point of his imperfection and adjusted to what was necessary in the process of coming to faith. Jesus understood that some people have a bit more trouble than others in accepting the miraculous. Thomas was a lot like a former friend of mine who wanted to have all of his questions answered before he could believe. My answer to that rather common problem was to help him see that knowledge follows faith, not the other way around. No one argues himself into the kingdom. While faith is not unreasonable, one doesn’t arrive at believing by having all his questions answered. Every time you step into an elevator you have “faith” in its reliability, but the “knowledge” that it is trustworthy comes when you step out of it ten stories below.
Jesus put himself in the place of the other. We can say that Thomas should have believed as did the others but sensing his problem Jesus took the action necessary to bring him to faith. For us that means we should not look down on the one who wants to believe but apparently can’t take the necessary step. Understanding the other’s problem we should take whatever step is appropriate to help them come to believe. That’s what Jesus did!