We say that Saint Thomas doubted, and that is half true. He believed firmly the others who described Jesus’ death. He believed that the Body of Christ had been wounded by a spear, even though he had not seen it happen himself. Saint Thomas believed the truth of the gratuitous violence that the Body of Christ suffered, but he did not believe the glorious truth of that same body’s resurrection. We are perhaps even more like St. Thomas than we give ourselves credit for if we are prepared to believe the truth of extraordinarily horrible things but not prepared to believe extraordinarily wonderful things.
The wounds of Christ first heal our wounded trust. St. Thomas was healed in his faith by Christ’s wounds. The suffering was real, the death was real, the pain in His hands and side followed Jesus all the way to His giving up the Ghost. Now these same wounds in the living Body of Christ are signs of Jesus’ victory over death, and His having endured the darkness of suffering. Christ’s wounds are still there for us to reach out and touch in faith – let us receive healing by them, that we may believe and praise God for His marvelous victory.
Thomas was charged with being a real curiosity seeker because he thought the resurrection was impossible. Thus, he not only said “unless I see” but also “unless I touch,” lest somehow what he saw turned out to be an illusion. Therefore, when Thomas had heard from the disciples that Christ had been injured by a spear, Thomas believed them, even though he had not seen it. However, he did not believe their report of the resurrection, as if it were beyond reason. He did not say this so much out of unbelief but out of grief, because he himself had not been deemed worthy of seeing the risen Christ. It fit God’s purpose that Thomas did not believe, so that we all might know through him that the body that had been crucified had been raised. Since Thomas wanted to see the wounds all around Christ’s flesh, as well as his flesh itself, to see if he had risen, Thomas was searching for him.1
And why does he not appear to him immediately, instead of “after eight days”? He does so in order that, in the meantime, being continually instructed by the disciples and hearing the same thing repeated, he might be inflamed with more eager desire and be more ready to believe for the future. But where did he learn that his side had been pierced? He heard it from the disciples. How then did he believe that but not believe the other story? Because the latter was very strange and wonderful. But observe the truthfulness of the disciples and how they hide no faults, either their own or others’, but record them with great veracity. Jesus again presents himself to them and does not wait to be asked by Thomas or to hear any such thing. Rather, before Thomas could even speak, Jesus prevented him and fulfilled his desire, showing that even when Thomas spoke those words to the disciples, he was present. For he used the same words, though in a reproachful manner, and added instruction for the future.2
HILARY OF POITIERS:
If we assume that an event did not happen, because we cannot discover how it was done, we make the limits of our understanding into the limits of reality. But the certainty of the evidence proves the falsehood of our contradiction. The Lord did stand in a closed house in the midst of the disciples; the Son was born of the Father. Deny not that he stood, because your puny wits cannot ascertain how he came there; renounce instead a disbelief in God the only-begotten and perfect Son of God the unbegotten and perfect Father that is based only on the incapacity of sense and speech to comprehend.3
GREGORY OF NYSSA:
Once he had accustomed people to seeing the miracle of resurrection in other bodies, he confirmed his word in his own humanity. You already received a glimpse of that word working in others—those who were about to die, the child who had just ceased to live, the young man at the edge of the grave, the putrefying corpse, all alike restored by one command to life.… Now look at him whose hands were pierced with nails, look at him whose side was transfixed with a spear. Pass your fingers through the print of the nails, thrust your hand into the spear wound. You could surely guess how far within your hand would reach by the breadth of the external scar since the wound that gives admission to the hand shows to what depth the iron entered. If he then has been raised, well may we utter the apostle’s exclamation, “How do some say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” Since, then, every prediction of the Lord is shown to be true by the testimony of events—in fact, we not only learned this from his words but also received the proof in his deeds from the very same people who returned to life by resurrection—what other occasion is left for those who do not believe? Let us rather bid farewell to those who pervert our simple faith by “philosophy and vain deceit.” Let us instead hold on to our confession [of the resurrection] in its purity, a confession that we have learned through the gracious words of the prophet, “You shall take away their breath, and they shall fail and turn to dust. You shall then send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.”4
It is true that in these sufferings there is something bitter and that we cannot use mind over matter to hide this pain. I should not deny that the sea is deep because in shore it is shallow, or that the sky is clear because sometimes it is covered with clouds, or that the earth is fruitful because in some places there is only barren ground or that the crops are rich and full because they sometimes have wild oats mingled with them. So, too, count it as true that the harvest of a happy conscience may be mingled with some bitter feelings of grief. In the sheaves of the whole of a blessed life, if by chance any misfortune or bitterness has crept in, is it not as though the wild oats were hidden or as though the bitterness of the tares was concealed by the sweet scent of the corn?5
JOHN OF CARPATHUS:
Blessed are those who, when grace is withdrawn, find no consolation in themselves but only continuing tribulation and thick darkness, and yet they do not despair. Rather, strengthened by faith, they endure courageously, convinced that they do indeed see him who is invisible.6
- FRAGMENTS ON JOHN 633. Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (p. 368). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- HOMILIES ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 87.1. Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (p. 369). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- ON THE TRINITY 3.20. Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (pp. 369–370). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- ON THE MAKING OF MAN 25.12–13. Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (p. 372). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- DUTIES OF THE CLERGY 2.5.19–21. Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (p. 374). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- TEXTS FOR THE MONKS IN INDIA 71. Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (pp. 374–375). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.