Trust-But-Verify Thomas and the Power of Forgiveness

The culmination of retaining sins is the crucifixion, but the culmination of forgiveness is abundant life and joy.


“Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Far, far too often, these words, spoken to Thomas, are used to shame doubt and extol the virtues of an unquestioning faith. But deep faith seeks, explores, and questions, and that is exactly what trust-but-verify Thomas does. He has a scientific mind, and his need for evidence is a good model for us. And once he sees and touches Jesus’s wounds, he is the first to proclaim, “My Lord and my God!”

And those words have extraordinary meaning. God bears the wounds inflicted by human violence and injustice, the wounds of conquest and empire and oppression. God bears them in vulnerable flesh just like ours. God bears the wounds we endure and the wounds we inflict. And God responds to them all with mercy and healing and reaffirmation of human goodness and blessings and peace.

All of the disciples, not just Thomas, were shaken by Jesus’s death. That first Easter, the rest of them were locked away for fear of the authorities, religious and political. (Fear of “the Jews” is a poor translation for religious authorities that has tragically perpetuated antisemitism. Furthermore, John’s Gospel downplays the fear of Rome that was very real to the disciples who had watched their lead suffer a Roman execution) Thomas, at least, was not locked away with them. Perhaps there’s a faithfulness in not being shut away in fear.

Jesus comes into that room and breathes the Holy Spirit upon his disciples. This is the spirit of forgiveness, the strength to return mercy for hate and fear and failure, so that cycles of violence can be broken by compassion. The power to forgive or retain sins has always belonged to us, to humanity. The culmination of retaining sins is the crucifixion, but the culmination of forgiveness is abundant life and joy.

Bonus: Who is the Beloved disciple? The answer may delight you!

The Olive

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