By Eric J. Brown
Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, 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; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:24-28)
Oh, great! This is the week when we get to hear about “Doubting Thomas.” That’s how we label him, right? There’s Thomas–you know, the one who doubts. Doubter. How’s that for a nickname for an apostle? And yet, what do we see here in John 20? “Eight days later, His disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked…”
Wait one second. What are the apostles doing inside behind locked doors? Hadn’t Jesus just seen them last week? And yet, there they are, huddled together hidden and fearful. But we don’t label them; Thomas is the one who puts his doubt out there plainly for all to see.
Sometimes our sins are so open and obvious that everyone seems to know about them. Sometimes they become the label that sticks to us. That stinks. Sometimes our sins are private things, things that don’t get talked about because they aren’t as entertaining or juicy to talk about. That doesn’t make them stink any less. That doesn’t make them any less of a sin. And we can be tempted to start ranking folks, categorizing them by the obviousness of their sin, and treating them with the “appropriate” disdain. And we can also be on the receiving end of such judgment.
That’s not what Christ does. He shows up and says, “Peace be with you.” He says this to all of the apostles, not only Thomas. Whether the sin is open and scandalous or not a soul knows it, Jesus knows what you need. You need peace. You need forgiveness. We all do.
“But Jesus singles out Thomas!” Yes, but only afterwards, and for Thomas’ good. Jesus doesn’t say, “Hold everything! We’ve got to fix bad Thomas before I can get some real work done here.” No, He gives peace. And knowing the struggles Thomas faces, Jesus doesn’t cut him down. He simply emphasizes to Thomas that he is in fact forgiven. And so it is with us.
Jesus always wants to do one thing with our sin: He wants to forgive it. Not only the secret sins, but also the sins everyone knows about. And because of that forgiveness of sin, you, too, can hear Jesus say “Peace be with you,” in spite of any doubts and fears you wrestle with in this life.
Rev. Eric J. Brown is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Herscher, IL.
This article was originally published in August 2017 on the Higher Things website.