Thomas, the Apostle: The Journey From Skepticism to Faith
Homily by Petros Theodoros Presbeftes
We can all learn quite a few things about the Resurrection Gospel Reading given this morning. The reading is taken from the Holy Gospel according to St John, Chapter 20, Verses 19-31. Let us review the reading now with analysis:
"On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them: 'Peace be with you.'..." Up until the instant that Jesus came and stood among them, what do you suppose that the disciples were thinking about our Lord? Maybe that He was not who He said He was? Or, that their Lord (and our Lord) had failed to fulfill the promises He had given, by virtue of the perceived finality of His Death? Each of them had heard from the women disciples about his being alive again, but they did not believe what appeared to be a foolish tale. When Simon Peter and Cleopas had, in front of them, related their account of seeing Jesus, they were still not convinced. The male disciples who were shut away behind locked doors were seemingly in a prison of their own making because of their fear of the Jews. Their hearts were not peaceful. They were being called upon to believe that He is Risen from the dead; something, that made no sense to a rational mind on a human level. So, our Lord Jesus Christ, knowing the hearts of all these men whom He had created, came, in person, and stood among them. For them, this appearance of Jesus, in person, was a frightful sight, just as it was with Cleopas and Simon Peter on the way to Emmaus. Can you imagine what each of them were thinking at the first sight of Jesus, Risen from the dead? So, knowing this condition of their hearts, Jesus opened His Holy Mouth, and said, 'Peace be with you.'
Peace is the doorway to harmonizing the mysterious image of God that each of us possesses. Can you see how our Lord desired to resolve the conflict that was being waged between the senses and the rational minds of each of these disciples of His? Also, His Divine Work, in each of us, likewise, is to resolve all conflicts waged, by and between, our body, mind, and soul. The enemy is unbelief and the dissonance encountered in the whole image of mankind, due to sin and temptations to sin, is manifest as poison fruits, or effects, of our sins. But His Divine Work is to demonstrate the oneness of His Essence, and the undivided nature of God, by the Holy Persons of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and then, thereby instill in each of us that same property of being 'One in essence, and undivided'.
Jesus knowing, all too well, that His appearance, in their midst, was not enough for them to believe what their eyes were beholding, showed them his hands and his side. By this opportunity to see and believe, the male disciples, except Thomas, who was not present with them at that time, were glad when they saw the Lord. Yet, lingering doubts being what they are, so, their dissonant thoughts were not altogether resolved. So Jesus, again knowing their hearts needed further help, opened His Holy Mouth and said, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so, I send you.' But, a change in each of the disciples had yet to occur, because it is impossible to harmonize a dissonant state of being without being given the essence of a Divine Person Who works from within each of them and each of us to make us mystically just like God is: One in Essence, and Undivided. This can only be achieved by His action, in us, to make us Clean. It is the work of the Holy Ecclesia to bring each of us into a saving knowledge of Christ; cleansing us and making us, in the whole person, members of the Body of Christ, putting our sins into remission. Thus, through this process of salvation, we are enabled by God to achieve the state of Theosis, or, better put, to achieve the state of being like God in every respect, including the permeation of Divine Harmony within the three persons of our image: soul, mind, and body.
Another way God has of harmonizing our image is through Holy Confession. When we partake of that Blessed Grace of the Holy Spirit, we reconcile ourselves with God, and minimize the deadly effects of sin through our commitment to repentance. It is indeed important within the context of the Good News, that we stay with God. Knowing all this beforehand, Jesus opened His Holy Mouth and breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.' Thus, at that instant of time, and forevermore, our Lord Jesus instituted the Holy Mysterion of Holy Confession and the disciples received the Holy Spirit in accordance with their belief and desire to receive the Holy Spirit of God into their body.
Now, empowered by the Holy Spirit of God, the Apostles, except for the Apostle Thomas believed and they quickly brought news of their personal encounter with the Risen Lord to him, testifying to their vision of post-resurrection Jesus, in their presence, and how He had been in their midst, bringing joy to their hearts. But, however, the Apostle Thomas, being a strict rationalist, refused to believe this event had ever occurred, and relegated this account to the delusions of people desiring a truth, so much, that artificial visions would overtake them. This was his narrow concept, born in his spirit of unbelief, as a fruit of rationalism at its core. Do we suffer from the same spirit of unbelief? What about to the extreme level of the Apostle Thomas? And, yet, what happened to the Apostle Thomas to quell that spirit of unbelief of his? Did he not say, "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe."? Most certainly, he said that, as recorded in the Gospel of John, Chapter 20, verse 25. But, ultimately Thomas said to Jesus his Lord and his God the words of confession, "My Lord and my God." What brought this radical change about? What drove out the spirit of unbelief from the Apostle Thomas once and for all? In the pages of the Gospel of John, we should recall this morning the following account:
- And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
Recall, had we not heard this same account before whereby Jesus suddenly appeared in the room behind locked doors without physically opening those locked doors? And did not they all receive this vision with unbelief? Now, as before, comes the Holy Lord Jesus into their sight with a physical body, the same as before. And as before, he came to eat since no spirit can eat physical food, thus providing proof of his resurrected Holy Body, Risen from the Dead, and so I say, And as before, he now comes into their presence on this second time with a new mission: to confront directly the unbelieving heart of Thomas, the Apostle with direct proof:
- Then said he to Thomas, Reach here your finger, and behold my hands; and reach here your hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
The skeptic within Thomas, could not any longer retain the unbelieving spirit in the face of physical evidence proving that this vision that Thomas was now experiencing was real and was true. Blessed are they who believe. After this examination, Thomas uttered his famous words of confession to Jesus, our Lord:
What did Jesus do or say next?
- Jesus said to him, Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
This is our challenge. We have not seen with our eyes, yet we believe. Thus, we are Blessed by the Holy Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit when we believe on the Son and Word of God Himself who is Jesus the Christ, the Son of Man, the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world. Alleluia!
Jesus, knowing our frailties, and our weaknesses, arranged for these and other events such that we would know that He is Lord:
- And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you might have life through his name.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus, the love of God the Father, and the Communion of the Good and Life-Creating Holy Spirit be with each of us and may the strength of our believing in Christ be made an impregnable fortress to the Glory of God and to the salvation of our souls through the Eternal Life that is our inheritance by Faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.