Unless I touch the wounds

Thomas said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands
and put my finger where the nails were,
and put my hand into his side,
I will not believe it.”

     —John 20. 25

When Jesus wanted to go to Bethany to see Lazarus, his disciples worried that that was where people wanted to kill him. One of them said, “Let’s go also, so that we may die with him.”  That was Thomas.  Thomas was no doubter.  He knew the depth of Jesus’ love, love that would suffer in self-giving.  That’s why after his death he wasn’t interested in Jesus’ alluring smile or his famous way of breaking bread.  What he was interested in was his wounds.  Because Thomas knew Jesus was capable of a love that neither avoided suffering nor succumbed to it, but that transformed it.  He wanted to connect with Jesus’ suffering—to touch his wounds— in order to love him more deeply, just as Jesus had done.  Nothing less than that suffering self-giving would do for Thomas to “believe.”

In a way what Thomas was looking for was his own wounds— and for their transformation: his fear forgiven, failure redeemed and brokenness made holy.  He wasn’t looking for evidence of Jesus’ resurrection, but his own.  A perfect, unhurt and invincible Jesus who said, “Oh, it was nothing,” could not stir his heart. But one who had suffered deeply and still forgiven him would call Thomas back to life and revive his love.

Unless we embrace another’s suffering, and have forgiven the deepest wounds they have caused us, we have not fully loved them.  Suffering itself is not redemptive.  But reaching out to another in their suffering, and forgiving one who causes you suffering is the place where love happens. Resurrection does not remove suffering; it transforms it from a wall into a doorway.  With Thomas we reach out to the wounds of the world, receive forgiveness, and learn to love.

—April 27, 2011

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