(Continued from last issue and concluded in this issue)
This is the story of what Thomas did during the eight days, from what came to be Easter Sunday to the day when Thomas joined the disciples and Jesus made the famous appearance that satisfied Thomas' insistence upon empirical verification.
During the five days preceding today's events — see our last issue — Thomas has been with his sister Johanna, her daughter Miriam, and her son Peter. He has accepted the fact that he must go forward with his life without Jesus. Thus far he has preferred to be on his own and to think about a personal future like starting a family up north in Galilee. That is, if the young woman he has in mind will have him.
Peter and John have visited him several times. They told him that Jesus was alive and he didn't believe them. He told them, as everybody knows, that he wouldn't believe that Jesus was alive until he put his hand in the hole in his side and personally checked out the holes in Jesus' hands. The disciples, who are staying at Lazarus' place in Bethany, have invited Thomas to join them but, to this point, he has declined.
The author recognizes, upon reflection and editorial criticism, that the description of Miriam's and Peter's faces looking like "question marks" at the conclusion of the first installment is inaccurate. It would be extremely rare for someone's face to look like a question mark and, if the children's faces did, noone around them would know what it meant because they didn't use question marks in Aramaic. Therefore, the last paragraph in Vol. II, No. 3, p. 8, now reads:
"Remember what I said, I'll believe when I stick my finger in the holes." He blessed them as they departed down the street and turned to look at Peter and Miriam whose eyes were filled with questions.
Saturday Day 6
Nothing to do but sit and wait. Wait for the Sabbath to pass. What was there to do anyway'? It was good to be here with Johanna. He had a chance to talk with her a little during the Sabbath. She was a fine woman, Why was she without a husband? Why had the Holy One, Blessed be He, taken her husband and why had he not provided another for a person as fine as she? He had to admit that part of his reason for thinking this was that he was beginning to feel obliged to her. He wondered what she would do when he left. He was getting restless. He wanted to move on, though he did not know for sure what he would do.
"I think it's time to go north," he said to Johanna.
She smiled and nodded. "There are a lot of people up there who want to see you and it is much nicer near the lake in the summer heat."
"What holds me back," he said, as if his feelings of responsibility for and his attachments to Johanna were not a factor, "is that I don't want to relive all the memories up there. That was the best time of my life and it is gone."
"You should be thankful you had that time," ventured Johanna.
"Should? Who are you to say?" asked Thomas bitterly. "You haven't lost what I've lost."
"Oh yes,I have. You may have had the experiences the chance to spend a lot of time with Jesus, but I knew him, too. He was my friend, too. So don't come around me saying how hurt. you are or how much you have lost. If there were any way and if my other loves didn't hold me, I would have changed places with you in a moment."
This silenced Thomas.
Sunday Day 7
"They haven't come by. There must be nothing to tell," thought Thomas. He lay on his back and chewed on a little stick He knew it was late, but the kids had left him alone and Johanna had not called him. He gazed around in the semi-darkness, enjoying the cool of the morning shade.
"Nothing happened, It's over. They would be here by now, crowing, if they had another of those experiences. That' s good. That clears things up." Thomas had never allowed himself to think consciously about Jesus being alive. Now that he had eliminated the possibility, he allowed himself to imagine it. He tried to, anyway. It wasn't easy. One thing that kept coming to mind, though, was Lazarus, Martha's brother. He was still alive. Had he really been dead? Everybody thought so. Jesus said he was.
But, Lazarus didn't go about appearing suddenly inside closed rooms as the boys claimed Jesus was doing. And ~ Thomas was not interested or impressed if Jesus was some sort of spirit or apparition — some sort of ghost that only those who knew or were on the inside could see.
"Give me flesh and blood or forget it," he said out loud. This turned out to be a mistake.
"Are you awake, Uncle Thomas?" called Peter. He was waiting for the first sound, the first excuse to get Thomas' attention.
"Yes, I am," said Thomas dryly.
"Today mother said we could go to the market again. She even gave Miriam and me some money to spend."
"Great." Thomas kept his groan inaudible. "Well," he thought, "there is nothing more important to do."
"How about breakfast?"
"Mother said she would get it ready as soon as you got up. Are you getting up soon?"
"Yes." What was his sister trying to do to him?
"Good. I'll tell her."
An hour later they were heading for the marketplace. Peter and Miriam were skipping on ahead. Thomas was glad to see them so happy, but he was thinking about leaving for Galilee. When should he leave? Tomorrow? The day after? What route should he take? He was thinking of stopping in Sycar to visit his Samaritan friends. He was certain that Jereboam and his family, who had hosted Andrew and him for those two days of what they now called "Jesus' Samaritan Party," would be as glad to see him as he would be to see them. Besides, they should be told what had happened.
He looked up. There was Judas, the son of James. Johanna. "Judas," he called.
Judas stopped and looked around. 'Thomas! It's good to see you! Where have you been?"
"You know where I've been. Peter and John surely told you."
"That's true," said Judas, a little taken back by Thomas' challenge.
"But really," said Thomas quickly to make up for his little meanness, "it is wonderful to see you."
"You, too, Thomas," said Judas, relieved. "What are you planning to do?"
"I'm planning to go to Galilee in the next day or so," he said with more conviction than he had previously felt.
"You must get together with us before you go. Everybody will be at Martha's and Mary's tomorrow evening. Why don't you come? You know you are welcome and you can't leave without saying good-by to everyone."
The children were showing their impatience. Thomas was a little annoyed at them, but he wanted to move on, too.
"Maybe I will, Judas. I want to see my twin brother up there very much, so I might leave tomorrow. If I don't, I'll stop by."
"Good. I hope you do."
"If I don't make it, give my regards to everyone and tell them that I love them." He and Judas embraced and then Thomas stepped along quickly to catch up with the children.
Monday Day 8
It was still hot, but the hottest part of the day had passed. Thomas had his bag packed. He was washed, fresh, and anxious to be on the move.
"Are you sure you can stay the night at Mary's and Martha's?" asked Johanna for the second time.
"Uncle Thomas, please come back soon," said little Miriam.
"Yeah," said Peter, holding back his tears. He didn't trust himself to say anything without sobbing.
"Take care of yourself, Thomas," said his sister. Tears were in her eyes, too.
"Dear sister. Dear Johanna. Take care of yourself and of these two characters."
He hugged her about as hard as he could, kissed and hugged the children, and left as quickly as possible.
"I can't understand this," mumbled Thomas as he walked. "I feel such longing and love for Johanna and the children and I regret leaving, but at the same time my chest is charged with energy and I can hardly contain my excitement about being on the road."
Soon thoughts of Johanna and the children faded from his mind. His step quickened. He was on the move. This was fresh. He hadn't taken off alone for years. It was to be his friends tonight and the road to Galilee through Samaria tomorrow. He felt great.
He arrived at Lazarus', Martha's, and Mary's place in the early evening. He was the last one to arrive. He slipped up behind Nathaniel who was standing by himself, having just filled his glass. Thomas spoke into his ear.
"Hey, Nate, do you think Jesus is going to show up tonight?" He said it in a low, conspirator's voice.
"Thomas!" Nathaniel exclaimed. "I heard you might come. I knew you would, you son-of-a-gun. All right!" He almost spilled his drink as he embraced Thomas.
They both laughed.
"The wine is over there."
"To tell you the truth, Thomas," he said when Thomas rejoined him, "I don't know what to make of the situation."
"What do you mean?"
"I don't know. Personally, I've been great. We've been fine living over here and it has been a lot of fun and, no lie, Thomas, I did see Jesus that night. It was right here — well, inside, actually. But anyway, what does it mean? What will it mean?"
Thomas was glad to discover that he and Nathaniel could still understand each other even though Nathaniel supposedly had had this experience. "He's not daffy," he thought.
"You mean what do we do if he is alive? What do we do now? How long do we wait? What if he never comes again?"
"Precisely," Nathaniel responded.
Good. Nathaniel's faculties were still intact. Thomas did not notice how easily he had said "we." He began to move around giving and receiving glad greetings with each dear friend. They were happy to see him. They didn't care where he had been nor did they hold anything against him. They were just glad to see him and to be with him now. Thomas' joy was great.
He had thought they would all be talking about Jesus and making plans for some great mission, but they each had figured out the situation pretty much as Nathaniel had. Their questions and conclusions were about the same as his own, he had to admit, even though he had not been with them and though he had begun at another starting point — that is, that there was no living Jesus.
In any event, Thomas thought, once it was figured out and acknowledged that there was nothing to do but to wait around, and when it was perceived that the hospitality of your hosts was boundlessly given and more than sufficient, and when you realized that there was no reason to refuse the Holy One' s gracious provisions — in spite of your own commitment to act on whatever you are going to be told to do — and once you realized there is nothing you can do, you kick back, relax, and enjoy one another's company.
It hadn't taken long for Thomas to figure this out. The brethren were really enjoying themselves. He began to think about postponing his trip to Samaria for a day or two.
It hadn't taken long for Thomas to figure this out. The brethren were really enjoying themselves. He began to think about postponing his trip to Samaria for a day or two.
"I'm going north. I'm going back."
"I know. That girl in Hebron."
Thomas had forgotten that Simon knew about her.
"I might check that out," he replied with a confidential smile.
"Thanks. I'm planning to leave tomorrow for Sycar."
"Oh. Good idea," said Simon.
"How about you, Simon?"
"I don't know. I'm just waiting. But I'm thinking about what needs to be done and what I would like to do in Jerusalem."
Thomas couldn't quite understand Simon at this point. How could he want to work in Jerusalem and how could he be so confident about what needed to be done? Thomas did not want to work in the city like that. "Give me the villages, the sea, and the countryside," he thought.
"But, meanwhile, here I am," continued Simon.
"Hmm. Tell me the truth, Simon. What did Jesus say? How long was he here? What did you do?"
Thomas then prepared himself to endure the whole dreary thing. But he knew Simon was very engaging, always forthright, and it was as good as anything else to talk about. It certainly was current.
"Oh, Thomas, it was great. All of a sudden he was there."
"Did you say anything to him personally?"
"Thomas, it was just like it has always been. We were together. Of course we spoke."
"What did he say to you?"
"Well nothing to me alone. But, Thomas, our eyes met. You know what that is like."
Thomas did, but he was becoming more petulant with each question.
"Why do you press me on this, Thomas?"
"Did you embrace him?"
"That's what I mean. Nobody embraced him. How long was he here?"
"Not very long. I doubt it was half an hour."
Thomas shook his head in a way that indicated both that he did not find Simon's answers convincing and that he expected Simon to see the questions his account had left unanswered.
"It's too bad you missed it, Thomas. Then you would know for yourself." There wasn't much else Simon could say to his friend.
"Thomas. I hear you have been inquiring about me."
Thomas turned. There was Jesus. He could not believe his eyes. He couldn't believe it was really true. He and Jesus reached out at the same time to engage in an ecstatic embrace.
"Teacher. Brother Jesus."
They laughed and cried. They tottered about a bit. They relaxed. They looked into one another's eyes. For both of them this was as happy a moment as they had had in all of life.
Jesus said, "Thomas, you old goat, you want proof? Here you are embracing me and you haven't even satisfied your doubt that it is I and that I am here."
Thomas was thinking what to say.
"Come on. Here it is."
He pulled aside his cloak and there was the hole in his side as plain as day.
"Come on, Thomas. Stick your hand in there."
By now everyone was listening to this conversation. Jesus had arrived. "Peace be with you," he paused to say to all.
"Put your finger here," he continual, "and see my hands." He held them out, palms up, so Thomas could see. Thomas gazed at them.
"Now put out your hand and place it in my side."
Thomas looked at Jesus. He was embarrassed and pleased at the same time. He stood there smiling at Jesus, not moving. The disciples, thereafter, remembered the sheepish smile on Thomas' face at this moment. They were fond of remembering the moment and would laugh as they each offered names to describe the smile. One benefit of this activity, if it occurred in the presence of Thomas, was that the smile would reappear despite efforts by Thomas to repress it.
Jesus was not to be put off. He said directly to Thomas, "Do not be faithless, but believing."
Thomas took a step forward and tenderly touched Jesus' wounds saying, "My Lord and my God."
Nobody had said this before. Not even Peter. This was a moment of blessing and good news. Jesus anticipated the question that came up in these special moments. The question Judas, son of James (not Iscariot), had asked at their last passover supper: "Lord, how is it that you manifest yourself to us and not to the world?"
Anticipating this concern of his generous disciples, Jesus stated the good news this way. "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.
Thomas thought about that for a moment. "Is Jesus putting me down? No, though he is reminding me that I have no corner on the market, so to speak; his point is that being blessed by God through him will not depend upon seeing him and embracing him as I have done. People living now and in the future who have not seen Jesus and yet believe, through the witness of persons like ourselves, I suppose, will be blessed as well."
As the evening progressed, Jesus visited with each one and he taught them together. He did not detail his plans or reveal his schedule. He told them, as he had before, that he would be leaving them. He reminded them, especially Thomas, that they had the power to forgive and to condemn sins. As he said this, he reminded them also that he had come into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. Therefore, forgiveness, which brought joy and peace and freedom, was the power they should focus on rather than the power of condemnation. Thomas struggled to think of how they would do this forgiving and what Jesus' instructions would mean in their actual lives.
Jesus reviewed many things. He told them that one of the things they had discovered this night was that he was a bodily person. "So it is with you," he had said. "You are no less and no more. The spirit has chosen to move forward and to live in your bodies and in the bodies of all humans. You are brothers and sisters. Each person you meet, no matter how unlikely, is your sister and brother and, in fact, is me. After a while, we won't meet like this anymore but I will be present. As I said before, whoever gives a cup of cold water in my name to the least of these has given it to me."
Thomas realized as Jesus spoke that he had taught them most of these things before. The events of his execution and resurrection confirmed and propelled the teachings on into life.
He began to grow weary. He fought sleep, but he dozed off. He awoke with a start. What he saw was a room of snoring men. The smell was none too pleasant and Jesus was gone.
He thought about Johanna and the children. "Should I stop by or should I send a messenger?" He tried to imagine their response to a messenger from him who would say simply, "Thomas wants me to tell you that it really is true."
He drifted off again for a few moments, then awoke once more. "Hmm," he said, recollections flowing through his mind, "I guess I'll have to postpone my trip north."