The Gospel text for this Sunday is the familiar ‘doubting Thomas’ episode from John 20. And, while looking at the text again, I was reminded that sometimes it is an important thing for the reader to try to figure out what would be normal for the writer to write, and then the reader should take note of what actually appears within the text. By the way, this is not always an easy task!
Having four different gospel accounts can give you some ideas of what could have been written. But this account in John 20 is unique. And the style of the writing is also slightly different. In the Gospel according to John, the smallest words can have the biggest significance. As I have said before, it is like drinking out of a firehose.
When Jesus calls the disciples ‘brothers’ in verse 17, that is a significant designation. And if you keep looking at those designations of that particular group of people, there are more surprises to come.
In verse 24 Thomas is called ‘one of the Twelve’. Now that is a rarity. The only other time this happens in this account is in John 6, in the small section of verses 67-71.
At the start of that text, many of Jesus’ disciples did not want to follow him anymore. Jesus asks the twelve if they wish to go as well. Peter has the good confession that Jesus has the words of eternal life. And Jesus responds that one of the twelve is a devil.
Now the order of the last few words of the text is interesting—and different from the typical translations: In a very literal order, the text of verse 71 goes this way: ‘Now he spoke of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, for ‘this’ was about to betray him, one of the twelve.’ (By the way, it is interesting to note that, in this account, there is a very positive connotation to the word ‘that’.)
The next time the twelve are mentioned is in John 20. And it is also interesting that it is used this one last time, especially since Judas is basically nowhere to be found. He did his job of betraying Jesus, and now he fades into the background … and dies.
I would think that this is not too favorable of a perspective with some people, but I see a definite connection between Judas and Thomas.
Judas betrayed Jesus to his enemies. And Thomas betrayed Jesus to his friends, his brothers. He let down his friends, not believing their words. He let down his Savior, not believing his promise to rise again.
Obviously Jesus could have been much harsher with Thomas that next Sunday. Jesus comes across as being very patient with Thomas—and with us!
Jesus lets Thomas do exactly what he wanted to do—see, touch, perhaps even poke! (If you have never seen Caravaggio’s Doubting Thomas painting regarding this, I would highly recommend it.) The followers of Christ do not always get that option of getting what they want. For something as important as the proof of the resurrection of our Savior, exceptions can be made. And, as a result, we are blessed. (See John 20:29)