Three days after his crucifixion, the remaining eleven of us were together, hiding.  Like the last survivors of a slaughter; we were stunned, frightened, unsure what to do next.  In our continuing conceit at being in Jesus’ inner circle, we imagined all the Roman soldiers were bent on hunting us down.  In truth, they never gave us a second thought.  They saw us for what we were—ordinary men, followers without a leader.  Harmless.   

     Early in the morning on that third day, we huddled together; silent, afraid to venture outside.  Mary was going to bring us some food, though our appetites were small.  Suddenly we heard her voice out in the street.  She was running towards us, shouting Peter’s name over and over again, surely attracting the attention of all Jerusalem.

     Peter’s eyes widened in fear, and I’m sure we all thought the same thing: soldiers are coming!  We leaped to our feet, a few of us pushing to get at the window in the back, ready to escape. 

     The door was barred and Mary banged on it, continuing to call out for Peter, and then adding John’s name.  Finally someone opened it and she burst in.  After making sure no one was following her, the door was immediately barred again.

     “Mary, are you mad!?” Peter hissed at her, grabbing her by the arms.  “Be quiet!  You’ll give us all away!”

     But Mary heard not a word he spoke.  “I’ve seen him!” She shouted.  “I’ve seen the Lord!  He’s alive!  He called me by name!  He’s alive!”

     At first everyone was stunned, and then James looked at me, a frown on his face.  I saw Matthew and Bartholomew exchange knowing glances.  Simon turned away, shaking his head sadly.

     “Mary,” Peter began, but she interrupted him.

     “I was at the tomb.  The stone was gone!  It was empty!  I was sitting there, crying and confused, and he came up to me.  Peter, it was Jesus!  He’s alive!  He told me to tell you…, he told me to tell you…” 

     And then she began to laugh.  It was a pure, joyous laugh, and I envied her ability to do it—even if it was due to madness.

     “I don’t remember what he told me to tell you!” She said, shaking her head as she tried to catch her breath.  “I don’t remember!  But it doesn’t matter—he’ll tell you himself!  Peter—he’ll tell you himself!”

     Then, finally, she looked at Peter, and she saw the expression on his face.  Her head snapped over to John, who could only hold her gaze for a few seconds, then looked down.  She spun rapidly in a circle, looking at all of us, and the joy in her face melted away.

     “You don’t believe me!” she said.

     Peter tried to smile.  “Mary, we would all like to see him again…”

     “And now I’m telling you that I have!  I’m not mad and I’m not lying!  That means I’m telling the truth!  I’ve seen him!” 

     I turned away, walking to the far corner of the room, and sat down.  I agreed with her that there were only those three possibilities, and I knew she wasn’t lying.  I had seen Jesus perform the miracle of raising people from the dead, but who existed that could’ve raised him?  That left only one option.  Poor Mary; these last few days had been too much for her.  Thankfully, none of my companions were accompanying her down this same path.  All of us were crushed, all of us felt lost, but we were all holding on to our sanity.  The one certainty in our lives was that Jesus was dead. 

     Suddenly I knew I had to get outside, even at the risk of being arrested.  I whispered something to Nathanael and slipped out the window.  With my head down and my shawl pulled around my face, I lost myself in Jerusalem’s crowded streets.

     It was very late when I returned.  A fog had fallen on the city, matching the fog in my brain.  I expected everyone to be asleep, but to my surprise a lamp was burning.  I knocked quietly on the door.

     “Who’s there?” John’s voice asked.

     I whispered, “John, it’s me—Thomas.”

     The door was unbarred and opened.  John pulled me in and quickly closed it.  Everyone was wide awake, and they crowded around me, their faces glowing more than the lamp on the table.

     “Thomas!  We have seen the Lord!” John said excitedly.  “Mary was right!  He’s alive!  He was right here in this room!”

     I looked at all of them in shock.  Was madness contagious?  Was I alone spared because I left for the day?  It didn’t surprise me that an emotional woman could have delusions while under a severe strain, but now all ten of them were talking at once, telling me the same thing.  They were smiling, excited; the whole atmosphere in the room had changed.  And I found myself desperately wanting to believe them. 

     But how could I?  I had considered the possibility that Mary was right, but common sense brought me back to the same question: Who could’ve raised Jesus?  There was no one on earth that could do that.  And how is it that Jesus just happened to come by while I was out?  I knew and trusted these men, but more than that I trusted my own eyes and my own mind.  What they were saying was not possible, and I had seen no evidence.  I had to stay strong, and hopefully pull them back into reality.

     I shook my head.  “I’m sorry, my brothers, but we must be realistic—“

     “This IS reality, Thomas!” Simon said.

     I interrupted.  “No, THIS is reality: We saw Jesus’ dead body!  Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, and put my hand INTO his side, I will not believe.”

     The next day they all continued talking as though Jesus were now alive.  Peter took me aside privately and tried to convince me, but I would have none of it.  A few more days passed.  John pointed out to me that Jesus had often done the impossible before, so why not now?

     “Then why hasn’t he shown himself to me?”  I asked.  “I was one of his followers too.  Why does he only come when I’m not around?  This makes no sense, John!”

     John smiled.  “Neither does walking on water, or making a blind man see by putting mud on his eyes.”

     “The blind man SAW, and he believed.  When I see, then I’ll believe too!  But I won’t believe something my senses can’t confirm!”

     On the first day of the week we were together for the evening meal.  The door remained locked.  Peter was about to give thanks when someone spoke in greeting.

     “Peace be with you,” said the voice.

     I looked at the door and saw that it was still barred.  How did someone get in?  I turned to see who it was.

     I recognized the profile of his face in an instant.  It was Jesus!  It was really him!  He turned to me and locked his eyes onto mine.  He was not smiling. 

     “Thomas,” he said, extending his hands to me palms up.  “Put your finger here.  Look at my hands.”

     I looked down and clearly saw holes in each hand—nail holes.  Then he pulled aside his robe and revealed an ugly slit in his side.          

     “Reach out your hand and put it into my side.”  He gently took my hand and guided it to the wound, but I pulled away and speechlessly shook my head.

     “Thomas, stop doubting and believe.”

     I looked up into his eyes again.  There was still no smile on his face, but his eyes were kind—not angry.  Of their own accord, my legs bent, pulling me to my knees.

     “My Lord and my God!” I cried out, my voice shaking.

     “Now you believe, because you have seen me.” He said.  “But blessed are those who have NOT seen, and yet believe.”

     A flood of tears burst out of me and I inwardly punished myself for my lack of faith in him.  How I wished I could live the previous week over, and demonstrate as much faith as I had so-called common sense.  Jesus took my hands and lifted me to my feet, then he looked me in the eyes.  This time he WAS smiling.

     “I think you have learned an important lesson,” he said.

     I nodded, still unable to speak, then threw my arms around him and cried on his shoulder.  His strong, living arms enfolded and held me, as they have ever since. 

     Many years have passed since that day.  I have traveled far, telling many people about the risen Lord.  Always, I try to pass on the blessing that I was not able to receive—the blessing of believing without seeing.  Whenever I witness this miracle in someone’s life, I rejoice, but I also feel a brief twinge of regret that I myself embraced doubt more tightly than belief.  I will never doubt again.  

 

 Michael Anderson

Copyright April 2009

 

 

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