Poor Thomas. All the other disciples had seen Jesus, but he’d missed out. No wonder he wanted to see for himself. After all, it’s not easy to believe in something you haven’t seen for yourself. It’s not easy to know about something you can’t see.
I wonder what you can know about something you haven’t seen. Let’s try an experiment to find out.
[blindfold child and give them an object]
What can you tell us about it? What shape is it? What texture? Heavy or light? Hot or cold? There are some things you can know without seeing. But what colour is it? Is it plain or stripey? There are some things you can’t.
Other children [not blindfolded]: What colour is it? Plain or patterned? You know more about it when you can see it. But there are still some things you can’t know. How old is it? Who does it belong to? What will happen to it after the service today?
There are some things we can know about an object without seeing it, some we know when we see it, and some we still don’t know even when we have seen it. And it’s much the same with Jesus.
There are some things we can know about Jesus without encountering him ourselves. Other people can tell us about Jesus. We can read about him in the Bible. We can see pictures of him. And we can learn a lot from all those things. Thomas could know some things about the risen Jesus too before he saw for himself. He could know what his friends told him. But that wasn’t enough.
And it isn’t enough for us either. We need to move beyond what we are told about Jesus, to encounter him ourselves. We need to move, like Thomas, from the place of hearing others say “we have seen the Lord” to being able to say for ourselves “my Lord and my God”. There are some things we can’t know about Jesus from the words of others – we each need that real encounter with the living, risen Christ.
That personal encounter with Jesus is something that comes only by God’s grace, we can’t make it happen. But we can invite it. By prayer and, like Thomas, by asking. Thomas is often described as doubting, but I prefer to think of him as wondering. He had heard that Jesus was risen, but that wasn’t enough. He wanted to know more, wanted to experience for himself the presence of Jesus.
And we should all want more. More of God, more knowledge, more closeness, more depth of encounter with the risen Jesus. We shouldn’t be content with what we are told. John tells us at the end of today’s gospel that what he writes about Jesus isn’t all there is to know. It’s a good starting point, but there is more to be had, if only we will ask, and pray, and wait in expectation.
And like Thomas, we should be ready to make up our own minds, and ready to have our minds changed. You are never too young to have our own opinions about God, to know how God is at work in your life. And you are never too old to learn something new and surprising about how God is working.
Beware of anyone who tells you they have all the answers. Beware of anyone who starts a sentence “the Bible clearly says…” Scripture is not a how-to book or a manual for life. It’s an invitation to go deeper with God, to learn more about what it means to walk with Jesus, to ask the Holy Spirit to lead us more and more into all truth.
May we, like Thomas, dare to ask more of God, dare to want to experience and know for ourselves the truth of Christ’s resurrection. May we dare to invite the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts. And may we not be surprised when our encounter with the living God changes everything forever.