"Unless I see and touch, I won't buy it!" That was Thomas' line to the disciples who reported a visit by a resurrected Jesus.
We hear mostly unsympathetic sermons about "doubting Thomas." I looked up the references to Thomas in the gospels as well as the trajectory of post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. I kinda like him, and identify with him, though I'm an early responder to new ideas and possibilities.
Most of us are Thomas, asking for more evidence than heresay when we plant our faith on an impossibility. Thomas had no accounts of scripture, later gathered into the New Testament. None of his fellow disciples understood that Jesus had predicted his death and resurrection until retrospect kicked in AND they'd seen and touched him by his own invitation. Even after seeing his wounds, Jesus' followers weren't sure he was real until he ate food in their presence (Luke 24).
Really, would we trust a bunch of fearful friends telling us about a "ghostly" visitation? If Jesus had appeared to them, showed them his scarred hands and feet, and taught them from the scriptures, why were their locks still tightly set against outsiders? Why weren't they out on the streets telling the amazing story (Luke 24, John 20)? The "witnesses" weren't totally convinced or convincing.
Thomas was probably willing to believe, but the behavior and lack of confidence of fellow believers was hardly compelling. It would be off-putting to hear evidence from the still-terrified and anxious. In asking for proof, I see Thomas' desire to embrace something true, extraordinary, and supernatural.
Jesus honored Thomas' sincere request with an invitation to experience the evidence for himself. Jesus exteneded his hands and feet, and confirmed proof of his death and resurrection by exposing his pierced side.
In the same way, though Jesus' chided all the disciples for needing confirmation beyond his teaching, Jesus comes to us day after day with verification of his care. How many times has he proved himself to us, yet we continue to ask, "Are you really there? Do you love me? Am I safe with you?"
Since our daughter has been ill, I sometimes have a hard time trusting that God will heal her. That he cares for her. That he is present with her and us, and not absent or unconcerned. If he could heal, why doesn't he? If he could intervene, why does she suffer? If he is sovereign, why do tornadoes, floods, and hurricanes sweep away lives and livelihood? I have many questions, just like Thomas.
Then Jesus embraces me with the Holy Spirit's presence, assuring me again, "Touch my side. Look at the wounds I bore for you. Yes, I care. Yes, I am with you. You are never alone. You won't be forsaken through the end of the end of time and throughout eternity."
Ah, I remember. I remember! Once again, I touch the scars and run my hands over the gashed side. I'm utterly grateful for a patient loving God who draws me in year after year, decade after decade. Dependent on him, I join Thomas, saying with great relief and renewed faith, "My Lord and my God!!!"