So the other disciples told [Thomas], “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” John 20:25
I did not want to write about Easter. I find it easier to stay at the cross, not because it is more comfortable, but because it is more believable. We see people suffer and die every day. How often do we see a resurrection?
Sometimes the way that the Easter story is told seems like a poorly written drama in which we find out that the hero did not really die after all. His body was not found in the fiery crash, the fall from the cliff did not kill her, it was just a dream sequence.
How can we tell the story? Entering the gospel narrative, we find that the women have gone to the tomb and come back to say that Jesus is not there. One of them has seen Jesus alive. The disciples do not believe the women. Two disciples leave Jerusalem and travel to Emmaus. No reason to stay. The rest of the disciples huddle in fear. What next?
The risen Jesus begins to show up. He meets the disciples on the road to Emmaus and shares a meal. He appears to the disciples who denied and abandoned him, and he bids them peace. But Thomas is not with them when Jesus appears and Thomas, like me, is skeptical about happy endings. In a way, I think that Thomas is the one who really gets it. Jesus has suffered and died and for what? If there is a resurrection, I want to know that the evidence of the wounds is still there. This is what I ask of Easter, to know that in Christ the wounds are transformed by light and love and not wasted. I want to believe the words of Revelation that says God cares about every tear.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
And the one who was seated on the throne said,
“See, I am making all things new.”
We join Thomas at the end of Denise Levertov’s poem, St. Thomas Didymus.
But when my hand
led by His hand’s firm clasp
entered the unhealed wound,
my fingers encountering
rib bone and pulsing heat,
what I felt was not
scalding pain, shame for my
but light, light streaming
into me, over me, filling the room.
As if I had lived until then
in a cold cave and now
coming forth for the first time
the knot that bound me unravelling,
all things quicken to color to form
not answered but given
in a vast unfolding design lit
by a risen sun.
Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”