"So the other disciples told [Thomas], “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25)
The Biblical character, Thomas, is probably one of the most well-known disciples within the Christian community—and he’s remembered for one of his greatest flaws. Because it’s a result of this passage that Thomas has been nicknamed “Doubting Thomas,” as he refused to believe the other disciples’ testimony (including the women) about Jesus until he could actually see the proof for himself.
So if you’ve ever been worried about the legacy you’re going to leave behind, imagine how Thomas feels.
But what’s odd in this passage is that Thomas is not interested in simply seeing Jesus, but his focus here is on the wounds of Jesus: “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, and put my finger where the nails were… I will not believe.”
Why would Thomas specify the wounds rather than the man? Surely it would have been enough to simply see Jesus himself, regardless of the wounds?
But perhaps John’s trying to draw our attention to something. Why does Jesus’ resurrected body have scars at all? Isn’t it a new creation body, where the old has gone and the new has come? Shouldn’t this be His glorious body that He’ll have as King on His heavenly throne?
It is. But Jesus kept the scars. His new, resurrected body still showed His scars. Why would He do this?
No doubt there are many reasons for this. But perhaps Jesus wanted His disciples—and all of us—to be reminded of this fact: that in all of our own sufferings, grief, despair, and pain, He stands alongside of us.
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer once put it, “Only a suffering God can help.”
He bears the wounds for us all. And since Christ came to dwell among us and to experience all that we experience and more, He hears our prayers having also prayed himself as a weak and vulnerable human being.
I once read of a doctor working in a hospice who said this: “When my patients pray, they are talking to someone who has actually died—something that’s not true of any other adviser, counselor, or death expert.”
Every other religion or ideology in this world is about avoiding pain and death in some way or another; but Christianity is the only one which looks at suffering differently, because it depicts a God who suffers with us.
We are not exempt from suffering. But Jesus is unlike any other in that He identifies with us in our sufferings.
So in every life circumstance, may we remember that we love and worship a King who was first a servant, who suffered in our stead, and who stands alongside of us in every experience. He has not left us alone in our pain, nor will He ever abandon us to face this world alone.
His own body testifies to this.
Prayer: Father God, grant us deeper wisdom to see Your compassionate character in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. If we doubt, may our doubts only increase our hunger to understand. And if we trust, may our trust draw us deeper into the reality of Your suffering. By Your wounds, we know we are healed. In Christ’s Name, Amen.
Song: This song has often been a go-to for me in seasons of trial. I pray that it may be a blessing to you as well.