I have studied the disciple Thomas for the 7+ children’s Sunday School lesson this week. These thoughts that I’m writing and those I had from yesterday morning’s service have greatly encouraged me to keep close to my Saviour and to know more fully God’s will for each day and the empowering of his Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who will enable me to hear him and walk in his ways at this turbulent time for humanity. During the night before Jesus chose the 12 apostles from amongst the many followers that he had, he spent time with his Father (Luke 6:12). He prayed for God’s choosing of the 12 and for each of them. This reminded me of how God formed me and knew what he wanted for me throughout my life (Psalm 139:13).
The Bible doesn’t tell us why Thomas wasn’t with the disciples, family and friends locked in the upper room for their safety. Some say he was a coward because he ran away, looking after only himself and too bad what happened to his friends. Others, however, suggest that his world had fallen apart. He was the disciple who said he would stick with Jesus even if Jesus’ enemies killed him and those who were following him (John 11:16).
Thomas missed out on the incredulity, disbelief, excitement and final acceptance that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead (John 20:19-23). However, one week later, Jesus gave Thomas no room for doubt when he repeated his appearance to the disciples in the locked room. The disciples were not satisfied that Thomas had missed out, so they took it upon themselves to tell him that, true to his word, Jesus had indeed risen. They compelled him to come and see for himself, even though he controlled them with his qualifications that he would need proof.
We know the story well. It was again behind locked doors that Jesus appeared, but this time for Thomas’ benefit. I wonder how I would have coped with Jesus saying ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ (John 20:27) We do read that Thomas didn’t cope and he fell prostrate before his Master, where he expressed all the remorse and admiration for the risen Christ. After that, Jesus appeared to many believers over 40 days. We know that Jesus did return to his Father, and he did send the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, but they didn’t realise how much things were going to change. Now there would be a greater vision and responsibility, not only in Jerusalem but to touch the world with God’s will being foremost in the lives of those who had committed themselves to him.
We live in the fruits of that vision today. In the same way that God ordained our birth at this point in time so he, with his foreknowledge, also knew about the pandemic of the Coronavirus. As we take refuge under the shadow of his wing, so we too have a responsibility to those around us at their point of need, whether it be on the front line or enforced furlough from work. The question will always be ‘Where do we fit in the greater scheme of things?’ Our part might be smaller or greater, according to our abilities. Some might be working in the front line, and others might be praying or working in the neighbourhood, some might be simply complying with requirements or making helpful suggestions to others who are trying to do the right thing. Those disciples needed all hands on deck, as it were, to work together for the greater good of the people living at that time, starting at home and then spreading out to the known world, all under the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit. They were faithful with all their human frailty and myself, along with so many others, need to follow in the footsteps of those disciples. They were born for their time – we have been born for today.