Now that Easter is over, I have gotten away for awhile for some rest and relaxation. Cindy and I took a cruise, and it was hard to wind down from the pace of Holy Week to the pace of sitting on a ship watching the water go by. When I finally calmed down, I thought back on the events of the week after the first Easter for one of Jesus' disciples whose name was Thomas (better known as "Doubting Thomas").
First of all, how would you like being known for the last 2,000 years as "Doubting Thomas"? The poor guy has one bad week and gets stuck with that stigma forever. I have made a personal vow, and I encourage you to do the same, that when I get to heaven and see Thomas, I resist the temptation to run up to him a say, "Aren't you Doubting Thomas?" Let's show the brother a little respect.
The disciples had to be traumatized by the events of Good Friday. They were far from home, and they witnessed the brutal execution of Jesus. They were fearful that the authorities might come for them to do the same. They all scattered to their hiding places. Over the next few days, the disciples began to come back together. Peter may have been thinking about the reunion when he wrote these words:
I Peter 2:25For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Well, as we all know, some sheep are faster than others, and in this case, Thomas was slower that the rest. Most of the disciples were together on Easter evening when Jesus appeared in their midst. Thomas, however, missed it. When he finally did arrive, he was greeted by a bunch of "giddy sheep” telling him that they had see the resurrected Christ. Thomas, who was still devastated by Jesus' crucifixion that not only killed his friend but killed his faith, said he would have to see Jesus for himself and inspect the nail and spear wounds before he could have his own faith healed. Thus, why he will be forever known as Doubting Thomas. While the others were recovering, Thomas would suffer another week. Oh, how many might be lost only because they won't receive the good news from another?
One week later, Thomas was with his fellow disciples when Jesus appeared again. This time, Jesus speaks directly to Thomas and tells him to examine the wounds on His body. Thomas falls to his knees and proclaims that Jesus is his Lord and God. Jesus, however, insists that Thomas place his hand in the wound in His side caused by the spear of the soldier at the cross. Remember: Thomas had already professed Jesus was his Lord and God, and his faith was restored, but Jesus was insistent that Thomas touch the spear wound in his side. If the story of Thomas' life ended in 20th chapter of John, then the title of "Doubting Thomas" may be appropriate. But Thomas lived another 39 years and was used by God to take the Gospel eastward all the way to the plains of India.
The tradition among Christians in India is that Thomas was speared to death near Madras. Did Jesus insist Thomas embrace the spear wound that night so Thomas could know he, too, would be pierced as the price for bringing the Good News to the lost? The Gospel is free to those who receive it, but it is not free to those who declare it.
There was blood on the tip of the spear when Jesus died on the cross. The result was redemption for all who will receive Him. There also was blood on the tip of the spear when Thomas died bringing Christianity to India. Think of the other men and women who have deeply changed their world with blood on the tip of the spear, people like Martin Luther King and Gandhi. Second-century church father Tertullian wrote that "the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church."
I was once told that it isn't important how you start, but how you finish. This certainly is evident in Thomas' life and in ours as well. We need to embrace the risen Lord Jesus Christ. His wounds will heal us (I Peter 2:24) and then empower us to change our world. The blood on the tip of the spear reminds us that there still are things worth living and dying for.