When Jesus was Exceedingly Gentle
Why do we call Thomas by his lowest point?
Very often the first Sunday after Easter we read about Jesus appearing to the disciples who did not believe. (The text is John 20.) They were in a room and only Thomas was not there and suddenly Jesus appeared to them, and explained to them, and assured them.
But somehow, Thomas missed all that. I always imagine he drew the short straw. He was off getting provisions or volunteered to do the thing no one else wanted to do. I cannot imagine he didn’t want to be in that room with his friends. These friends had just been totally traumatized. They were all there, in that room, grieving together. There is a thing when death happens, where we long to be with the people who are missing the same people in the same way that we are. I remember cousin piles in times of death and watched in gratitude as most of those piles were represented with me when my dad died. We cling to each other in times of trauma and this was certainly a time of trauma for all the followers of Jesus. They had just watched him die.
So poor Thomas comes from wherever he was to find out that he was the only disciple who had yet to experience Jesus in the flesh. He was still desperately sad but the rest of them were elated. They had gotten to experience a resurrection that was still only a rumor to him. However he acted about that, who could blame him?
I follow some cool folks on Twitter who are teaching me how to be trauma informed. Trauma does some wild and hard stuff to our brains and no one is at their best in the throws of deep grief. They were writing about this text with that lens on. Of course Thomas reacted. Of course he wanted what they had, of course he was hurt and sad and confused. Wouldn’t we all? But the part that I noticed in the midst of his grief, is that Jesus meets Thomas where he is at. Okay, he says. I see you. I see that you are hurting. I see that you need extra support here, and so I am going to give it to you.
Somewhere in the learning of this story I took the words of Jesus to sound harshly, to be judgmental, like Jesus was going to let Thomas do this but he didn’t much like it. None of that context is in the story. All of that context comes from a world that has told us that the love is harsh and that God is constantly wanting to correct us. What if Jesus doesn’t talk to us like that? What if Jesus is happy to give us the extra care we need? What if Thomas isn’t doubting he is needy and Jesus is just find with that.