It took a week.
A follower of Jesus expressed his deep desire to encounter his Lord, the living God, in the same way that the other disciples were privileged to encounter Jesus, and it took a week.
For someone who is struggling with their faith, sometimes even a week seems like an entire lifetime.
Where was Jesus that he could not just show up right away when Thomas returned from whatever he was doing and joined the other disciples in their little hiding space in the upper room? Why the wait? Why make him wait Jesus? Why make us wait Jesus?
Easter, with its loud music, proclamations of “He is risen,” and bright colors is great and all, but for some of us, it is not something in which we can easily participate.
Though our neighbors seem to be sharing their love for the risen Lord, some others of us feel like it is all a little too fake. We feel like we are somehow removed from the situation, in a different room even, like we have missed something; like we have missed someone.
For some us, it is as if Jesus appeared to our faithful neighbors in their times of struggle and fear, but we somehow missed the big event. Our neighbors run up to us and say, “We have seen the Lord,” but their words are too few and are not convincing.
"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," faithful Thomas cries out on our behalf.
“Faithful,” you may ask? “I always thought he was doubting Thomas,” you say.
But, do not forget, that it was Thomas who was the one who encouraged the other disciples to follow Jesus back to Judea to heal Lazarus even though they feared they would all die on the journey because of the trouble they had stirred previously.
Thomas was the one who outright asked Jesus to know the way to the Father when Jesus implied that they already knew the way.
Thomas is the one who sticks out his neck in the face of confusion and danger to follow Jesus. He is the one who is out and about and is not holed up in a tiny upper room out of fear of the Judeans who may or may not be searching to kill the followers of the crucified one. Thomas is the courageous, faithful one.
So, why is he forced to wait during this time of loss and struggle after Jesus’ death?
“Just trust in Jesus,” I was once told on a very doubt filled day of my life. “Just trust in Jesus.” Like you can just do that. Like you can just up and decide, “Oh, I guess it’s time to trust Jesus and be faithful.”
This just is not something you can force yourself to do. Others can say to you, “I have seen the Lord,” but unless you get to experience the scars in his hands and the wound in his side…unless you have an encounter with the divine yourself, all of the words trying to convince you will always come up dry.
That is just the truth.
You cannot get water from a stone unless God is there to make it happen. You just cannot.
God made Thomas wait. And, sometimes, God makes us wait. That is just a truth of life. And, in that time of waiting, we may struggle to believe.
Why a week? Why did he have to wait a week? Why could not Jesus just show up right away and alleviate all the pain and struggle? Why a week?
Maybe, John, the gospel writer, is trying to give those of us with a dry faith a hint of where we might find some of that living water.
It was the first day of the week when the disciples met together. The first day of the week; that would be Sunday.
The disciples were gathered together on Sunday, and there the risen Lord met them with words of promise and forgiveness.
On Sunday, even 2000 years later, the people gather, the Word of God is proclaimed, the bread is broken, and Jesus shows up.
This all happens on Sunday.
Thomas was not there that first Sunday. He missed out. In all of his working, and his wandering, and his searching away from the others who had experienced Jesus in the upper room, he missed the Lord. He simply was not there on that first Sunday.
Far from being a sermon about how you must show up to church on Sunday mornings, as if it were a life and death sort of divine Law, rather, I would like to point out that John is gently implying that it is in the gathered faith community where Jesus is present. Matthew, the gospel writer, puts it this way, “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there am I.”
Therefore, it was during the next gathering of the disciples, one week later, that Jesus finally showed up, showed Thomas his hands and his side, and Thomas was finally able to confess with a whole heart, “My Lord, my God.” It was in the gathering of believers that Jesus came to his beloved Thomas…a week later.
I know, I know. Some of you have been coming to the gathering of believers for a very long time, and still struggle to proclaim “My Lord, my God.” I know.
But, do not give up. Your neighbor has a little bit of Thomas in them too. I promise. Faith ebbs and flows like the waters of the ocean. Sometimes it is inspired and rises tall in a great wave, and sometimes it subsides and meets the sand below. But, that is OK. That is the way of faith.
Keep coming, to gather together with other believers and to hear the promises of Jesus.
Your wait will come to an end. Each and every Sunday we come to hear God’s word which was written so that we may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing we may have life in his name.
Be patient, Jesus will come. Brothers and sisters of Thomas, Jesus will come.