Thomas – 4 July 2022
Here is a very well known picture, truly wonderful, depicting a post-resurrection encounter with Christ. The painter uses ‘chiarosuro’ to dramatic effect. A strong light comes from the top left, and is in contrast to the dark areas of the picture. What you see first of all are four faces gathered in a circle, then a run of hands. And what a story they tell!
Jesus is standing with three of his disciples. The one at the front of the picture is Thomas. Jesus has pulled back his garment (a sheet actually) to reveal the wound in his side, from which blood and water flowed at his death. He has taken Thomas’ hand, with its extended finger, and has placed it at the opening of the wound. The attention of all four men, their faces so close together, is on this moment of physicality. The face of Jesus is calm and permitting. The two rear disciples watch closely. It is the face of Thomas, right at the centre of the picture that catches our attention. Here is the moment of transition from incredulity to belief. He believes this is indeed the risen Jesus because he has touched this wound.
The picture is ‘The incredulity of Thomas’ by Caravaggio (1601-2).
Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “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.”
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
John 20: 24-28
We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life
1 John 1:1
“We do not know… how can we know the way?”
Courageous master of the awkward question,
You spoke the words the others dared not say
And cut through their evasion and abstraction.
Oh doubting Thomas, father of my faith,
You put your finger on the nub of things
We cannot love some disembodied wraith,
But flesh and blood must be our king of kings.
Your teaching is to touch, embrace, anoint,
Feel after Him and find Him in the flesh.
Because He loved your awkward counter-point
The Word has heard and granted you your wish.
Oh place my hands with yours, help me divine
The wounded God whose wounds are healing mine.