24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘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.’ 26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 27Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ 28Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ 29Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’
From the story of unbelief to the story of wounds
Friends, it is true that the persons we love most and who love us most are also the persons who hurt us most. Those who are closest to us are also those who cause us the deepest pain. It is our father, our mother, our brother, our sister, our spouse, our closest friend, our co-worker, our neighbor who can hurt us most and be most hurt by us. It is with good reason that counselors and therapists always deal with these primary relationships.
"That is where we are most loved and most wounded."
"That is where our greatest joy and our greatest pain touch each other." (Henry Nouwen)
In today’s passage, risen Jesus met Thomas with other disciples who met risen Jesus before Thomas. Other disciples told Thomas that they met their Lord, but Thomas didn’t believe them unless he saw the mark of the nails in his hands and hole in his side, and put his finger in the mark of the nails.
Most of us have heard a message from this scene; and you heard that preachers saying this was about Thomas’ unbelief, and teaching that we should be believers as those who have not seen and yet have come to believe. This is a good message about our belief in God, especially the way to have faith in God through Jesus Christ.
But today I would like to look at this scene little differently with you.
I want to talk with you how the risen Jesus met his disciples who were hurt because their Lord, who they believed and followed, was killed; and because they lost hope and vision for the new Kingdom of God. I want to talk about their wounds that they got when they had to escape and hide in order not to be killed with Jesus; when they lost their hope and vision for the future; and when their Lord was killed on the Cross. And also I would like to look at this scene in order to understand how Jesus forgave his people who left him when he was tortured and killed.
Wounds in us
We know his first message was about repentance. He proclaims, “Repent! Repent” in the Jordan River. He invites people to repent their sins before God and experience God’s forgiveness. And also the first ministry of the risen Christ was act of forgiveness by showing his wounds.
Let’s look at verse 25 again. Thomas said to other disciples, “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.”
I think Thomas means, “I will not believe what you said until I see him again through my eyes. If I meet him, hmmmm, I should put my finger in the hole in his hands and then I might believe you. I will not believe what you say until I can physically see him.”
I believe it’s not only about the unbelief of Thomas, but also his broken heart and wounds. He was expressing his disappointment, pain, brokenness or wound by saying, “I will not believe.”
Thomas was hurt by losing his friend, Jesus. He might think he lost everything that he had by losing his most loved one. Exactly!!! He got wounded and lost his belief in Jesus, maybe even in God, too. He might think that he had to put his finger in the mark of Jesus’ hands in order to let Jesus know how much he was pained himself because of Jesus.
Jesus met Thomas through his wounds
In verse 26, a week later disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was there with them. The Disciples encouraged Thomas to come to the house in which other disciples met Jesus a few days ago. Finally, Thomas met his Lord, the risen Lord who was his loved one, hope, vision; and faith itself.
Jesus said to his disciples, “Peace be with you,” and said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”
Jesus met Thomas through his wounds, not through his glorious throne or authoritative judgement. Jesus met his disciples through his wounds. He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and believe.” Jesus allowed him to touch his wounds, so that he could believe that Jesus was risen from death and being with him. Through this reunion and through his wounds, Thomas and other disciples were recovered, healed and reconciled with God.
And, one thing that we could find in this scene of reunion between the risen Christ and disciples is that there is forgiveness— The power of forgiveness through Jesus’ wounds. We could imagine that Jesus was hurt, not by those who tortured and killed him, but by those who followed him; called disciples and friends. Jesus walked the way to Calvary without his friends who he loved and loved him. He got wounded in his heart as a human being, but he provided great forgiveness as a divine one to those who denied and left him. He met his disciples as a healer through his wounds.
He was a wounded healer who poured his grace onto his wounded disciples.
My wounds in heart
I believe that this should be our ministry as Jesus’ disciples: Forgiving the one who hurt us.
My family experienced bankruptcy when I was about twelve years old. Literally we lost everything, including my soccer ball and bicycle. My brother and I were sent to one of aunts family till my father and mother would come back to take us. It was too long to wait for my parents as a little boy. It hurt me. I felt that I was an orphan about for three months.
Recently, I realized that it is still in me as a deep wounds when I visited my family in Korea. As my father had cancer surgery three years ago, my family (wife and kids) and I visited Korea to see him. One night at my parents home after his surgery, father, mother and I had a casual conversation. We talked about this and that. During the conversation, surprisingly my father told us, “I was wrong that I don’t say “I love you” often.” You know that Korea is still so patriarchal society and most fathers (especially my father's generation) deserve not to say “I love you.” It’s ok in Korea for fathers.
You know, interestingly, after he said, “I should say “I love you” more often,” I immediately realized that I still had the wounds from the separation in me. After that experience of separation, I’d got wounds in me, but my parents, brother and I never talked about the separation, nor offered forgiveness.
And it was true that every one of us has gotten wounds by that traumatic experience, but we never offered forgiveness or comfort to each other.
Family has been too close or too far apart to offer forgiveness.
He is my beloved father, and one of the most important one in my life, but he hurt me most; and I hurt him, too. Because we love each other, we can also hurt each other the most. We needed time to talk with each other about our wounds for forgiveness, but it was so hard to do because we thought that we know each other very well, we love each other and we would believe that we haven’t hurt each other.
We need to show our wound to forgive, or we should meet other’s wound to be forgiven.
My father asked me for forgiveness when he suffered from a stroke and cancer. We meet deeply each other through our wounds in physical body and in soul. We know that so many times we hurt others through the way we were hurt. We should overcome such a vicious circle by meeting the Lord Jesus who is a wounded healer and provider of forgiveness. And I hope you to find the Good News of our Lord through today’s passage.
Ministry of forgiveness
As I said, forgiveness should be one of our ministries as a disciple of the wounded healer; and as he forgave us through his wounds and sacrificial love.
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus makes it clear that our forgiveness hinges on our willingness to forgive others.
“Forgive our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass again us.”
Forgiveness is an important requirement for friendship with God and other people. And Forgiveness is the first theme of ministry of Jesus and the risen Jesus.
Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and believe.” It was the second chance through the forgiveness for Thomas and his disciples. Jesus wasn’t afraid to show his wounds to his disciples who denied him when he was on the Cross, rather he allowed one of the disciples, Thomas, to put his finger in his wound; and then gave him the second chance to follow him and love him. And he allowed Thomas to express how much he hurt.
Forgive them who hurt you through your wounds and gave them the second to love you, to be your friend, to be your beloved family.
You might have at least one enemy now. You might have thought of somebody, while you read this, that you have to forgive. Pray for yourself first so that you can be a wounded healer for those who hurt you, and pray for the one who hurt you. They are also beloved children of God.
I hope this story of Thomas and the risen Christ challenges you, During this Lenten season which is our journey to find grace and peace in Christ, I pray that you will forgive those who hurt you.
Believe him, follow him and practice his most powerful gift, the forgiveness trough your wounds.