A Gospel Reading
Now Thomas (called 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 it.” 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!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:24-29, NIV).
Dayna Cermak asked me to read this passage near the close of our Easter morning sunrise service a few hours ago. As a dutiful follower, I was reading with emphasis and PASSION(!), that is until I came to the last line, which I promptly stumbled over in its profundity. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. Why would Jesus end his famous encounter with Thomas with this throwaway line? Referencing those who were to come after him, and calling them blessed for not having seen what Thomas experienced? Honestly, statements like that often leave a somewhat bitter taste in my mouth, and are one of the many reasons Scripture is difficult to swallow at times. My cynical side screams “See! There is no experiential reality to this Kingdom Christ has established. You are as empty as ever!”
And yet I hold on, for in the mixed nature of those words is a gritty reality that confirms just how deeply Jesus knows me (and by extension, the nature of all human beings, it seems). That he would extend himself to me–Chris Kamalski, a 29 1/2 year old man full of hopes, doubts, despair, questions, strength; a man who has in some ways leapt off the deep end this year pursuing a life he thinks he wants (hoping all along that those secret, buried desires are spoken too as well)–and speak to me as well as Thomas in that moment is too much for me to take in.
I am remembered. I am valued. I am loved (called blessed even!). I don’t know how to take this in. My overwhelming feeling at this moment is a mixture of exhaustion and relief.
Exhaustion because our community has deeply entered into these past 8 days, truly seeking to walk with Christ in his final hours prior to death. And we have succeeded in a manner of depth, passion, and creativity that I have never before known. It has been a long, emotional, deep, shifting week. I identify with Christ in ways I have never known, and it is because of this week walking with others. Exhaustion because we have been moving from one thing to the other these past 4-5 weeks, and I am spent. Exhaustion because moving willingly to one’s death (whether real, or those many small deaths of denial or hoped for sacrifice) are HARD.
And yet: Relief. Relief because He has come, and is coming again. Relief because my burdens have been shouldered by Another, even as I am unwilling to release them. Relief as freedom is around the corner, momentary and forever, even if I am not always desiring to enter into it. Relief, whether I receive it or not.
He has brought relief. Hallelujah!