A Different Story I Assume Would Be Told [see John 20:26-27]
If I were writing Thomas' story, I would write it differently.
Very differently. I would write it the way I expect Jesus would respond to me. Maybe, if I am honest, this is how I think Jesus does respond to me when my flood of doubt is drowning me.
When Thomas confidently declares that he will only believe if Jesus shows up and lets Thomas touch him, I would imagine Jesus to respond in at least two ways:
One, I would expect Jesus to find out about Thomas' skepticism and get frustrated. How long had Jesus been with Thomas? How long would Thomas be at least "slow" of heart if not "hard" of heart?! How long should Jesus put up with this? maybe Jesus should just find Thomas and tell him he needs to straighten up. Now! "Get with the program Thomas or this movement is moving on without you!" I would imagine Jesus sternly scolding Thomas for being so difficult. (I think that says more about me than Jesus, to be honest.)
Two, I would write the story in a way in which Jesus doesn't go through all of the trouble of scolding Thomas, but does something much more terrible: he would just let Thomas doubt and walk away. I would imagine Jesus hearing about Thomas' demands and merely moving on. Since Thomas didn't "have what it takes," Jesus would move on to someone who did. Surely there were plenty of people who would believe.
Thankfully, I am not writing that story.
A Jarring Surprise
For two weeks the disciples met together in a locked room after Jesus' crucifixion. The text says that they were gathering behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jews. They had good reason to gather and good reason to hide. The first recorded time, Thomas wasn't there. Jesus showed up and the people were astonished that he really was alive.
Thomas wasn't there for that. He just heard about it. Hearing about it wasn't enough for him. He had to feel the Truth as well as hear it.
So, when Jesus shows up in the room again, this time with Thomas attending the meeting, I can imagine there was a silence in the room. Maybe a murmur. All were wondering what Jesus might do. And what he did had to have surprised them all: he offered his wounds for Thomas to feel.
Like Trying to Wake Up A Cemetery
One thing is certainly true: whoever believes in Jesus believes because Jesus came to them while they were still saying "I will not believe."
This is the story of every person who has faith in Jesus. we do not believe because we "had it in us" or because we were strong enough. No, everyone who has honestly entrusted themselves to Jesus has done so because he came to them first and created that faith.
We should not be surprised that Jesus came to Thomas and offered himself...not if we really understand Jesus. He showed that he was willing to humble himself over and over, going to those who didn't come to him and welcoming those who despised him. It is in God's nature to initiate relationship and to crate the fullness of faith where only the emptiness of doubt reigned.
God Acts First, and Second, and Third
And never more was that pictured than when Jesus endured the cross for people who were defiant in doubt. God demonstrated his initiative love in that, even when we were ravenously rebellious, he gave his precious Son that he might draw us to believe...and restore the closeness we were meant to share with Him. That is what he does.
And that is what he did for Thomas. In Thomas' stubbornness and hard-hearted willfulness Jesus showed Thomas the scars of his surrender. And Thomas was shocked.
When Jesus writes his own story, the story is a story that fills our souls with faith. His grace jars us awake to who he really is and then we are compelled to respond.
How about one last Act in this Story?