Return home

WEEKLY REFLECTIONS: Ever been late for a party?

Rev. Ron Colangelo, My Father’s House, Utica
Posted 4/15/23

Have you ever been late for a party? I don’t like to be late for a party because I miss out on part of the fun. I have trouble catching up with everyone emotionally.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

WEEKLY REFLECTIONS: Ever been late for a party?


Have you ever been late for a party? I don’t like to be late for a party because I miss out on part of the fun. I have trouble catching up with everyone emotionally. Someone makes a reference to a previous statement. Everyone laughs but me. I don’t get the humor because I was late.

One of the early Disciples of Christ called Thomas came late to the party. He missed Easter by a week. All the others were in the upper room when Christ stood among them. He blessed them with Shalom (“peace be with you”), commissioned them with His own ministry (“as the Father has sent me, so send I you”), and equipped them with His abiding presence (“receive the Holy Spirit”). (John 20:21-22)

They really had a party, but Thomas missed it because he wasn’t there. Nobody knows where Thomas was. There is no way to know where he was. We are only told where he was not. Our tendency is to berate Thomas for being absent. We berate him because there have been times when we have been late or absent and missed something important. We berate him because when he was told about the resurrection he refused to believe it.

We consider that incredible! Why wouldn’t he believe what the others told him? Of course Thomas was no different from the other apostles. When the women told them, they thought what the women said was nonsense and they did not believe them (Luke 24:11). Why don’t we berate the other ten?

We know so very little about Thomas. Actually, we don’t even know his name. He is known by a characteristic. He was a twin, that’s what Thomas means in Aramaic, so he is identified simply as the twin. (John 20:24).

His interactions with others give some clue of what Thomas was like. When Jesus set His face toward Jerusalem, all of the disciples attempted to dissuade Him from going into the lion’s den in Jerusalem, all except Thomas. It was Thomas who said, “Let us go along with the Teacher, so that we may die with him” (John 11:16).

Does that statement express sad resignation or loyal commitment? Since we do not have a recording of Thomas’ voice, we cannot discern his inflection and emphasis. If he were expressing loyal commitment, he later abandoned his loyalty because he, like the rest, scattered in the face of Jesus’ execution.

During the last meal Jesus ate with His disciples, He said that He was going away and they knew the way to go where He was going. Well, maybe the rest of them knew the way but Thomas didn’t and he was willing to admit it. He even admitted he didn’t have the foggiest idea where Jesus was going, much less how to get there.

Thomas was a person of integrity. Thomas raised tough questions, the kind that made everyone around nervous because no one knew the answers. None of them thought you ought to admit you did not know the answers; none of them but Thomas. Thomas refused to silence the integrity of his mind. Thomas was one who said that faith was a matter of both the heart and the head. Failure to integrate faith and reason was a breach of integrity for Thomas.

Thomas also was a person of doubt. He was a realist. His world left no room for resurrection. When a person was dead, he was dead. He had seen Jesus die and he would not settle for any hear-say comments or second-hand faith. These were an inadequate foundation for his belief. In the midst of his doubt Thomas did not put down the belief of others or attempt to force his doubts onto them. When the disciples told Thomas that Christ was alive, he did not say, “You’re crazy. Surely you don’t really believe that.” Neither did he say, “I’ll never believe such a tale as that.” Rather Thomas responded, “I won’t believe this story until I have had first-hand experience by seeing the scars and putting my finger in those scarred hands and putting my hand in that wounded side.”

No person’s faith can rest on another person’s experience. We benefit from knowing about the journeys of others and what routes they have taken in their development of faith. We appreciate and are strengthened by comparisons and contrasts, by similarities and by experiences completely foreign to us. But we cannot adopt someone else’s faith.

People have to move beyond the faith of their parents, teachers, and friends to a faith that is theirs. Otherwise all they have is hand-me-down religion, and hand-me-down religion won’t survive the first serious crisis or test it faces.

When the disciples told Thomas about the resurrection, I’m sure there was part of Thomas that wanted to say, “I believe.” After all, ten close friends could not possibly be wrong, could they? But Thomas could not say honestly, “I believe.” What he could not say honestly he would not say, and he would not fake it. Thomas was a person of honesty and a person of doubt.

Thomas, and I think the other disciples, realized that no one’s faith can rest on another person’s experience. His faith in God had to have first-hand experience. He needed some first-hand proof of the resurrection. I wonder what his immediate reaction was a week later when Jesus appeared with the disciples and invited Thomas to touch His scars. Thomas must have said, “How did you know I said that?” Suddenly, Thomas no longer needed any proofs. Without touching Jesus at all, Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God.” Thomas now had faith.

Thomas had come late to the party, but he caught up in a hurry. “My Lord” would have been a sufficient address for Jesus — a magnificent address really. But Thomas spoke to Jesus as Israel had spoken to Yahweh — “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28) Thomas had said all that there is to say.

We often have berated Thomas — called him Doubting Thomas. Why have we not given equal time to the leap of faith expressed in his confession and commitment and called him Believing Thomas? In the presence of Christ, Thomas’ faith was made whole. Seeing was not believing. Commitment came apart from verified proof. Doubt dissolved and assurance emerged. The honesty of Thomas was still intact. His confession was a statement of fact.

John closed this segment of scripture this way, “These have been written in order that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and that through your faith in Him you may have life.” (John 20:31) John is talking about the readers of his gospel — us.

The Bible is intended to produce in us the kind of faith that emerged from Thomas. If you still need to come to faith in the risen Lord, don’t quit, don’t give up. So you have doubts and questions. So you are struggling with reconciling faith and reason. I commend Thomas to you. He is the patron for all of us who would come late to the party, but still we come. May you come to believe and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life. May God bless and keep you.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here