(The Nationalist, 08 April 2005)
In Holy Week we sometimes think badly of the apostles. They didn’t put up a very good show. Peter especially, the first among them, three times shouted out his denials of even knowing Jesus.
But think of their situation. For most of three years, the apostles had followed Jesus on his travels around Palestine. They had heard him speaking to people, see off his critics’ carping negativity, heal people, feed hungry crowds with a handful of food, even raise the dead to life. How could they not have been carried away with the wonder of it all? How could they not have been filled with hope that this Jesus was the Messiah, the anointed one of God, the one chosen and sent by God to save his people?
And then the dream turned to a nightmare: Jesus arrested, condemned in a show trial, publicly humiliated and scourged, a mock crown, made of thorns, beaten into his head, and then led off like a criminal, carrying the beam of crucifixion to the place of his execution.
Maybe they watched all that from a distance, wondering if God might intervene and save Jesus, giving him a great victory at the last moment, one that would confound his enemies. But that didn’t happen. The nails were hammered into his body, the wood was hoisted into a vertical position, until it dropped into its prepared slot, jarring the wounds in his hands and feet as it did so, until he died. And Jesus’ death was confirmed by the soldier piercing his side with a lance until blood and water flowed out.
The apostles had two powerful and seemingly contradictory experiences. The first was of Jesus as one chosen by God in a way unique in human history. The second was of him humiliated and killed like a criminal, and God doing nothing to stop it. How could both be true of one man? The apostles must have experienced a period of total confusion, doubt and uncertainty, a collapse of morale. They must even have wondered if they were going insane, if the whole thing were not a delusion.
Is it any wonder that, when Thomas was told that Jesus had risen, he said he would not believe it unless he saw Jesus for himself, and put his fingers into the holes made by the nails and the lance?
The day came when Thomas saw Jesus before him, and the first thing Jesus said was not, ‘I told you so, Thomas’, but ‘Peace be with you’. And he put Thomas’ finger into the wounds in his hands, and took his hand and put it into the wound in his side. Thomas, caught up in an emotional roller-coaster, exclaimed, ‘My Lord and my God!’
Seeing is not believing, but believing is seeing.
For those in a hurry: Value “the sacrament of the present moment”.