Hope is the thing with feathers, That perches in the soul, And sings the tune without the words, And never stops at all.
- Emily Dickinson
Yes, we remember him as "Doubting Thomas". When we use that phrase, we assume a position that is bad and should be avoided, as this Facebook picture suggests:
(Cartoon by Inherit the Mirth, on Episcopal Church Memes)
[Elaine Pagels' Beyond Belief takes an in depth look at The Gospel of Thomas, and suggests that John's gospel was written in part to counter it. She makes persuasive arguments that could certainly be true, and her book is an excellent read. But I think it is also fair to suggest that Thomas' doubt in John's gospel is not really a bad thing at all. For the sake of this blog post, I'll venture again down that road, but check out Rick Morley's 2011 use of Pagels' ideas.]
Earlier in John’s Gospel, when Jesus decides to go to Bethany to heal Lazarus, Thomas says to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:16)
‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’
Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’
But after this, Thomas (along with the other disciples) fails miserably. He runs away when Jesus is arrested. He remains in hiding when Jesus is crucified. All of his good and sincere intentions have been overwhelmed by fear.So when the other disciples tell Thomas “We’ve seen the Lord,” he doesn’t believe their words. He even makes an outrageous request: “Unless I see the mark of nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
Hope is the thing with feathers,
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.