Thomas in the dark

John 20:24–26 tells us that Thomas wasn’t with the disciples when Jesus appeared to them the day of his resurrection. It wasn’t until eight days later—the following Sunday—that Jesus came to Thomas. In that span of time, Thomas was left to wrestle with his doubt. “He is risen!” he heard from the other disciples. “We saw him!” But Thomas had not been granted any such encounter. Thinking it ridiculous that a dead man should rise from the grave, he chalked up the claims to mere gossip. Hallucinations, maybe. And he stewed uncomfortably in his disappointment and confusion. That is, until Jesus approached him and gave him the physical confirmation he needed.

Why did Jesus wait so long to seek out Thomas? Maybe to give him time to think over the events of the previous week—and even further back, to Jesus’s teachings about himself, his prophecies. Maybe Thomas needed to be kept in the dark a little longer than the others so that certain truths could settle in his heart and mind, so that he would be ready to receive the proof par excellence.

Imagining what these eight days of not knowing must have been like, Jess Strantz, lead vocalist for the folk soul duo Von Strantz, wrote a song called “Oh Tom.” Written from Thomas’s perspective, it takes us for a ride on his roller coaster of emotions following the death of Jesus—insecurity, hurt, fear—before pulling at last into the station of confident faith.  

I was there when they crucified our Lord
The messiah, the one we had been waiting for
I was confused and hurt
And life has never been the same
I’ll remember those three days
That he was gone

Oh, I wish that he was here with me
Oh, I wish that he was here with me
Oh, I wish that he was here with me today

I heard the ruckus as the women came running down
And Peter yelled out, “He is risen!”
And I couldn’t believe my ears
So we gathered around and began to pray
And I felt anxious and so afraid
Could he really be here?

Could he be here with us?
Could he be here with us?
Could he be here with us today?

Well out of nowhere that sweet, lovin’ voice that I know
Said, “No need to fear, no need to be troubled.
Won’t you reach out your hands?”
He said, “Look me over from head to toe.
Does a ghost have muscle, skin, or bones?
I am truly here.”

He is here with us
He is here with us
I reached out and touched his side

He is alive tonight
He conquered the grave
He is here with us today

He is here with us
I reached out and I touched
His hands, his side
And now I know

He is alive
He is alive

Christ and Thomas by Edward Knippers
Edward Knippers (American, 1946–), Christ and Thomas, 1998. Oil on panel, 6 × 8 ft.

“Oh Tom” affirms that Jesus is alive today as much as he was then. Thomas’s witness assures us of it. In a 2015 online devotional put out by Biola University, spiritual director Patricia Conneen wrote,

How blessed we are who have “believed and yet not seen!” Much of the credit for our blessedness is due to Thomas’s honest skepticism. He took the initiative and did what the others needed him to do—what we needed him to do, so that we might have confidence that our risen Savior was not only seen and heard, but also touched (1 John 1:1).

He is here. He is alive.

“Oh Tom” is from the album Good Morning. Happy Easter. 2, available for free download through NoiseTrade.

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