Victory of Faith
The Victory of Faith
A Commentary by Archbishop Averky
The Appearance of the Risen Lord to the Eleven Disciples on the Eighth Day Following the Resurrection and the Dissipation of Thomas' Unbelief (John 20:24-31)
With his inquisitive right hand Thomas probed Thy life- giving side, O Christ our God For when Thou didst enter, the doors being shut with the rest of the Apostles He cried to Thee: Thou art my Lord and my God (St. Thomas Sunday Kontakion. tone 9)
The Evangelist John notes that when the Lord first appeared to His disciples as they were gathered together the Apostle Thomas, called Didymus (Greek for "twin"), was absent. In the Gospels the character of this apostle is marked by a tenacity bordering on stubbornness, typical in people bf simple but strongly formed views. When the Lord went to Judea to resurrect Lazarus, Thomas expressed his conviction that nothing good would come out of the journey: “Let us go and die with Him” (John 11:16). When the Lord, in His farewell conversation, said to His disciples: "Where I go, you know, and the way you know," Thomas again began to contradict:
"Lord, we know not whither Thou goest: and how can we know the wav?" (John 14:5). For this reason the Master’s death on the Cross made a most painful and devastating impression on Thomas; he seemed to be stuck fast in his conviction that Christ was irrevocably lost to them. So great was his despondency that on the day of Resurrection he wasn't even among the other disciples. He had obviously decided that there was no point in being together since everything was over, everything had fallen apart and now each of the disciples had to lead their own separate lives as before.
Then, seeing the other disciples, he hears them say: "We have seen the Lord." In keeping with his character, he flatly and resolutely refuses to believe their words. Regarding the resurrection of his Master to be impossible, he declares that he will believe this only when he not only sees with his own eyes, but feels with his hands the wounds from the nails on the Lord's hands. and side. ",...and thrust my hand into His side"-from these words of Thomas it is evident that the wound made by the soldier's spear was very deep.
Eight days after the Lord's first appearance to the ten disciples, He again appears, "the doors being. shut," apparently in the same house. This time Thomas was with them. Perhaps under the influence. of his contact with the other disciples, his obstinate disbelief began to soften and his soul began gradually to be receptive once again to faith. The Lord appeared in order to kindle this spark of faith. Standing as He did the first time, completely unexpected among His disciples, and bestowing upon them the blessing of peace, the Lord turns to Thomas: "Reach hither thy finger and behold my hands...
In response to Thomas' doubts, the Lord answers him in his own words which he used to set the condition for his belief in the Lord's Resurrection. Obviously Thomas must have been quite astonished at the Lord's knowledge of his skepticism. The Lord continued: "and be not faithless, but believing"; i.e., you are in a decisive position: before you now lie two roads-.fullness of faith, and complete rejection of spiritual reality. The Gospel does not specify whether or not Thomas actually touched the Lord's wounds; he may have. many case, his spark of faith burst into a bright flame and he cried out: "My Lord and my God!" With these words Thomas not only confessed his faith in Christ's Resurrection, but also faith in His Divinity.
Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed,
This faith, however, was based on sensual proofs. For this reason, in giving a lesson to Thomas, the Lord reveals to the other apostles and to all people in ages to come the higher path to faith, by praising those who attain faith without relying on the senses: "Blessed are those who do not see and believe” Even earlier the Lord had on more than one occasion given preeminence to faith which was founded not on miracles, but on the Word. The spreading of Christianity on earth would have been impossible had everyone demanded such evidence for their faith as did Thomas. The Lord praises those who attain faith through believing the testimony of the word alone, through confidence in Christ's teaching. This is the higher path.
With this account, St. John ends his Gospel narrative. The next chapter (21) was written later, after a period of some years, in response, it is thought, to rumors that St. John was. to live until the Second Coming of Christ, In the 2Oth chapter, however, he finishes his narrative by testifying that "many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book." Although St. John had intended to complete the narratives of the first three Evangelists, he himself did not write everything by far. It is clear, however, that he considers what is written to be sufficient:
"that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life in his Name." Even what little is written is sufficient confirmation of faith in Christ's Divinity and for salvation through this faith.
(Translated from Rukovodstvo k Izucheniu Svyaschenago Pisania Novogo Zaveta, Jordanville, 1974)