10th April 2018

Why Did Thomas Return? 

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them.”
John 20:26 (NIV)

Jesus had been crucified; he was dead and buried. That was it, game over. With Jesus gone there could be no revolution, no overthrow of Roman oppression, no Messianic movement. It makes sense, therefore, why Thomas would run off in despair. It was good while it lasted but it has now come to an end and so on the evening of that first day of the week when the resurrected Jesus appeared to the disciples, Thomas was not with them (verse 24). It is perfectly understandable that Thomas wouldn’t want to be there.

What is more difficult to fathom is why would he return? Why would he ever bother to go back to this ‘failed’ group? It is here that the influence of his friends cannot be underestimated. “The other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’” (Verse 25). These men had been Thomas’ constant companions for the past three years. They had become more than friends; they were fellow students, brothers together in a common cause. When the ‘tragedy’ of losing their leader came and the cause seemed over, they were still there for him. Yes, Thomas had his doubts and wanted to see the resurrected Christ for himself, otherwise he wouldn’t believe (verse 25), but there was one thing he still believed in: his fellow disciples. Even though he had separated himself from them, they were still willing to talk and encourage him to join up with them a week later. They still were prepared to welcome him back into the fold. Even though they had this wonderful new information to share (He is alive!) they too had doubted until they had seen Jesus with their own eyes. They understood that they were really no better than Thomas, who wandered off for a while, but were fellow travellers on this journey together.

This raises an important issue for our congregations. How willing are we to welcome into our fellowship doubters—people with moral issues or people who left but have now returned to our church? Despite the fact that Thomas makes it clear that he does not believe the testimony of his friends, he is welcome to stay amongst them. Is our congregation a place of welcome for the doubter, the struggling, and the prodigal? Is there a recognition that we are but fellow travellers on this journey together?

Perhaps the reason Thomas returned is because he knew that he would be welcomed among the other doubting disciples, his friends? Perhaps he was willing to stay because they patiently made room for his doubts even though their faith was beginning to take shape? Can we be a church that welcomes all kinds of people from all kinds of situations and patiently share the journey together? That’s our challenge.

Prayer
Father, may we be a welcoming church as you first welcomed us.
Amen

Study by Barry Robinson

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About the Author:
Barry Robinson is an Elder and pastoral worker in the Greater London area, particularly the Camberwell and North London congregations of the Grace Communion International.

Local Congregation:
Grace Communion International Camberwell
The Salvation Army Hall
105 Lomond Grove
Camberwell
LONDON
SE5 7HN

Meeting Time:
Saturday 11 am

Local Congregational Contact:
Barry Robinson
Email: camberwell@gracecom.church