Eight days later the disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them . . . (John 20:26)
Thomas had made himself perfectly clear.
He was resolute in his ‘unless.’ Absent compelling evidence, the kind that he could see and touch, he would not believe. Never mind that he was surrounded by believing friends. Their enthusiastic reports were not enough to pull faith from the clinched jaws of doubt. Thomas would need something more.
And something more appeared. Jesus came and stood among them: “Put your finger here, put your hand here.” The resolute ‘unless’ gave way to worship. “My Lord and my God.” The one who had announced his unbelief was now a believer.
Why Does Jesus Take So Long?
We are hardly surprised that Thomas’ story ends as it does. Standing in the presence of the resurrected Jesus, how could it be otherwise? In John’s narrative, it seems to happen quickly. Thomas refuses to believe. Thomas believes. He insists on evidence. He erupts in worship. The scenes unfold quickly, a seamless transition from here to there, from doubt to faith.
Except for this: Eight days. Between Jesus’ first appearance to his disciples when Thomas was absent, and his appearance that brought Thomas to his knees in humble confession, were those eight days. Thomas’ road to faith was not as fast as it appears. Between the witness of his friends and his own powerful encounter with Jesus, there’s a full week of stubborn resistance to the good news of Jesus’ resurrection.
Jesus does not rush in to rescue Thomas from his questions. Before Jesus appears among his disciples there are eight days . . . of what? We are not told. Most likely those eight days were days of conversation, eight days of questioning, eight days of repeated witness met by stubborn resistance, eight days of frustration.
Why does Jesus linger? Why does he take so long to show up and show off and bring the skeptic to his knees? Such questions are hard for us.
We may not doubt God, but neither do we understand God’s ways.
We may not question God’s love, but we have plenty of questions about God’s timing.
We may not question God’s power, but we have plenty of questions about God’s plan.
Don’t Miss the Story’s End
This we know for certain: For eight days Thomas had friends who were willing to tell him, “We have seen the Lord.” He didn’t believe it – but they told him anyway, probably over and over again. And what’s more they stayed with him. They didn’t give up on him. They didn’t kick him out of the room. They didn’t leave. When Jesus appeared, they were all there.
Perhaps it is there in those eight days that all of us are prone to be doubters. As unlikely as it seems, God is at work in the ‘eight days.’ When it looks as if nothing is happening, more is happening than we know. We may be stuck, but the Spirit moves freely, often in ways unnoticed.
Are you waiting for someone to come to faith? Have you been praying that they’ll make the move from resistance to receiving, from questioning to believing? That can be a long story: it may be eight days . . . it may well be eight years. Maybe longer.
Keep saying what you know to be true. And stay with it. Stay with him or her, lost friend, wayward child, stone-cold spouse. Conduct yourself in such a way that who you are gives credibility to your word of witness. Stay there and live a life that says, “I have seen the Lord.”
Trust Jesus to show up and do the rest. He is at work, even in the eight days. Don’t miss the end of the story.
Few things are harder for us, O God, than waiting. We crave quick results and speedy answers to prayer – eight minutes rather than eight days. Keep us faithful in the waiting seasons, whatever they may be, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.