Commentary on John 20:28 – Thomas’ confession

28 Thomas answered Him, and saith unto Him, My Lord and my God.

He that had shortly before been slack in the duty of faith was now eager to profess it. and in a short time his fault was wholly cured. For after an interval of only eight days the hindrances to his faith were removed by Christ, Who showed unto him the print of the nails and His wounded Side. But, perhaps, someone will ask the question: “Tell me why did the minds of the holy disciples carry out so rigid an inquiry, and so careful a scrutiny? For would not the sight of the Lord’s Body, the features of His Face, and the measure of His Stature, have sufficed to prove that He had indeed risen from the dead, and to secure His recognition?” What do we reply? The inspired disciples were not free from doubt, although they had seen the Lord. For they thought that He was not in very truth the same as He Who of old had lived and dwelt among them, and had hung upon the Cross, but rather that He was a Spirit, cunningly fashioned like unto our Saviour’s Image, and simulating the features of the form which they knew. For they fell into this delusion not without some apparent excuse, as He miraculously entered when the doors were closed; in spite of the fact that a body of coarse earthy mould requires a hole through which it can pass, and necessitates the aperture of the door to correspond in width with the size of the body. For this cause our Lord Jesus Christ, greatly to our profit, laid bare His Side to Thomas, and exposed the wounds on His Person, through his agency giving adequate proof to all. For though of Thomas alone is recorded the saying: Except I shall put my hands and see the prints of the nails, and put my hand into His Side, I will not believe, yet was the charge of lack of faith common to them all; and we shall find that the minds of the other disciples were not free from perplexity, though they said unto the holy Thomas: We have seen the Lord. And that what we say does not err from the truth we may easily perceive by what the Divine Luke tells us: As they spake these things, He stood in the midst of them, that is, of course, Christ, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they beheld a spirit. And He said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and wherefore do reasonings arise in your hearts? See My Hands and My Feet, that it is I Myself: handle Me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye behold Me having. And when He had said this, He showed them His Hands and His Feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, He said unto them, Have ye here anything to eat? And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And He took it, and did eat before them. You see how the thought of unbelief is found lurking, not in the blessed Thomas alone, but that the minds of the other disciples were afflicted with a kindred disease. For, lo and behold! seeing that their faith wavered even after the sight of the wounds upon the Cross, He thought it right to convince them by another act, in nowise suited to a spirit, but specially appropriate to earthly bodies and the nature of flesh. For He ate the fish that was brought unto Him, or the portion of one. For when no mark at all of corruption any longer remained after the Resurrection of His holy Flesh, because He lived again to incorruption, and when it was incredible that His Body stood in need of food as heretofore, He yet showed unto them the print of the nails, and did not refuse to partake of food, in order that He might establish the great mystery of the Resurrection, and cause faith in it to spring up in the souls of us all. He does acts wholly alien to the nature of spirits. For how, and in what way, could the prints of nails, and the traces of wounds, and participation in bodily food, be found to exist in a naked spirit unconnected with flesh, to which all these things are suitable by the law of its being and the conditions under which it exists? In order, then, that none might think that Christ rose again a mere spirit, or an impalpable body, shadowy and ethereal, to which some give the name of spiritual, but that the selfsame body that was sown in corruption, as Paul saith, might be believed to have risen again, He openly did acts suitable to a palpable human form. What we said at first, however, namely, that the blessed disciple did not so much lack faith owing to infirmity of judgment, but rather was affected in this way by excess of joy, will not be wide of the mark. For we have heard the saying of the blessed Luke concerning all the others: And while they disbelieved for joy and wondered. It was wonder, therefore, that made the disciples slow to be convinced. But as henceforward there was no excuse for unbelief, as they saw with their own eyes, the blessed Thomas accordingly unflinchingly confessed his faith in Him, saying: My Lord and my God. For we must all confess that it follows of a surety that He That is Lord by Nature and Ruler over all is also God, just as also universal dominion and the glory of sovereignty is clearly seen to appertain to the living God.

Observe, too, that when he says My Lord and my God, he uses the article to show that there was One Lord and One God. For he does not say without the qualification of the article, My Lord and my God, to prevent any one from imagining that he called Him Lord or God as he might have done one of ourselves or of the holy angels. For there are gods many and lords many, in this sense, in heaven and on earth, as the wise Paul has taught us; but rather he recognises Him as, in a special sense, the One Lord and God, as begotten of the Father, Who is by Nature Lord and God, when he says, My Lord and my God; and, what is a still greater indication of the truth, the Saviour heard His disciple saying this, and saw that he rested in the firm conviction that He was, in fact, the Lord and God, and thought it not right to rebuke him. Christ, then, approved his faith, and with justice. And you may easily see that what I say is true. For to him that was possessed of this faith He says, at the end of the Gospel, as unto the rest: Go ye and make disciples of all the nations. And if He bids him who was thus minded teach all nations, and appointed him to instruct the world in His mysteries, He wishes us to have a like faith. For He is, in fact, Lord and God by Nature, even when Incarnate Man. For observe that the disciple, when he had touched His Hands, and Feet, and Side, made unto Him this confession of faith, not severing Emmanuel into a duality of Sons, but recognising Him as one and the same in the Flesh, for Jesus Christ is One Lord, according to the Scripture.

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