There came the impossible moment: when the promises of the devil may have actually held some appeal.
Jesus had separated himself from the rest of his disciples, who were charged with prayer but in reality were struggling to stay awake (thanks to the glasses of wine consumed during their Passover meal earlier that evening). The Son of Man walked farther into the garden. The first drops of blood shed for us weren’t on the cross. They drizzled down Jesus’ forehead as he looked for another way.
Thomas is known as the doubting disciple, which is rather fitting because there was a time when Jesus was the doubting deity.
Too many popular Christian songs today forget this moment. In our recognitions of Calvary and the sacrifice of God, we don’t dwell much on the fact that hours before his gruesome execution, Jesus was hoping for a way out of his having to die for our sins. It was there, in the garden, that the promise of Satan from years before came back as an invitation.
“All these I will give you, if you fall down and worship me.”
There could be another way to be the Messiah. Jesus could have the kingdoms of the world–something he was destined to have, anyway. But here, Jesus wrestled with the option of ruling the world without first being killed by it. He could be the King without first being condemned as a criminal. It was a lie, of course; a devilish not dissimilar to the lie told to Adam and Eve: “eat, and you will become gods”.
The fore-parents of humanity believed it and were expelled from Eden.
Jesus chose not to believe it and left the garden as a prisoner.
There’s something beautiful about the words of G.K. Chesterton here. In Orthodoxy, he wrote:
“When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt. Nay (the matter grows too difficult for human speech), but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.”
We tend to think that Jesus showed Thomas his scars to give his doubts the final knockout. That’s not necessarily wrong; it’s just incomplete. Jesus showed Thomas his scars, not just to prove that he was alive again, but to show the doubter that the author of faith understood, because He, too, had doubted.
Jesus had had his own faith tested, even as he had known before anyone that the hour was coming for him. The scars of Christ are reminders to us that the Lord of all there is once shared our deepest, darkest questions. In our worst moments, when we find ourselves questioning everything, that’s where we find Him, sweating blood and repeating our questions.