26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Eight days after Jesus first appeared to the disciples, without Thomas present, he made another surprise appearance. The “eight days,” as was the custom in Jewish reckoning, included the first and last day; in other words, the first appearance was on a Sunday, and so was this one (In our counting system, we would say “seven days later”). St. John’s mention of it being eight days later is more than just a chronological detail, as Fr. Farley points out:
“It is liturgically significant that these first Resurrection appearances took place on a Sunday. Sunday, the first day of the week, became the Christian day, ‘the Lord’s day’(compare Rev. 1:10), the day when the defining act of Christian worship, the Eucharist, took place. Jews might continue to meet on the Sabbath, but Christians, as Christians, met on the first day of the week to commemorate the Resurrection.
“As can be seen from John’s designation of this as eight days later, the first day is also the eighth day—not just mathematically, but symbolically as well. For Sunday is the eighth day in the sense that it transcends the other seven days. In this age, the week has only seven days, and after counting seven days, one returns to the first day again. The eighth day, therefore, is the day outside of this age, the day of eternity, the day of the Kingdom. The Christian Sunday is the eighth day in that during this day we ascend to the Lord in our worship and enter the Kingdom, transcending the limitations of this age” (352-353, emphasis in original).
Jesus does not rebuke or condemn Thomas for his unbelief. Instead he invites him to look closely at his pierced hands and to place his hands in his side. By doing this, Jesus proves to Thomas that he was no ghost, but that he is truly the Lord Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. Immediately, Thomas’s doubt disappears. He does not even need to touch Jesus, but instead immediately cries out, “My Lord and my God!” In saying this, Thomas expressed more faith in Christ’s divinity than had anyone before him, for this is the first time in Scripture that anyone called Jesus “God.” Mere men do not rise from the dead in this way. From now on, Thomas and the other disciples will know that Jesus can only be properly addressed in the language of adoring worship. Fr. Farley has this to say about Thomas’ confession:
“Here is the high-water mark of faith in the Gospel. Others had confessed Jesus to be Lord and showed faith in His power (e.g. 9:38; 11:27). Here Thomas confesses Jesus not only to be his Lord, but his God as well. The confession with which John began his Gospel in 1:1 (saying “the Word was God” ) finds its fulfillment here in the Church’s confession of this truth, when Thomas confesses that Jesus is indeed God. This is the climax of John’s Gospel, the point to which all has been leading” (353).
Then Jesus pronounces a blessing on all who would believe after Jesus ascended into heaven. Not everyone who had seen the miraculous works of Jesus had believed in him. The disciples, including Thomas, believed because they saw. But as Jesus said, “blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed.” For this is what faith is, to receive things not seen. As St Paul wrote to the Hebrews, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (11:1). St. John Chrysostom, preaching 1600 years ago, spoke these words, which are as true today as they were then: “When therefore anyone in the present day [should] say, ‘I would that I had lived in those times, and had seen Christ working miracles,’ let them reflect that ‘Blessed are they who have not see, and have yet believe.’”
Great is the reward of the apostles and those who witnessed Jesus’ works and believed; greater still is the reward of those who have not seen and yet believe.