There is the rather elementary saying that one thing leads to another. It’s elementary because it’s true, and I have the perfect example to share.
You may or may not know this, but I’m a fan of 80s and early 90s sci-fi and horror films. I’ve seen them all, both the A and the B list—from Academy Award winners like “Silence of the Lambs” to straight-to-VHS gems like “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.” Watching them now, I have to say that many are still very good. They’ve stood the test of time. Others were trash before they ever became a script, and they remain trash long afterward. The special effects were terrible, often intentionally. The dialogue was just as bad. It’s easy to tell that many were made just to be made. Trust me, “Friday the 13th” could have been put to rest after “Part IV, The Final Chapter.” Still, they gave us seven more and an attempted reboot. The same goes for the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” series. “Dream Warriors,” the third movie in the series, was the last of the franchise’s serious attempts. But the thing is, even the cringe-worthy sequels remained great fun. Their hokeyness only made the good films seem better.
Not long ago I was watching a documentary series called “The Movies that Made Us.” One episode focused on James Cameron’s masterpiece “Aliens.” Anyone who’s been in my basement will confirm the film as an absolute favorite of mine. I mean, it did win seven Academy Awards, one of which was for best visual effects.
Anyway, after watching the documentary, I did a little reading about James Cameron. In comparison to his accomplishments, I was fascinated with his beginnings. Interestingly, after seeing “Star Wars” on the big screen, he was inspired to leave his job as a truck driver and take aim at making movies in Hollywood. Personally, I’m glad he took the chance.
Reading about his life, I came across a TV interview he did with a California news station in what I believe was the early 2000s. During the interview, he said something along the lines of, “If your goals are set ridiculously high and then you fail, you’ll already be well past everyone else, having failed well above everyone else’s successes.”
Remember how I said one thing leads to another? Well, here’s why I said it. That comment reminded me of the disciple Thomas. By the way, apart from Jesus, Thomas is the most important character in the resurrection narrative from John 20:19-31, which is also the appointed Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Easter. Essentially, Thomas is the one who continues even now to get a bad rap for doubting the Lord’s resurrection. But the thing is, his seemingly greatest failure was far above the successes of everyone else in the bunch. Here’s what I mean.
All the disciples deserted Jesus. Peter denied the Lord. Still, it would appear that after the crucifixion and burial, all but Thomas were gathered together in the upper room. The narratives say this happened because the disciples were afraid of what the Jews would do to them, too. But where was Thomas? I’m willing to bet that the answer is assumed by the ease with which the disciples retrieved him after the Lord’s first resurrected appearance among them. They went to where they knew they’d find him—at home. Thomas went back to his life, apparently having already accepted his fate concerning a failed messiah.
But Jesus hadn’t failed. And so, the disciples went to Thomas to tell him the Lord had risen. What were Thomas’ words in reply?
“Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe” (John 20:25).
These words prove Thomas’ failure was well above everyone else’s successes. While everyone else was stowed away in fear and asking questions bent on self-preservation, Thomas had subscribed to his fate. But he did this bearing the embers of a faith that was asking for the only proof Jesus had ever promised to give. In other words, Thomas knew (whether consciously or subconsciously) that his faith could only be rekindled when he met a living Jesus with crucifixion wounds.
I was asked a few weeks ago who I’d like to meet first in heaven. Apart from the Lord Himself, and then my brother, I hope to meet Thomas. I intend to apologize to him on behalf of any human in history who ever used the title “Doubting Thomas” to describe him. Indeed, Thomas’ failure was well above the rest of our so-called successes. In the darkest hour of Good Friday and Holy Saturday’s deepest confusion, Thomas was asking the right questions. Everyone else was asking for personal safety. Thomas was asking to see the One who would eventually say by Revelation 1:18, “I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” He believed as Saint Paul would eventually preach foundationally: faith in Christ crucified and raised (1 Corinthians 1:23, 15:1-26).
If only we could be as clear-sighted for receiving the risen Christ as Thomas, who is also the same one who gave what is perhaps one of the most moving confessions of joyful faith ever recorded in the scriptures. When Thomas took the strangest of chances at rejoining his fellow disciples in the upper room, the Lord gave Thomas what he asked for—the opportunity to touch His wounds. And again, what were Thomas’ words?
“My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).
I dare say that as we so often live our lives beneath a shroud of deeper doubt than even that of Thomas, not trusting that the Lord will care for us as He’s promised, there will come the day when the Lord shows us His wounds in the glories of heaven—wounds that will forever be the proof of His triumph in and over all things. I’m guessing there’s a good chance we’ll sound a lot like that one disciple with the millennia-long bad reputation.