A Memorable Interview
“Then He said to Thomas, Reach here your finger, and behold My hands; and reach here your hand, and thrust it into My side; and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered, and said unto Him, My Lord and my God.”
John 20:27, 28
WE are, all of us, apt to fall into a wrong state of heart, not because we are unconverted, nor yet because we are false to Christ, but simply because of our natural infirmities. So long as we are in this body, exposed to trial and temptation, we shall be prone to start aside like a broken bow. Thomas was a true-hearted follower of Jesus. He loved his Master. It had been a severe shock to his sensitive disposition and his thoughtful mind to see his Master betrayed, arraigned, scourged, crucified, dead and buried. He could not, at once, rally from the agitation it caused him, or think it possible that Jesus could have risen from the dead. Pondering the matter scrupulously, it seemed to him to involve too great a miracle to be credited–far beyond anything to be expected! He would require, he said, very clear and satisfactory proofs before he would believe it. In like manner, you and I have, each of us, our characteristic faults. We may not be too thoughtful, like Thomas–we may, perhaps, be too thoughtless–and that is quite as mischievous. Even our pleasing qualities which adorn us as virtues may become our temptations. The best point about us, as a sound judgment was in the case of Thomas, may become the very snare that entangles us. Let no man judge his fellow. Above all, let no man exalt himself. He that is in his best estate, today, may be in spiritual poverty tomorrow! He who rejoices in God and walks in holy consistency may, before another sun has risen–few, though the hours of interval are–have felt his feet slide from under him and so fallen from his steadfastness as to have dishonored his God, and pierced himself through with many sorrows!
God grant that our meditation may be for the comfort of some present, while we proceed to notice the Master andthe servant–.
- LET THE MASTER FIRST ENGAGE OUR ATTENTION–THE MASTER IN THE PRESENCE OF AN UNBELIEVING DISCIPLE WHO HAS TREATED HIM WITH NO LITTLE PRESUMPTION AND RASHNESS.
How exquisitely touching, His gentleness! Does He upbraid Thomas? Is there indignation in His tone? Is there petulance in His chiding? Does He exclaim, “How dare you doubt that I am alive?” Or turns He upon him with some rough sentence, asking “Why this impertinence that you should speak of putting your finger into My wounds, and thrusting your hand into My side? Unworthy servant, from this moment I disown you for having spoken so disrespectfully of your Lord and Master.” No, far from it! He rather takes Thomas on his own ground, considers his infirmities, and meets them precisely as they are, without a single word of rebuke until the close–and even then He puts it very lovingly. The whole conversation was, indeed, a rebuke, but so veiled with love that Thomas could scarcely think it so. He speaks to him as if nothing had occurred to give any cause of offense, or by his presumption to occasion any estrangement.
Dwell for a moment on the mercy which our Lord must have shown–and the blessed patience He must have exercised, to bear thus with Thomas. Ought he not to have known from the Old Testament that the Christ would rise from the dead? Had he not been reminded once and again by his Master of the prophecies which spoke concerning the death of Christ, and the Glory that should follow? Had he not heard the Master, Himself, frequently say that the third day He would rise again? He must have been present with the other Apostles when they turned His oracular sentences over in their minds and said, one to another, “What does He mean by this, that He shall suffer and that He shall rise?” And had He not just before seen the women and conferred with the Apostles who testified that they had found an empty tomb, that they had been told by angels that Jesus had risen–yes, more–that when they were sitting together, Jesus had appeared in their midst? Yet, so strong was his unbelief, that he puts his own judgment against their assertion of fact, against the Inspired Scriptures, against the thrilling words that fell from the Master’s own lips, against the united, concurrent acknowledgment of all the Brothers! And do you think not, Brothers and Sisters, that our willfulness is sometimes as irrational and unwarranted as his? We harbor doubts in the teeth of accumulated evidences and then credit ourselves with being wise and right, while we disparage all others as being foolish and wrong! The principle which lies at the root of all the heresies and the schisms that tear and divide the Church is just that self-confidence which will not let us yield, even though better men than ourselves–yes, though the united consent of the whole Church should bear testimony to a fact or a Truth of God to which we disagree! Through some lack of information or through some flaw of judgment, we judge differently from our companions and forthwith our self-approbation is unyielding, and our conduct is intolerant! It was no small scandal thus to put himself in opposition to the Master, in opposition to the Scripture and in opposition to all his fellow servants! Still, our Lord Jesus Christ forbears to utter a word of denunciation. He just says, “Reach here your finger and behold My hands; and reach here your hand and thrust it into My side; and be not faithless, but believing.” Softer words He could not have spoken! He responds without reproach. Such loving kindness and tender mercy as David was known to sing of old, did our blessed Redeemer show!
Another ground for admiring our Lord’s great patience with Thomas is that Thomas had dared to dictate the termsupon which he would believe–and he had selected such terms as must have been most offensive had Jesus Christ been of a lofty, imperious, uncondescending spirit. Who is Thomas that he should put his hands into those wounds so lately healed? That side pierced by the soldier’s spear? Is Thomas to make another road to that sacred heart? Strange that he should have asked so mysterious a sign to strengthen his faith! What? Was there no other way of believing in his Lord but that he must pass his finger and his hand into the very wounds of that blessed body? Ah, see how presumptuous the servant! See, also, how sympathizing the Master! Was it not asking too much–far too much? Such a prayer ought not to have come from a disciple who had never forsaken his Master, much less from Thomas, who had fled with the rest, and had been absent when the Apostles had gathered together and seen the Master! But yet Jesus is so forbearing towards him. I know not whether to wonder more at the impertinence of the servant or the clemency of the Master! Let us take the lesson to ourselves. Have we during the past week fallen into a signal state of gross unbelief? Have we been thinking harsh thoughts of God? Has some sin suspended our communion with our Savior? Are we now cold at heart and void of spiritual emotion? Do we feel quite unworthy to draw near unto Him who loved us with so great a love? Be not desponding! The God of All Patience will not desert you! The love which our Lord Jesus Christ bears to His people is so great that He passes by their transgression, iniquity and sin! No, there is no anger on His part to divide you from your Lord. Behold! He comes over the mountains of your sins! He leaps over the hills of your follies. Since He thus graciously comes to you, will you not gladly come to Him? Do not think for a moment that He will frown or repulse you! He will not remind you of your cold prayers, your neglected closet, your unread Bible–nor will He chide you for losing occasions of fellowship–but He will receive you graciously, love you freely and grant you just what, at this moment, you need! I pray you notice the Master’s patience. Come to Him, dear child of His, you beloved disciple of His, and have fellowship with Him now!
While we are speaking of the Master, I should next like to call your attention to the Master’s great care. He had beento see His disciples once. He had stood in their midst and said, “Peace be unto you.” He had given them their commission, had breathed upon them and given them the Holy Spirit. But there was an absent one. Well, “what man of you having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, does not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go and seek after that which has gone astray?” There was one missing and Jesus must come again! There must be the same salutation of peace. There must be the same blessing bestowed, again, for Thomas must not be left out in the distribution of spiritual gifts. Thomas ought to have sought after Christ, especially after having been absent on the first occasion when He visited them. He surely ought to have said, “My Master came to me and I was not there! I will, therefore, seek Him, be He where He may, and I will tell Him how I regret that I should have missed the golden opportunity of His Presence.” But, Beloved, Thomas did not seek His Master. Therein He was just like we are! It is preventing Grace, Brothers and Sisters–it is Grace that is beforehand with us–even with our faint desires, which comes to us from Jesus Christ. Oh, how our Lord outruns us! Our sense of need is not as swift of foot as His perception of our need! Long before we know we need Him, He understands that we require Him and He comes to us to bless us! It was for one He came, and for that one who did not seek Him! He was found of one who sought Him not! You might have thought that Thomas would have been as well left alone a little while. We would have said, “Well, if he is so obstinate as to lay down such conditions, let him cool a bit! Let him just stop awhile in the cold till he is willing to come in at the door, and not to make conditions that he must come in at the window, or by some way of his own. So let him wait, for beggars ought not to be choosers, nor should impertinent disciples be tolerated.” Yes, but Jesus will tolerate what we will not–and He will put up with us when we cannot put up with our Brothers and Sisters! We have not half as much to bear with from them as He has from us! Though Thomas might thus have been left, and deserved to have been left, yet Jesus came to him because He knew that His coming to him would be much better than letting him stay away. So, Disciple, do not say to yourself, “I cannot come to the Table tonight, I do not feel fit! I shall not strive after fellowship with Christ–I do not feel as if my soul could enjoy it.” No, but it will do you no good to stay away! Will you turn aside from the Master? Will you refuse the symbols of His death? Be not so rash and inconsiderate, I entreat you! Why should He not come to you? Before that bread is broken, you may have experienced a delightful change in the state of your heart and, with pleasing surprise you may be crying out, like Thomas, “My Lord and my God.” And, oh, is it not blessed to think that Christ does not stop till His disciples invite Him? He does not wait for them to get ready for Him! No, He comes to them and meets them–and finds them before they have sought Him! If you are in the mood of Thomas, perhaps you may be insisting upon some signs and wonders, as he did. Know you not that the Master can give you His own sign, unfold His own wonder and bestow upon you such a blessing that your heart shall scarcely have room enough to receive it? His tenderness and His care baffle all our thoughts and expectations!
Though we have already observed it, linger, I beseech you, upon the Master’s matchless condescension. Behold theLord of Life, who had overcome the sharpness of death and passed out of the portals of the tomb in triumph, having spoiled principalities and powers and overthrown sin, death, and Hell–the Son of God, at whose Resurrection angels had attended, glad to wait as servants upon His royalty, that Lord–what do you think? He must strip Himself to gratify a disobedient, unbelieving disciple–yes, He must strip Himself! It were not enough to show His hands–that were kindness–but those hands must be touched and those wounds, themselves, must be probed by a finger all too curious! It would have been profane, had it not been for the Divine Pity that allowed it! The way into His heart must be revealed. Well, well, but He did it. Angels must have been shocked when they heard a man say, “I will not believe unless He baresHis side to me”–still, He did it! Yes, just before He died, you will remember how He laid aside His garments and took a towel and girded Himself, and washed His disciples' feet. Now that He is risen from the dead, He is the same Christ–and if He condescended, then, to wash His disciples feet, He will condescend, now, to bear with a disciple’s bad manners and will even meet him in his infirmities! If they cannot be healed without a sight of His wounded Person, he shall gaze upon His side again! He will do anything for the love of His people. There is no kindness too costly for Christ to show!
Now then, you who, while eagerly longing for His company, hide your face and blush for very shame, do you say, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. My heart is not worthy to receive You as a guest”? True, you are not worthy–neither was Thomas. Yet you shall have His favor and rejoice in the light of His Countenance if you sigh and cry for it! Doubtless you have been very far, during the week, from what you, yourself, wish you had been. Nevertheless, “He will blot out your iniquities like a cloud, and your transgressions like a thick cloud.” Your old friends may have passed you in the street and did not recognize you because you are now so poor, but Jesus knows you! No one, perhaps, knows the privations you have had to put up with, poor Christian. You fancy you are despised and neglected by everybody–perhaps it may be your fancy, yet it is cutting to the heart even to think that your Christian Brothers and Sisters look down upon you! But Jesus never looks down contemptuously on His people. He condescends to stand on their platform and put Himself on a level with them with a sacred familiarity suited to their case. Full often He draws most near with most engaging smiles to those who are in the saddest plight. This is how Jesus is known to act. He never speaks proudly and loftily. His condescension unto His children, like His watchfulness over them, is unvarying! Once more,the Master’s bounty challenges our admiration and our confidence. When Thomas had received what heasked for, you might easily have conjectured that he would be put down in the second class of disciples. Instead of that, however, he was well commended in the Apostleship, and though not present when Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive you the Holy Spirit,” yet on the Day of Pentecost Thomas received the same cloven tongue and the same power as the rest. Indeed, we have reason to believe that Thomas became as earnest an Apostle, as faithful a witness, and as blessed a martyr of the faith of Christ, as either Peter or James! The Master will not stint His goodness because we once and again display our meanness. No, Beloved, He will give us according to our ability to receive. If we are not able to receive, today, He will enlarge our desires and expand our capacities till tomorrow we may be able to receive from His fullness and Grace for Grace! Come, then, you hungry, starving Souls, you Believers who are coming near to penury and spiritual bankruptcy–draw near in the spirit of love to Christ who is as certainly present in this place with us as He was with them in that chamber where the 12 were gathered! Draw near in spirit and in truth to Him and your souls shall be enriched to your own profit and to the Glory of God! And now I have a few words to say about–
II. THE SERVANT.
Thomas, struck with the Master’s knowledge of what had been going on in his heart and overwhelmed with the manifestation of the Master’s Presence and His Power, exclaimed, “My Lord and my God.” These five words are full of meaning. Let me endeavor to interpret them for you. First, they were an expression of faith. Thomas now avows the faithwhich before he had disclaimed. “I will not believe,” he said, “except–except–except.” Now he believes a great deal more than some of the other Apostles did–so he openly avows it. Thomas was the first Divine who ever taught the Deity of Christ from His wounds! Nor has every Divine since then been able to see the Deity of Christ in His wounded Humanity risen from the dead. This Thomas did. He declared the proper Humanity of Christ when he touched Him and he declared His proper Deity when he avowed Him to be both Lord and God! Thomas was slow in arriving at facts, but he had a comprehensive mind–and when he did arrive at a conviction, he grasped it thoroughly in all its bearings. Peter would be impetuous and leap to a conclusion, but Thomas must consider the circumstances, weigh the testimony, try, judge, and prove the evidences before he acknowledged a Truth of God. When his judgment did yield assent, he was firm. There was no shaking. He understood the Truth he adhered to better than others. Delightful in the ears of Christ, my Brothers and Sisters, is the expression of our faith! Let none of us hesitate to go over in our minds our avowal of faith in Him “who lives and was dead, and is alive forevermore.”
It well becomes us, sometimes, to perform what the Catholics call, “acts of faith.” I mean in holy contemplation and quiet meditation, to declare before the Lord that we believe in the facts that are made known to us and the Doctrines that have been delivered to us. We believe that Jesus is the Son of God–forever be His name adored! That He is self-existent and full of Power and Glory! We believe that He laid aside that Glory and became a Man in the likeness of sinful flesh, that He did not disdain to sleep upon His virgin mother’s breast. He lived a life of holiness and died a death of scorn and ignominy. He slept in the tomb and the third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into Heaven. He sits at the right hand of God, even the Father. He reigns over all things for His people, having power over all flesh that He may give Eternal Life to as many as the Father has given Him. He shall shortly come to judge the quick and the dead. Among the sons of men He shall reign. He shall sit upon the Throne of His Father David. Prayer, also, shall be made for Himcontinually and daily shall He be praised!
The short but expressive avowal of faith which Thomas made suggests to me this word of counsel. We should frequently make before God a declaration of our faith in the Deity of our Lord Christ and in all the Glories which surround His Character. Let this be done vocally when you can–or otherwise mentally–for the exercise is profitable. But these words, “My Lord and my God,” sound a little different to me from a simple avowal of faith. It was, as someone has said, like the cry of a dove that at last had found its mate. Poor Thomas! He doubted his Master, but he needed Him and could not be happy without Him! Now he has come flying back and he has found Him, and he seems to put his head, as it were, into the bosom of his Master, and to begin to weep and sigh like a poor child that has lost its mother in the streets of London and, when it is brought back again, cannot say anything else but, “My mother,” and, “my mother,” and,“ my mother,” and feels so happy to think it has found, again, the dear bosom on which to rest! So Thomas seems to say, “I have found You, my Master, my Lord and my God.” He seems to humble himself, as though he would say, “How could I doubt You? Where have I been? What have I been thinking? What has my obstinate mind driven me to? What did I say? What did I ask? How could I be so impertinent? My Lord and my God! You have forgiven it all and in Your Presence I seem to moan it out in those few words. Your silly servant, Your foolish servant, but You, my blessed Master, my condescending Master, ‘my Lord and my God!’” Well now, Beloved, there is something very sweet in this. Though I called it moaning, still there is much music in it. Come now, you who have wandered, come and tell Christ at the Table all about it! Come and tell Him that you are grieved and that you are not so grieved as you ought to be. Tell Him you are sorry that you should not have lived with Him day by day. Your self-reproach may well be keen–
“Wretch that I am to wander thus
In search of vain delights.”
Penitently bewail before Him that you should have been so bewitched as to cleave to things below, and let your God, your Savior, go! Intense feeling commonly finds expression in few words. Silence is sometimes more thrilling than speech. “My Lord and my God” is the breathing of a contrite heart relieved in having found the Grace it needs!
The short prayer, however, “My Lord and my God,” is the outcome of more than one emotion. If it involved a pang, it included an intense pleasure. Was it not a joyous astonishment which begot those words? It was so sweet to Thomasthat he hardly thought his fellow disciples would be able to appreciate so great a wonder. It was too much for himself, so he addresses himself to the Master, as if He, alone, being the greatest marvel, could sympathize with him. “I marvel,” he seemed to say. “I could not have believed it! I saw the traitor kiss Your cheek. I saw You dragged off with staves and lanterns to that lion’s den! I saw You when You were in Pilate’s hall, tried and mocked. I saw You when You were fastened to the tree. I stood there and I saw You bleed and die. I saw Your body taken down and wrapped in spices–and is it the same, the very same? Oh, yes, I recognize You. I know those hands. I took those loaves from them when the thousands were fed in Galilee. I know that face–full many a time have I looked with beaming eyes on that loving Countenance of Yours! I know that side–it is the same side I saw the soldier pierce, and I know it! It is the same! It is Yourself, Yourself, Yourself, the risen Christ! Oh, wonder of wonders! I can say no less! I can say no more! ”‘My Lord and my God!’"
Well now, holy wonder, Beloved, is no mean kind of worship! It is, perhaps, no mean part of the worship of Heaven. I like that verse we sing–
“Then let me mount the starry way,
To the bright worlds of endless day
And sing with rapture and surprise,
Your loving kindness in the skies.”
Will it not be a surprise when we get there? Though, indeed, we shall see nothing in Heaven but what we have been told of on earth for it will be just such a Heaven as God has told us of–yet we shall say that the half was not told us because we did not understand what we heard and could not enter into the meaning of deep spiritual revelations! Oh, what astonishment might seize upon us now if we could really grip the thought–and I hope we shall! “Jesus has loved, and lived, and died for me–and now He lives and pleads for me!” Oh, Believer, get to see Christ now with the optics of your mind! See Him now exalted in the highest heavens, though once rejected of men and, as with astonishment you behold the ineffable splendor of that starry Throne of God, surrounded by ten thousand times ten thousand of the chariots of God, and chariots of messengers of fire, all waiting to obey His Sovereign Will–as you see the Man whose head was once crowned with thorns, from the highest seat that Heaven affords claiming Eternal Sovereignty, bow your head in devout astonishment, fall at His feet and, giving tongue to your rapture, exclaim, “My Lord and my God!”
And did not Thomas, by such an exclamation as this, renew his personal betrothal to Christ and his positive consecration to His service? “My Lord,” he says, “You Are, and I am Your servant. My God, henceforth You Are, and I am Your worshipper as long as I live.” Beloved, years ago some of us were first spiritually espoused to Christ. Gladly would I remember those blessed hours when my young heart went out after Him and His blessed heart of love was revealed to me! We ought not to forget those times, for He does not forget them. He says to Israel, “I remember you, the kindness of your youth, and the love of your espousals.” With what enthusiasm we sung–
“‘Tis done–the great transaction’s done!
I am my Lord’s, and He is mine–
He drew me and I followed on
Glad to obey the voice Divine.”
Perhaps many years have passed over you since then, but whether they have been many or few, I am sure we have not been invariably true to those vows and resolutions. Our memory of Him has not been equal to His mindfulness of us. Now, if the Lord should come to you afresh and give you a choice season of fellowship with Him, would it not be a most suitable response to give yourself up to Him afresh? Should we not often do this? Would not the freshness of close fellowship be peculiarly suitable for the renewal of our Covenant with our Lord, and of our consecration of ourselves to His service? On that night you were baptized, you could sing sincerely–
“High Heaven which heard the solemn vow,
That vow renewed shall daily hear,
Till in life’s latest hour I bow,
And bless in death a bond so dear.”
Oh, that God’s Holy Spirit would enable you now to say in your soul, “Jesus, the despised of men, whom the great ones of this world know not, in whose blessed Person and redemptive work they will not believe, I take You, my Master. I acknowledge You to be my Lord. Your people shall be my people. Your God and Father shall be my God. Your blood shall be my confidence, and Your Law my rule. Your love shall quicken my love. Your life shall be my example. Your Glory shall be the one objective for which I strive. You, O Christ, are ‘my Lord and my God.’” So shall your faith abound and all your Graces flourish!
Do I hear some timid voice from this congregation whispering a complaint? “Ah, there is nothing for me! He is speaking to the disciples. When the doors are shut, I am shut outside as a stranger. There is nothing for me. I am a sinner.” Oh, but I tell you, if you will but knock, Jesus Christ will come outside to you! The doors are not shut to keep out poor sinners from the Presence of the Savior! Do you need Jesus to reveal Himself to you? Exalted in the highest heavens, He looks down upon you now! His voice is calling you, “Come unto Me, and I will give you rest.” Oh, poor Sinner, if you cannot put your finger into the print of the nails, yet believe that Jesus died! Then trust Him and rely upon His merits. Cast yourself flat at His feet! Stay yourself upon His Passion and Atonement, and you shall be saved–saved now–saved without a moment’s delay! So shall all these other joys be your, for you, too, shall be numbered with the family and you shall feast upon the children’s meat, and be partakers of all the privileges of the sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty!