John, Chapter 20, verses 19 – 31
There is some interesting translation debate amongst bible scholars as to whether what we read today as ‘believe’ would in fact be better translated as ‘trust’. The usual prologues into John’s gospel suggest that the purpose of John’s gospel is that hearers will either come to ‘believe’ or continue to ‘believe’ that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. Thus it follows that the passage we have today is about whether or not Thomas ‘believes’.
If, however, we embrace ‘trust’ rather than ‘believe’ there is suddenly a slightly more nuanced version of what we hear today. Jesus’ words to Thomas become: “Do not be distrusting but trusting” and “Are you trusting because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to trust.”
How does the concept of trust illuminate the Gospel differently? We live in a world where it is sometimes difficult to trust, yet there are also some who are relying on the trust economy to keep themselves going, even to thrive. Behind where I live there is a farm that has a shed at the end of its lane selling eggs with a box for people to deposit their payment into. Some people are able to open their homes in an AirBnB style, this requires trust. Some of us may even be considering how we might help Ukrainian refugees we find in our area, offering our support, relying on trust.
Within this economy of trust, there is also an element of risk. Jesus’s disciples in the wake of his crucifixion were at great risk. Jesus doesn’t promise that their ministry will be risk free, but he still asks them to trust. Cooperation with him requires trust, what he is asking of them brings risk. One can’t exist without the other but we should be prompted to ask ourselves today: If we neglect to grow our trust in Jesus by avoiding risk, how can we possibly cooperate with Jesus’ post-resurrection ministry?
Jesus does what he can to establish a trust relationship with Thomas, he offers his scars and Thomas sees and trusts. This is the start, and the trust relationship is nurtured from hereon in. What Jesus demonstrates here is the evolution of trust through relationship with Thomas. Trust is not a one-time, absolute assent, but a relational virtue that can be nurtured and grown. Let us use Thomas’ example of trust today to show how we might enjoy this relationship growth based on trust too.
Revd Hannah Lane