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Oh, Thomas!

March 19, 2021 • Life for Leaders

Note from Mark:

It’s my pleasure to introduce you to a new Life for Leaders writer, Delano Sheffield. I got to know Sheff, as he’s called, when he became one of my students in a doctoral cohort I lead on faith, work, economics, and vocation. I was impressed with Sheff’s excellent mind and big heart. Professionally, he is both an engineer and a pastor, someone who lives each day the integration of faith and work. I have learned much from Sheff through his writings in my cohort. I know he’ll be a blessing to you through his Life for Leaders devotions. – Mark

Scripture – John 20:25 (NET)

The other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “Unless I see the wounds from the nails in his hands, and put my finger into the wounds from the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe it!”

Focus

Thomas and others remind us that we can have expectations—but even if they are fulfilled exactly as we hoped, there will always be so much more.

Devotion

My brother was my idol. He was much older than I was, so when he would return home it evoked the Tolkien-ish feel of a hobbit coming home from a long journey. My celebration began before his car turned the corner. The foreign engine sound affirmed my assumptions that it wasn’t one of the neighbor’s cars. One time he entered the house in military gear. While all my expectations were that he was staying for a while,  I was surprised to learn that there were oil fields on fire in some place called Kuwait and he would be leaving again. Iraq in the nineties was not my friend.

Expectations weave themselves into our future. It’s not wrong to have expectations; rather a nod to how creative we are as human beings. We dream our futures in color. The discipline is in learning how not to let our disrupted expectations become disillusionment.

Jesus’s incarnation culminates in a lot of disruption in expectations for everyone. A typically quiet Bethlehem has to deal with shepherds and paparazzi. Zealot disciples get a different type of overthrow of government. Task-driven disciples are handed new lists to follow. Male disciples get reminders that image-bearing includes women. Pharisees get to reconsider grace. Everyone has expectations for death. And yes, Thomas – called doubter by others’ expectations – gets his expectations fulfilled, and so much more.

It would be easy to criticize Thomas’s expectations or the people of his time without the broader context of remembering that they were a people in anticipation. And not simply anticipation, but one of expectation while also in perpetual oppression, this time under the thumb of Rome. The present circumstances do not happen without the past molding us. Moreover, it is hard to be overly critical of Thomas when God the Son gives Thomas exactly what he asked for. Thomas asks in the same reflective way John looks back in his epistle: to see with their eyes and to touch with their hands. Sometimes we will get to see exactly what we expect, but when we do it will mean so much more than what we expected it to mean.

Jesus fulfills Thomas’s expectation in time, arriving some eight days later (John 20:26) and revealing to him that even when Jesus grants what you want the implications are much broader than you could have imagined. It is Jesus showing up after dying on a cross that demonstrates that everything he said about coming to save all of creation was true. It is the risen Savior in glory who demonstrates that a perfect Savior can have holes in his hands and side and still be perfect.  It is the perfect Son of God, present in our expectations, who pushes us to see that there is so much more beyond the “unless I see the…” type of mentality we try to live.

Oh Thomas…those weren’t just his wounds you touched.

Those aren’t his holes you touch alone.

They are ours.

Ours.

Reflect

Can you think of a time when you had expectations for God that were not fulfilled in the way you had hoped? How did you respond? What did you think and feel?

What are you hoping for and how will you include God’s will in those hopes?

What does disillusionment do to you?

What expectations do you have for Jesus right now?

Act

Set some time aside to reflect on any disillusionment, hopes, and expectations you have and what Jesus desires for you. Share what you see with your small group or a wise friend.

You may be able to answer the last question above right away, without much reflection. That’s fine. But you may want to set aside some time to think and pray about your expectations for Jesus.

Prayer

God, where we dream, please help us hold to our dreams where they remind us of all that you can do. And help us hold loosely to relinquish those dreams should you decide to do what our eyes have not seen and our hands have not touched. Let your Gospel be the basis for what we learn about balance. Make our labor endure until faith becomes sight. Amen.

P.S. from Mark

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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Gift of Unanswered Questions


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One thought on “Oh, Thomas!

  1. Judith Oglesby says:

    I find these devotionals for serious biblical scholars really good . The singularly focus reads give perspective and insights to the reader. I found the Lent subject matters most thought provoking; Thomas came to see his doubts dispelled by Christ Himself! We are asked to consider who really crucified our Lord. And more was offered to us. Thank you, writers.
    Judith Oglesby
    Dallas
    Ordained Presbyterian

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