I don’t watch much television, but I do enjoy the British detective shows on PBS and TVO.
One thing a good detective always does, when knocking on a door, is to show his or her I.D. They want to assure the person they are questioning that they really are detectives, and that have the authority to question them.
I.D. is important in our culture. We are sometimes asked to show our I.D.–checking in for a flight, crossing the border, perhaps cashing a cheque. We are advised to use complex passwords for our computer files and on-line accounts, because identity theft is a big problem.
In our main scripture for Sunday, May 4 (John 20:19-29), Thomas, one of Jesus’s disciples, asks for Jesus’s I.D. Thomas’s friends have just told him the astonishing news that their dead master is actually alive, and that they have seen him. But Thomas is skeptical. He demands proof from the person they have seen that he is really Jesus.
For this, the church has often looked down on “doubting Thomas.” Why couldn’t Thomas have just “believed” in Jesus, on the testimony of the other disciples alone?
But perhaps we can learn something from Thomas. Could it sometimes be wise to make sure that the “Jesus” we meet in our reading, singing, preaching, praying, and worshipping is the real Jesus? Do persons or spirits claiming to be from Jesus ever come to us but are really imposters? If so, what would Jesus’s authentic, irrefutable I.D. be?
Here skeptical Thomas can help us. He is very particular about the kind of I.D. he needs to see from Jesus in order to be convinced of his identity. And the I.D. Jesus shows him goes to the heart of who Jesus was in his earthly life, and who Jesus remains today as our resurrected Lord.