Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
– John 20:26-28 (ESV)
Caravaggio’s The Incredulity of Saint Thomas is a startling painting, which perhaps explains why it is one of his most replicated works. Twenty-two copies are known to exist.
Here is Christ, fully God and fully man. The absence of the customary halo emphasizes His corporeality. The nail-scarred hands and open side emphasize His divine power over death. This painting is at the same time wondrous and grotesque. Designed to move us when we see it, it presents us with evidence of both Christ’s violent death and His supernatural resurrection. Jesus guides Thomas’s hand into the wound, as He also guides the disciple’s heart from skepticism to belief.
Caravaggio worked to give us a composition that would not only depict the moment when the disciple stuck his finger into Christ’s wound, but also give viewers a kind of visceral experience on viewing it, as though we are there with the two others looking over Thomas’s shoulder.
It is no small thing to believe in Christ, because to believe in Him is to believe in resurrection. In a world where 100 out of 100 people die, resurrection defies logic to the point that the resurrection of one person becomes immediately relevant to us all. Easter reminds us that while resurrection may be hard to imagine, it is a more powerful certainty for the believer than death itself.
John says he wrote his gospel so that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing we would have life in His name (John 20:31). What a glorious purpose. Here’s a beautiful thought to go with it: The risen Christ bears on His resurrected body the wounds by which we are healed (1 Peter 2:24).
What do you believe?