When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you.' After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.' When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.' But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.
So often when we read this story (almost always the week after Easter) we focus on the second half of the story - when Jesus returned to the disciples a second time, Thomas was present, and he asked for proof in the form of getting to touch Jesus and feel the holes in hands. For his trouble, Thomas earned the title "doubting Thomas" - a phrase which entered not just the church but our secular vernacular.
I don't think Thomas necessarily deserves the bad rap he always seems to get. Let's focus for a moment on the first half of this story. Note where the disciples are - hiding inside, with the doors locked, cowering in fear. They had abandoned Jesus when he was arrested, crucified, buried - and they are still abandoning him by staying inside instead of continuing his mission. But where is Thomas? All the scriptures tell us is that he is not there.
I like to think that Thomas isn't there because he is out continuing the ministry Jesus tasked them with. Perhaps he was with the women who found the empty tomb and first preached the resurrection. We don't know what he was doing, but we do know what he wasn't doing - he wasn't hiding in fear.
Let us take this lesson from Thomas - that even with the world seems harsh, even with the ministry seems hard, we shouldn't shut ourselves off from the world and hide in fear. We should, instead, be out sharing the story of Jesus with the world.
God who knows our fears and insecurities, help us to ignore our instinct to hide ourselves and our faith. Gives us the strength to go out into this world to share your love, regardless of the consequences. Amen.