From the very beginning, Jesus was heading toward the Cross. When Jesus was just eight days old, Simeon warned and prepared Mary for the conflict that would eventually lead to the Cross, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:34-35).
The certainty of the Cross is stressed in all four gospel accounts. Luke tells us that “as the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (9:51). What had been on the heart of Jesus from the beginning was now becoming obvious to everyone. The explanation that Jesus gave to the disciples privately, “that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, that he must be killed and on the third day be raised from life,” was becoming obvious publicly. Jesus was a wanted man. The last time Jesus was in Jerusalem, during the celebration of Hanukkah, the Jews picked up stones to stone him “for blasphemy,” because they charged, “you, a mere man, claim to be God” (John 10:33).
Is it any wonder then that Thomas looked at the return visit to the region as their last? There is a fatalism in Thomas’ commitment, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” There is no heroism here, only resignation, as if to say, “We’ve come this far, we might as well go all the way.” He is pessimistic, but loyal and committed to seeing this cause right through to its bitter end. Thomas’ commitment is born out of habit and tradition rather than faith and trust. He did not comprehend the inevitability of the Cross. It was beyond him to apply the teaching of Isaiah 53 or Psalm 22 to Jesus, nor did he fathom the meaning of John’s declaration, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Thomas pledged loyalty, but his heart was not in it. Instead of rebuking Jesus the way Peter did, Thomas advocated martyrdom.
Today’s followers of Jesus are not immune to the pessimistic attitude of Thomas. We too, can be guilty of commitment born of habit rather than faith, and routine rather than understanding. Thomas pledged his duty, but not his devotion. His loyalty was not obedience but a matter of resignation based on skepticism. There is a measure of Thomas’ frustration in every pastoral burn-out and disgruntled Christian worker. We see his attitude in the zealot who has turned ministry into a crusade. We feel his pessimism among Christians who have forgotten Resurrection Hope and are only living for today. Christ has not called us to bear a cross fatalistically but faithfully.
May God give you the grace and wisdom to see beyond your immediate circumstances and to rejoice in your Kingdom work. May you have an attitude in your service that produces joy not from what you do but from the victory of the Cross. May you be reminded that you are not following a martyr to the bitter end but a Savior who has promised you eternal life.