On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews… Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.
John 20:19a, 24
Where was Thomas that first night and why was he not locked up for fear with all the others?
Fear of the Parties in Power does not mean there was any real danger. For all we know from our point in history, perhaps literally every Jew is Jerusalem was home enjoying a family meal and avoiding leavened products. Maybe they thought they’d finally done away with this trouble-maker and his disciples were only so much dust. The Romans didn’t care: they did their job and killed the guy, albeit a bit unwillingly. I don’t think they would want to risk much trouble on the feast either.
In the lessons from Acts this week at Mass, it would seem that Peter has to remind Caiaphas about the guy he had killed. I don’t think anyone cared. Yet the disciples had seen their master slain. I don’t think they were illogically afraid. Yet we can never know how in sync they were with what was actually going on in Jerusalem at that time. It seems possible that their emotions were getting away from them. That crazy woman was getting annoying about her gardener. Matthew says when they saw him, “they worshipped him” but, even then, “some doubted”.
So where was Thomas?
The Church Fathers posit the “earthliness” or, if you will, “carnal” nature of Thomas’ lack of faith. And I’m ok with that. But let me read that same claim a bit further.
Would not the same man who says “Unless I see and touch him” also say “Unless I see a soldier coming at me, I’m not going to worry about it”? When the Apostles were hiding out, is it not possible that, seeing how scared they were, Thomas did the manly (maybe brash and stupid as well) thing and went out to grab some food? Later, when Luke and Cleopus get back from Emmaus, “The Eleven” are all there, so he was only out for a short while. “We need food: someone has to get it and I’m not going to let my fear run away with me…” sounds like the same bro who would later say, “I’m not going to let my false hopes run away with me.”
This is the Thomas Option then: to not hide out for fear of Jews or Romans. To get out and do something in the service of the Community that might get you killed and know that Jesus was talking to us when he said “blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”