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My Lord and My God

When Thomas exclaims, “My Lord and my God,” it is a pivotal moment in both Thomas’ life and John’s gospel, and it is all the more remarkable because Jesus hardly does anything. Instead, as Thomas sees the risen Lord, the full weight of the other disciples’ eye-witness testimony crashes down on him, and he makes an extraordinary confession of faith. Herman Ridderbos comments on Thomas’ confession, writing that

The confession “my Lord and my God” conveys Thomas's deep shame and reverence at seeing Jesus’ divine glory, a glory surpassing all human standards. It also reflects the strong personal sense with which Thomas yields to Jesus. In the combination of these two titles (sometimes with the addition of the personal pronoun) some scholars refer to passages in which the psalmist similarly turns to God (e.g., Ps 35:24). Others have viewed the two predicates as descriptive of Jesus’ human and divine modes of being. But in Thomas's spontaneous exclamation we do not have a liturgical or dogmatic formulation. The case was rather that the usual address of respect, “my lord” (cf. 13:13), was not sufficient. For what, at the sight of Jesus, filled Thomas with awe he had only one word left: “my God.” For who could do what Jesus did and thus as the one who was pierced appear in omnipotence but he with whom God had united himself in this manner?[1]

The point is that Thomas had nothing else that he could say in light of what he saw because his Lord, with whom he had eaten and from whom he had learned for years, was undeniably also his God. His stubborn refusal to believe eye-witness testimony melted at the sight of the one who was pierced yet also appeared in omnipotence and omniscience before him. And such will be the response of every person, willingly or not, at the physical sight of the Lord Jesus when he comes again (cf. Phil 2:9-11).

And what Thomas experienced personally as a pivotal moment in his life also served as a pivotal moment in the unfolding of John’s gospel. Continuing to comment on Thomas’ confession, Ridderbos writes,

But this does not alter the remarkable fact that here, for the first time in this Gospel, Jesus is addressed in the absolute sense as “my God” and that this lofty word at the end of the Gospel comes from the lips of “unbelieving” Thomas. … In this confession of Thomas, however personally it is formulated, the Fourth Gospel reaches its climax and returns to its starting point in the Prologue: the coming and work of Jesus the Christ, the Word that was from the beginning with God and was God has become flesh and has dwelled among us. Thomas himself is a paradigm for the fact that only the superiority of Jesus' historical self-revelation, with many a fall, brought the disciples to the confession of Jesus as Lord and God. … Jesus' resurrection is the end and climax of that historical self-revelation. It is only in the light of the resurrection and on seeing the Risen One that Thomas surrenders and that the disciples begin to understand who in truth Jesus was and the authority with which he has spoken to them and in the works he has done.[2]

Perhaps it is because of Thomas’ stubborn unbelief that he is the first disciples to confess what the readers of John’s gospel have known since the prologue: Jesus is God. Importantly, though, Ridderbos points out that Jesus’ full self-revelation, including both his humiliation and exaltation, was required in order to draw out this good confession from Thomas. It is only because Christ was raised on the third day that we (have reason to) believe what he said and did during his earthly ministry.

For the disciples, Jesus’ appearances were critical for confirming faith, but it’s interesting that even Peter, as he writes to subsequent generations of disciples, acknowledges that we are in a better place (cf. 2 Peter 1:16-21). Even though Peter heard the very voice of God and saw with his own eyes the risen Lord, yet “we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed.” We have a reliable testimony of the risen Lord in the Scriptures, which guides us to the same confession as Thomas as we behold Christ: my Lord and my God. Let’s treasure the testimony that we have, and guard the good deposit for generations to come.

[1] Herman N. Ridderbos, The Gospel According to John: A Theological Commentary, trans. John Vriend, Eerdmans Classic Biblical Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2018), 647–48.

[2] Ridderbos, 648.

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