One of my favorite paintings is Caravaggio’s “The Incredulity of Saint Thomas.” Thomas is shown sticking his finger fully into the risen Christ’s side. You look closely at the painting (if you dare) and the finger is literally under a flap of Jesus’ skin. But, what I have sometimes failed to see because I am intrigued by Jesus willingness to be examined, is that two other disciples are leaning in, watching what Thomas is doing. Perhaps they, too, have incredulity.
That word, incredulity, is well chosen for the painting. We rarely use the word today. Instead we often say that a situation is “incredible,” that is, the thing itself lacks believability. It has a credibility problem. This can be said about a book by Steven King or a movie about Harry Potter. The work has a problem. We don’t trust it. Fiction is supposed to be credible. It is enough to make an author pull his hair out!
The word, incredulity, puts the shoe back on the right foot. Thomas and the others have a problem. They are not capable of accepting the mystery of the Risen Christ. They dismiss its joy, the way we often fail to allow ourselves the luxury of immersing ourselves in a good book or movie.
Easter afternoon, my wife insisted that we all go out to a movie to relax. We saw Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Rope.” No, it wasn’t a modern day thriller, like Fast and Furious 14, where you are expected to believe that Vin Diesel can drive his car out of the 30th floor of one building and land safely on the 27th floor of the adjacent skyscraper. No, Hitchcock simply required us to believe that a locked trunk with a body in it could sit in the middle of a room with a dinner party going on all around it without anyone being curious enough to open the trunk.
So Jesus comes into a dinner party filled with people who just saw his dead body being placed in a tomb. Isn’t anyone there going to be curious enough to go over and stick his finger into Jesus’ wounded side. But wait. Its not just a book or a movie that the disciples are finding themselves having a hard time believing. It is instead, the mystery of life, and death, and God, and our hopes to see our loved ones again after we go, and yes, our incredulity that we ourselves might enjoy a life after we die. Admit it, didn’t you have an incredulity problem this past week. Haven’t you had doubts? I’m asking you to own a really big problem. We all have a certain willingness to suspend belief for a little bit and enter into the world of Harry Potter or Alfred Hitchcock. But we all have an incredulity problem when it comes to living our lives trusting in the Risen Christ and our hope of a world to come.
Last week, I heard someone say, “We clergy are not explainers of mysteries. We are stewards of mysteries.” (see I Corinthians 4:1) We have been trusted by Christ to stick our fingers into his side. We have also been trusted by God to say to the world around us, “I believe in the most wonderful thing. I can not explain this mystery — but, there is life beyond the grave.”