That same Sunday evening the students had locked themselves inside the house and barred the doors. They were afraid of the Jews. Nevertheless, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said, “Peace!” Then Jesus showed them his hands and his side, and his students were elated to see him. Jesus said, “Peace! As God sent me, I’m sending you.” Then he blew on them and told them, “Be the wind of God.” If you forgive anyone’s wrongdoing, they will be forgiven. If you don’t they won’t.”
Tom, however, (he’s the one of the twelve everyone called the double) wasn’t there when Jesus came, and when the others told him about it, he said, “I don’t believe you. Not unless I see the nail marks on his hands with my own fingers, and feel his side with my own hand.”
The next week, the students were in the house again, and this time Tom was there. And again, in spite of the doors being shut, Jesus appeared among them and said, “Peace!” Then he said to Tom, Put your fingers here. See my hands. And put your hand here. Feel my side. Don’t remain skeptical. Believe it!”
Tom said, “My God, it is you!”
Then Jesus said, “Seeing is believing indeed! But those who haven’t seen and who still embrace me have it even better.”
Jesus did a lot of other things, too. His students saw it all. But they’re not written down here. What’s included here ought to be enough to convince you that Jesus is the Chosen One. And if you by him, you’ll really be living.
There are two ways to believe something.
First, there is the way we typically think of believing. We believe that a proposition is true. It’s a matter of saying yes or no about something. That it corresponds to a particular sequence of events that is empirically verifiable. It’s a mind thing. That’s the “seeing is believing” part. Tom won’t affirm the fact until he can see it for himself. And why should we blame him? Most rational people would say the same.
But there is a second kind of believing, which has nothing to do with propositions. It’s not about a mental acknowledgment of fact. It’s about orientation. Believing in this second sense, is orienting one’s life toward something that may or may not be a present reality, but which is nevertheless compelling.
An example. Chocolate. In the first sense, I can say yes or no, that chocolate is or isn’t the most delicious flavor on earth. I can base my opinion on the empirical evidence of having myself tasted thousands of different things. In the second sense, though, I can believe in chocolate by orienting my life around it, making everything I do about chocolate. Strive for chocolate. Look forward to savoring chocolate at every opportunity. You can’t argue with me about this kind of believing. It’s the way I live. Ask a kid eating a chocolate bar if she believes in chocolate. The question makes no sense. It’s not something to be believed. It’s something to be eaten.
In this scene, Jesus says that to believe in him in the first sense, to mentally assent to his existence in whatever way your mind is able to come to a favorable conclusion – that’s fine as far as it goes. What’s even better is to reorient your life by him. And for that, you don’t need to have seen anything.