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The Incredulity of Thomas

THE INCREDULITY OF THOMAS BY CARAVAGGIO (1571-1610) 
Caravaggio’s painting of the remarkable moment of Thomas's doubt leaves one with many thoughts. The first thing that struck me is that Thomas appears being led by Jesus to place the hand on the wound in his side. He is almost reluctant as evidenced by his one hand gesture. He is not grabbing Jesus. Instead he remains slightly distant. The other disciples here whilst examining the wound closely as well as Thomas function more as an encouragement to help him look at that which he had wished for. Thomas's bold declaration prior to the appearance of Christ appears to have now turned into shame. Confronted with the evidence of the risen Lord, the weight of the appearance appears too much to bear. Caravaggio seems to say that the doubting man cannot ultimately face the truth he seeks. It is almost too heavy for him. Therefore he needs Christ's help to make sense of reality.

Which brings me to a related and more obvious second truth in the painting. Thomas's eyes appear dark and blind. It does not look like he can see the wound. He seems to be looking straight ahead not at the wound. Perhaps its not just the shame that demand the disciples' encouraging push and the Lord's careful hand. It is simply that Thomas is helpless in his state of blindness. The point surely is that those who base all knowledge on things that they can see, as the world system often encourage us to, in the end see nothing at all. In the end it seems the most important truths are those truths we cannot see. Until we appreciate that we will remain blind in our self created knowledge. And here again the truth of the Bible is so true : by God's light we see light (Psalm 36:9). 

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