Jerusalem lies in a black and bloody heap. The doubting apostle Thomas is preaching the gospel in India when news of the fall arrives. He rends his clothes and with his face to the floor asks "Why?" The answer comes through the wisdom of a little boy: "I AM the Whence and How and Why of all events that ever were or will take place." "Thomas" is a faith-building poem for all us "aged skeptics."
Jerusalem had fallen to
The Roman torch, and Titus slew
Ten thousand fearless Jews, and burned
The holy city black and turned
The house of God to ashes. "No!"
He snapped, "I don't believe it's so."
The news had taken eighty days
To reach, along the Persian ways,
The coast of India. The old
Apostle Thomas had been told
The story by a caravan
From Babylon. "One Arab man,"
He thought, "could get it wrong." But then
The ships arrived and all the men
From Egypt said the same: "Rome crushed
Mount Zion like a fig, and hushed
The Zealot bellowing for war."
The old apostle pushed the door
And stepped inside the quiet room,
Where Christ had come and lifted gloom
And doubt for twenty years gone by.
Ten hundred times the question Why
Had risen — like a lust — inside
His mind: Why his friend Judas lied
And killed himself? Why James the son
Of thunder died when he had done
No wrong, and Simon who denied
The Lord went free? Why Stephen cried
Out truth like Gabriel and got
His head crushed in, and not
One person went to court? And why
One night a brutal band should tie
His hands and gag his mouth and sell
Him as a slave to Gunabel,
A Hindu Chief in Vindahi
Four thousand miles from Galilee?
And every time the question rose
In Thomas' mind, the Lord who chose
Him came, still living from the dead,
Stretched out his hand and said,
"Come, my beloved skeptic, put
Your finger here, or feel my foot,
Or touch my side, and do not doubt.
If I was dead three days, burst out
The tomb, slew death, defeated hell,
Turned gore into a gushing well
Of everlasting life, then I,
Dear Thomas, know the answer Why.
And even more: I AM the Whence
And How and Why of all events
That ever were, or will take place,
The golden seal of sovereign Grace:
My friends bear this insignia
From Galilee to India."
The little servant boy stepped in
Behind and stood, as he had been
Instructed, quietly to see
If there was any need that he
Could meet for Thomas as he prayed.
The old apostle knelt and laid
His forehead on the black dirt floor,
Took hold his only shirt and tore
It with such force the little lad
Began to shake that something bad
Had happened to his lord. And then
He heard the old man pray, "How can
Your kingdom come, your will be done
On earth, when godless Rome has won?
What has become of Matthew, James,
And Simon, Philip, John — such names,
O God — and then five thousand more
That gathered at the temple door,
Not with a lamb to sacrifice
But in the name of Jesus Christ?
Are these all burned and slain,
And I alone of all remain?"
The little servant boy was so
Distressed to hear his master's woe
That he forgot himself and said,
"O Papa Thoma, they're not dead!"
The old man lifted up his head,
His wrinkled face was wet and red
From weeping. "Come here, boy, how do
You know they are not dead?" "It's you,
And all the stories you have told
Us. Like the one where you were bold,
And said to Gunabel, ‘I will
Not serve your feeble gods until
The whole Arabian Sea is dry
And every star falls from the sky.'
And he put you in jail, and there
The Lord came down and showed you where
The nail went through his hand, and gave
You hope and God-like power to save
The jailer's son from his disease.
And Gunabel, who never frees
A prisoner, brought you out and said,
‘If you can heal my wife who's red
With fever here tonight, I'll give
You life and let you preach and live
Your Jesus anywhere you please.'
And when you prayed for her and laid
Your hand on her red face, God made
Her well and spread the Gospel all
The way from here to Veraval.
O, Papa Thoma, don't you see,
If Jesus did all that for me
In India, I'm sure he'd do
The same for boys in Rome, aren't you?"
The aged skeptic marvelled at
The boy. "Young man," he said, "combat
With unbelief has been my food
Since I was just your age. You're good.
Nobody showed me how to fight
When I was young like you. One night
My brother couldn't get his breath.
I never will forget his death
Beside me in the bed. I screamed
And screamed for daddy till it seemed
The sky would crack. He never came.
Since then, it seems, I have been lame:
My faith walks with a limp; I trip
More easily than most, and slip
On less; and stand upright again
With help — like you. You know, most men
Don't have a gift like yours, young man.
Can you hold out your hand?" "I can.
But why?" The old man smiled, "The Lord
Has met me in this room, restored
My faith a thousand times with truth.
This time he came near as a youth,
And I just thought I'd like to see
The nail prints in his hand."
Stood up and put his arm around
The boy and walked out on the mound
Beside the deep Arabian Sea,
"You're right, the Word of God is free!
And far beyond this ocean deep
The Lord of all the earth will keep
His promise. You are right. This Word
Will run triumphant till it's heard
In every nation on the earth. And then
The end will come, and God knows when."
This is the light of candle one.
It spreads like fire from sun to sun.
Lord, let our children fuel the flame
And even doubters spread your fame.