Thomas is our twin. We, like him, need something tangible, something to touch through which to realize the risen Savior. For Thomas, Jesus invited him not only to touch the marks left by the nails of crucifixion, but additionally Thomas was invited to thrust his hand into the spear-opened side of Jesus. At the cross that soldier-directed spear guaranteed that Jesus was dead, for this professional killer thrust his instrument of war into the heart of Jesus. This is what Thomas touched: the mark of death that now remained upon the Christ who stood before him alive. Here was the mark of death upon the resurrected Christ. Thomas touched the place linked with both Christ’s death and resurrection.
Of the Gospel writers only John records: But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. (19:34). Thomas touched that place from which blood and water had issued—the blood and water of the crucified Savior. In his first epistle John would then apply to us this bloody water: This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ—not by water alone, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies to this, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water, and the blood—and these three are in agreement. (5:6-8) This is the one who came, St. John here writes, thus informing us that this is now how the Christ has come to every Christian: by water and blood. And to show that this is a reference to Holy Baptism, the apostle adds that united with the blood and the water is the Holy Spirit, the person of the Holy Trinity who is uniquely associated with the work of Holy Baptism, the One bestowing new birth.
Touching Christ’s side Thomas “owned” Christ’s death and resurrection, and so do we. Saint Paul would thus write: …having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. (Col. 2:12). So completely do we “own” Christ’s death and resurrection in our Baptism that, as St. Paul here explains, we have in Baptism been united with His burial and resurrection.
Thomas is our twin. We like him have our doubts and turmoil in this life. But even as Thomas touched the place of water and blood—the place linked to Christ’s death and resurrection—so we—twins of Thomas—have also touched that place of water and blood in Holy Baptism, and we believe. When Thomas would go on to boldly preach the Gospel of Jesus he still would have doubts and turmoil, but he would return to the reality of the death and resurrection of Jesus, a death and resurrection that he tangibly touched and believed in. We too as we live out our lives encounter doubts and turmoil, but we, as twins of Thomas, realize that we have tangibly touched Christ’s death and resurrection as we have been brought to Him in Holy Baptism, where our bodies were lovingly touched with the water and blood of Christ’s salvation.
P.S. The Greek word for the “side” of Christ is identical to the Greek word used in the Septuagint for the “side” of Adam. Even as the bride of Adam came from his side, so the bride of the new Adam comes from His side; she is created by the washing of water with the word. (Eph. 5:26). From a sermon based on 1 John 5:4-12 Martin Luther preached : “What makes Baptism so precious, so holy and essential is the mingling and the union of the water with the blood of Christ; to be Baptized into Christ with water is really to be washed and cleansed with the blood of Christ.”