On our recent trip to South India, we spent a couple of days in Chennai before coming home and went to St. Thomas’s Mount. Tradition has it that Thomas took Christianity to India and St. Thomas’s Mount is the place where he is commemorated. It was interesting to see a very European looking statue of Thomas garlanded in a typically Indian style – but also look a little way down the hill and see laid out in stones, the words for which Thomas has become so famous, ‘My Lord and my God’. Thomas is known for his doubting, perhaps unfairly, because Thomas just strikes me as a really practical guy – but doubt turned to faith. My Lord and my God! There is, of course, also a statue of Thomas, and Thomas is holding a spear because that is to believed to be how he died. Thomas had his moments of reality, his moments of doubt, but was a man of faith. Are we Thomas?
Or are we Peter? Peter, who was so often there at the forefront, Peter with the tendency to put his foot in it, Peter who always had something to say, who declared his undying loyalty to Jesus, and then denied him. Peter, who stepped out of the boat to walk on water, Peter, brought by his brother to Jesus, Peter, who fearlessly preached on the day of Pentecost. Are we Peter?
Or Judas, Judas, who sells his love for cash? Judas, the idealist, the nationalist. Or the Romans, meting out violence to ensure that they could keep order, but really just doing their job, following orders? Or are we as one of the religious leaders, just trying to keep the lid on things, to make sure that good order was followed, to stand up for what is right, and concerned about way-out preaching that risks all sort of damage to the respectable institution?
We could go on picking out characters from the Holy Week and Easter story – and those who don’t appear in the re-telling of the Easter Day events – like Pilate, Herod, Caiphas, - and perhaps folk like Nicodemus, Jairus, Zacchaeus, Bartimaeus – would all have been there, hearing the rumours, wondering what they meant. I think it is, not just interesting, but a useful part of our own spiritual journey, to think our way into the Easter story, wondering how those people, whose names have become so familiar, will have felt, what they will have been doing and, perhaps, if we want to be more imaginative, thinking about which character we might have been, had we been there, and how we would have reacted.