Here is the context of Jesus' statement to Thomas:
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." (John 20:25-27)What then do we make of Jesus' appearance to the disciples? Was he appearing to them in the same body that had been crucified?
If he did, then how could Thomas have put his hand into Jesus' side? If it was Jesus' physical body then such a hole in his side would be flowing with blood, intestines and other internal tissues. Certainly it wouldn't simply be a hole that would allow a hand to be inserted into it, if it were a living physical body.
Furthermore, if Jesus was appearing in his physical body then he could not have gotten through the locked door:
Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them... (John 20:19)Rather, Jesus was obviously appearing to his disciples in an angel-like physical form they could see with their physical eyes - a form that could be manipulated by the power of the Supreme Being in order for Jesus to show himself, and illustrate that the spirit-person lives on after the death of the physical body.
Just consider how angels have appeared variously in the texts of the Bible:
There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. (Exodus 3:2)
Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path through the vineyards, with walls on both sides. (Numbers 22:24)
When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.” (Judges 6:12)
When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the LORD, he exclaimed, “Alas, Sovereign LORD! I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!” (Judges 6:22)
When the angel of the LORD did not show himself again to Manoah and his wife, Manoah realized that it was the angel of the LORD. (Judges 13:21)
The angel of the LORD was then at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. (2 Samuel 24:16)
The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” (1 Kings 19:7)
The angel of the LORD was then standing at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. (1 Chron 21:16)
Then the angel of the LORD ordered Gad to tell David to go up and build an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. (1 Chron 21:18)
While Araunah was threshing wheat, he turned and saw the angel; his four sons who were with him hid themselves. (1 Chron 21:20)
Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! (Daniel 3:28)
He struggled with the angel and overcame him; he wept and begged for his favor. He found him at Bethel and talked with him there— (Hosea 12:4)
And they reported to the angel of the LORD who was standing among the myrtle trees (Zechariah 1:11)
While the angel who was speaking to me was leaving, another angel came to meet him (Zechariah 2:3)
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream (Matt 1:20)
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. (Matt. 28:2)
The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. (Luke 1:19)
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee... The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God." (Luke 1:26)So we can see from these few descriptions of angel appearances that angels can appear before us in numerous ways. They can appear to our minds within our dreams. They can appear before our physical eyes when we are awake. And they can appear before our eyes in various forms.
What is consistent among these and other angel appearances is that they all seem to be on a mission. What is that mission? We can see it by some of their statements, such as “The LORD is with you," and "you have found favor with God." They are passing on messages from the Supreme Being.
This is why most of these descriptions say "angel of the Lord."
We also find clear evidence that these angels are servants of God - they are being sent by God: "I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you..." and God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth...
These illustrate that angels can be with God in the spiritual realm, yet they can also be sent by the Supreme Being to appear before us in the physical realm.
How do they appear before us?
We have to understand that the physical world is simply a dimension made of molecules. Our eyes see the reflections of light off of certain molecular structures. The Supreme Being can manipulate those molecules in any manner He desires.
The entities of the spiritual realm can appear throughout the physical dimension. Actually, each of us are spiritual entities. But we are appearing to each other within the molecules that form these physical bodies. These bodies are like vehicles that carry us. And these physical vehicles can see other physical vehicles but they cannot see into the spiritual dimension.
For this reason, these physical eyes cannot see the spirit-person leaving the physical body at the time of death. The science of clinical death has shown that the spirit-person will rise above the body and look down upon it. Yet no one else - their physical eyes - can see that person hovering above the body - or leaving it for that matter.
This is because the spirit-person exists within another dimension.
But we must understand that the physical world is still the utility of the Supreme Being. We might compare this to a boy's train set. The boy can set up the train set however he wants. He can put the train where ever he wants and set up the tracks however he wants and put trees and train houses where he wants. The train set does not limit the boy from being able to rearrange things the way he wants.
In the same way, the Creator can rearrange things however He wants. He could also appear to us directly rather than send angels. He can rearrange molecules in the physical world in such a way to allow Himself or His angels to appear to our physical eyes however He wishes - with a simple thought He has command over all things.
Why does the Supreme Being send angels? We know that He can appear, and has appeared in this world. But why does He often send His angels rather than appear Himself?
Just consider the phenomena we now call "social networking." In social networking, people are trying to stay connected with other people even though we are each sitting alone at our computers. The idea is to allow people to connect through the computer internet. Why?
Because we are social entities. We thrive off of relationships. We want to engage with others because deep within we are all part of a big networked family.
And the Supreme Being is the head of that family. The Supreme Being enjoys all the relationships that exist not only between Himself and others: He also enjoys the relationships that exist between His children.
But in order to enjoy those relationships between His children the way He prefers, the Supreme Being must be a part of those relationships. He wants to be connected to those relationships.
Yet this doesn't mean the Supreme Being doesn't enjoy seeing relationships He is not a part of. The Supreme Being enjoys His entire creation. He is the Supreme Enjoyer. It is just that His preferred enjoyment is the exchange of loving relationships that involve Himself.
Yes, the Supreme Being sees everything that goes on in the physical realm. He sees from within and from without. He is right next to each of us within these physical bodies.
But He doesn't intrude. He hides Himself within the physical world. These physical eyes and senses cannot see Him. Why?
Because we want to be away from Him. We don't want the Supreme Being around. Just imagine if we got our family together and planned a big trip to Disneyland to have fun on the rides and games and such. So we get everything together and open up the front door to pack into the car and the Supreme Being is standing at our front door.
Could we still just head off to Disneyland even though the Supreme Being appeared at our front door?
It would be safe to say that our Disney plans would likely change if the Supreme Being appeared at our front door.
In other words, seeing the Supreme Being would destroy our ability to go out and have our fun. Suddenly we would be faced with coming to terms with our relationship with God. We would have to focus upon our spiritual lives. We would see this as a downer.
In the same way, what if we were in a theater watching a movie, and suddenly the person sitting next to us wants to talk about the news? They want to tell us about the war that is going on somewhere in the world. We don't want to hear about the war. We want to watch our movie. We want to get lost in the movie. We went to the movie theater to get away from the news.
In fact, we went to the movies to get away from everything. We wanted an escape. This is why movies have been the most popular during times of economic hardship. More people want to escape their lives.
In the same way people escape to the movies, the very reason we are here in the physical world wearing these physical bodies is that we don't want to focus on our spiritual lives. We don't want to focus on the Supreme Being.
Why? It is not as though the Supreme Being is a downer like the news or a war in another country. The Supreme Being is the Perfect Person. He is beautiful, kind, gracious and warm. He is not the vengeful angry person that the ecclesiastical scribes and translators of the Old Testament have made Him out to be.
In fact, the Supreme Being is the most fun, loving and gentle Person. He is the most entertaining, the biggest comic, the biggest jokster of them all.
So it is not the Supreme Being that is the downer. It is not specifically the Supreme Being we are trying to avoid.
We are trying to avoid our real selves. We are trying to escape our relationship with the Supreme Being. Why?
Because we are the inferior in our relationship with God. We are the servant. We are the subordinate.
Just look around: Does any of us want to be servants? Or subordinates? Or inferiors? No one wants to be a servant or an inferior here in the physical world. We all want to be on top. We want to be masters. We want to call the shots. We want everyone to adore us and applaud us. We want to tell others what to do.
This is our disease. We don't want to face who we really are because we want to be in God's position. We want to be on top, and unfortunately, He's on top.
This is called envy. When a person wants what he or she doesn't have and sees someone else having, that is called envy.
We each are envious of the Supreme Being and this is why we are here in the physical world. This is why we were effectively tossed out of the spiritual dimension into the physical dimension and given these physical bodies.
These physical bodies allow us to play out our goals to be on top. Even if we are in the lowest echelon of society we can still pretend we are the king of something or someone. Even if we are a bicycle messenger in a big city we can consider our bike and our clients as belonging to us. We can think of ourselves as the best bicycle messenger in the world - the fastest biker or whatever.
Even if we are the poorest person we can still get married and have a family and be the king of our family. We can rule our children as their master.
And if we don't have children around to rule, we can always get a pet and be the master of our pet.
No matter our position, we can still consider ourselves the master at something or over someone: The best. The greatest. Even if we aren't, we can still imagine we are.
Whatever we are doing, we can still consider ourselves superior. The physical world was designed to create this opportunity. If we want to set our sights on a definite superiority at something - we can do it here. We can be the world's greatest ping pong player. Or the world's greatest Frisbee thrower. Each of us can find something. This is why there are so many different Guinness world records. Because everyone wants to be the greatest at something.
Facing our position as not the greatest would be a downer for us. This is why people get depressed when they lose or find out they lost something.
If we had to face the fact that we are a servant with no abilities other than those given to us by the Supreme Being - it would be a downer for us. This is because we are envious.
And this is why we cannot see the Supreme Being. We don't want to see Him - we want to be Him.
But for those who are striving to come to terms with who they really are - those who want to know the Supreme Being and are learning to accept they are servants and not masters - the Supreme Being sends His loving servants to show us how. Why? Why doesn't He appear Himself?
First because we aren't ready. As we are growing spiritually we are still mixed with envy. We might have some desire to re-develop our relationship with God but we still have doubts and we still feel we are in charge of the process. We are still sitting in judgement.
This was the position of Thomas. While he became an devoted loving servant of God as he advanced by God's grace, at the time of Jesus' statement he was still mixed with doubt. He was still sitting in judgement.
The second reason why the Supreme Being sends His loving servants and messengers like angels and Jesus is because the Supreme Being wants to show us our position from the standpoint of who we are deep within:
We are each a lost and former loving servant of God. So He sends His loving servants to allow us the ability to follow in their footsteps in order to return home. We can follow their example and return to our natural position as loving servant.
This is the purpose of the spiritual teacher/student relationship. The student gets to hear from the spiritual teacher and can follow the example of the spiritual teacher. Thus a bonafide spiritual teacher - a true representative of God - will not see themselves as a master. They will see themselves as a servant of God.
This is why Jesus also said:
"I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me." (John 14:31)When a person does what someone else commands, they are acting as servant. A subordinate. Now when that service is done with love, this is called loving service. They are called a loving servant.
The Supreme Being does not want to force us to serve Him. He wants us to love Him. This is why we are each such social animals - because we want to exchange love. So does God.
It is said that we are created in the likeness of God. This is because God wants to exchange love and we want to exchange love. We are all about love. We want and need love. Even when we are striving to be master we still need others to love us.
This is because we need to return to our loving relationship with the Supreme Being. The so-called 'love' between bodies of the physical world is not really love. It is not the unconditional love that is offered by the Supreme Being. Only that true love - God's unconditional love - will truly satisfy us. This is why Jesus' most important instruction was:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38)