Surely we are all familiar with the story of Doubting Thomas!
Thomas – the one who:
- would not believe those closest to him;
- had to see for himself;
- had to ask questions;
- had to make sure, because seeing is believing.
But … whatever we think of Thomas’ behaviour, it is worth asking whether he was really that different from the other disciples?
After Mary Magdalene found the empty tomb, Peter and John did not immediately believe her – they went to see for themselves.
In Luke’s gospel we read that the other disciples were just as sceptical as Peter and John – Luke tells us: These words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.
Then there is today’s gospel reading in which the risen Jesus stands in the midst of the disciples.
Do they immediately cry out in relief and joy?
Do they immediately proclaim the resurrection?
It is only after Jesus showed them his hands and his side that the disciples were filled with joy.
Even though it is Thomas we call the ‘Doubter’ – all the disciples needed tangible proof in order that they might believe.
All of them saw and heard Jesus – but … it was only after they saw the evidence of his bodily resurrection that they actually rejoiced.
But … of course … Thomas wasn’t there.
I don’t think it is that surprising that Thomas wanted to see Jesus – and not just take the word of his friends. Thomas said that he wanted to see – in order that he might believe. In that statement Thomas is actually being faithful to Jesus’ teaching.
Jesus had told his disciples – Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and ‘The time is near!’. Do not go after them.
Thomas was determined to do as Jesus said, and not be led astray.
When you take all of this into account, it is not difficult to draw the conclusion that Thomas has had a raw deal in the Christian tradition.
Surely most of us can identify with Thomas. Most of us ask questions – most of us will have doubted from time to time!
I would suggest that we can all take comfort in this –
Jesus is certainly asking for our faith,
but he is not asking for our blind faith.
Thomas did not just believe what he saw – he also believed what he did not see.
We need to remember that Thomas had already seen someone come back from the dead – he had been there when Jesus raised Lazarus.
The key, for Thomas, is an understanding of the implications of what he has seen.
Lazarus rose from the dead, but that did not make him equal with God.
Jesus – on the other hand – is not only alive, but is also God!
The other disciples rejoiced at seeing Jesus alive – it was only Thomas who proclaimed My Lord and my God!.
The Christian faith has, and probably always will, face challenges from those who claim that it cannot stand up to scrutiny. We live in a culture that is caught between blind faith and blind doubt.
We uncritically accept and pass on sensational gossip, whilst claiming that the fantastic and the challenging must be ‘PhotoShopped’ or manipulated in some way!
Perhaps it is time to let Thomas be our guide – to not be afraid to ask questions and seek evidence – but also, to not be afraid to accept the amazing reality of the resurrection.
Actually – it is time … it is time to see with open-eyed faith that Jesus is indeed our Lord and our God.
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