Tag Archives: Thomas

Doubt and Faith

“Doubting Thomas” will be focus of many sermons this Sunday in congregations that use the Revised Common Lectionary.  The story of Thomas in John 20:24-31 is assigned every year because it occurs the week after Jesus resurrection. In the story the other ten disciples tell Thomas, “We have seen the Lord,” after he missed the first resurrected appearance of Jesus on Easter Sunday. Thomas responds with skepticism, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).

"Still Doubting" by artist John Granville Gregory

Today I read a helpful blog post on the challenges of being selective in our skepticism from TE Hanna. He points out that one cannot be semi-skeptical as one looks at the data of faith. Either you look at all or none of the evidence. I am not a philosopher, but his reasoning helped me think about faith and Thomas.

A certain amount of skepticism or doubt is needed in daily life. So much information assaults our senses every day that we have to filter what is valid and helpful. Not everything I see on the internet, read in a book, or watch on television is true. We are not to be gullible to everything someone says.

Of course part of our skepticism is based on the character of the witness. Last week I was with a group of pastors for our weekly text study when one began to tell us the story of his upcoming trip to Rome. He and his wife had been planning it for several months. He had told a Catholic priest, a friend, and the priest had told, “I think I can arrange an audience with the Pope while you are there.” My pastor friend went on for a few more minutes about his excitement about the upcoming audience while I and others peppered him with curious questions and exclamations about how wonderful his audience with the pope will be. Finally, with a big grin, my pastor friend said, “April Fools.” The papal audience was a joke that he played on us, though the trip to Rome is real. The whole group had believed his story, in large part because he rarely tells such fables. He had always been a reliable witness.

That is part of the struggle in the Thomas story. When confronted by his ten friends, he is sure they must be bearing false witness. As I wrote about this last year, I wonder what the week between appearances was like for Thomas and the other disciples.

Which pushes me to deeper reflection, is my life congruent with my testimony of Jesus’ resurrection? Do people believe in Jesus because my life and my words bear witness to his resurrection? I pray that this is so for each of us.

Lord Jesus, may my words and my deeds bring deeper faith in you to others.

Friends Between Stories

Friendship by Nova Scotia artist Karen Morrison

In John 20: 19-29 two stories are told.  The first is Jesus’ initial appearance to the disciples in a locked room.  He appears, not as a ghost, but in a resurrected body, and gives them the blessings of peace and the Holy Spirit.  The encounter is quick yet vibrant.   Afterwards the disciples are excited to tell Thomas, their friend and colleague.

For some unreported reason, Thomas was not present during Jesus initial appearance.   Perhaps he was the only disciple who had courage to go out and pick up some fish and bread for supper.  Perhaps he went out to get a stiff drink or wanted some time alone to think.  Whatever the reason, Thomas was gone and missed all the excitement.

Then he ruins the disciple’s excitement with his skeptical response, “Unless I see the marks, touch the wounds, I will not believe.”   I suspect that such honest skepticism threw cold water on the disciples.  How were they to tell other about Jesus’ resurrection when their own friend immediately rejected the claim?  I wonder if an argument between Thomas and the others ensued; there is no report of one.   Did the disciples’ faith simply wilt under the harsh, cold logic of Thomas, or did they continue to believe with burning hearts? 

It was a week before Jesus showed up and turned doubting Thomas to confessing Thomas.   A week of wonder, questions, and some dis-ease.  I wonder how Thomas and the others got along during that time.  It is a powerful witness to their lasting friendship that he is still hanging out with the guys when Jesus briefly appears again. 

I remember my friend, Jerry Zimler, in college.  Raised a secular Jew in New York, he came to a faith in Jesus while in college.  He and I would disagree on many matters of faith, like worship, prayer, and ethics.  Still he invited me home over Thanksgiving break to experience the love (and chaotic vitality) of his family.   I still cherish that visit even though Jerry died some twenty-five years ago.

How do you handle those who disagree with you?  Do all your friends have to think like you?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, teach me to listen to my friends and neighbors and to learn from them.