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I want to begin the lesson by reading a passage from John 20 that will introduce the topic I want us to explore this morning, namely this: Can reasonable people believe the things that are crucial to Christian faith?
“Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ So he said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’ And after eight days his disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at my hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ And Thomas answered and said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:24-29)
I would imagine that only Judas among the twelve apostles has been subjected to more critical and unkind judgments than Thomas. Though his nickname within that group was "Didymus," or “the Twin”, we know him better known as "Doubting Thomas" because of his reaction to the first reports brought to him about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. He insisted that he would have to have hard proof before believing it was so. To the other ten, he said, "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." Because of that statement, Thomas has been reproached across the centuries.
But I would be among the first to speak up in his behalf. Because I believe that in Thomas’ demand for proof, he is to be admired rather than ridiculed. In fact, Jesus himself said back in Matthew 24:26, “If they say to you, ‘There he is!’, don’t believe it.” And there are too many people today who believe too much on the basis of too little. I am appalled at how much irrational garbage people are willing to swallow without a particle of solid evidence to back it up.
People read horoscopes, lay out Tarot cards, and call 900-numbers to learn their futures. A few will even follow David Koresh to Waco, give their 12-year-old daughters to him as sexual partners, and proclaim him to be Jesus Christ come back to teach again. Thirty-eight people followed their so-called "spiritual leader" in drinking a fatal cocktail in order to leave this earth and hop a ride to paradise on a UFO that was following the Hale-Bopp comet.
Call me a Doubting Thomas, too, if you please. But I’m not about to believe Dionne Warwick, David Koresh, or Marshall Applewhite without some proof — some good, solid proof. Too much is at stake for me to accept just any claim someone makes. Not the least of the things at stake is my intention to be a discerning and responsible human being.
Even God’s Word tells us, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1).
I don’t want to be such a radical skeptic that I set standards of proof so high they can never be met. Neither do I want to be so gullible that any sort of alleged proof will count as an actual one. Fair and reasonable
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