Summary: How doubt can turn us away from our sharing of the Gospel of Christ. Not just doubting His existence but doubto of ourselves as well.
The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once told a story about a circus that caught fire. The flames from the circus fire spread to the fields surrounding the circus grounds and began to burn toward the village below.
The circus master, convinced that the village would be destroyed and the people killed unless they were warned, asked if there was anybody who could go to the village and warn the people. The clown, dressed in full costume, jumped on a bicycle and sped down the hill to the village below.
“Run for your lives! Run for your lives! A fire is coming and the village is going to burn!” he shouted as he rode up and down the streets of the village. “The village is going to burn! Run for your lives!”
Curious villagers came out from their houses and shops and stood along the sidewalks. They shouted back to the clown, laughing and applauding his performance. The more desperately the clown shouted, the more the villagers cheered.
The village burned and the loss of life was great because no one took the clown seriously. After all, he was just a clown.
Doubt, disbelief, skepticism, uncertainty, reservation—these are all words that we can use to describe how the villagers viewed the clown. These are also words that can be used to describe the disciples as they saw Jesus stand before them.
They were convinced that this must be his spirit or ghost appearing before them. How could it be Christ? The women and the disciple whom Jesus loved saw him die on the cross. Resurrection from the dead seemed too surreal for them; even though these very disciples had been with Jesus when he brought Lazarus forward from the tomb and when he had brought Jarius’ daughter back to life.
Let me give you the setting. The disciples were speaking with the men who had just traveled the Emmaus Road. These were the same two men that walked the road with a stranger, not knowing it was Jesus until he broke bread with them. They were excited, while the disciples were dazed and confused. And then before them Jesus appears. The man who had died was alive. Our reactions might have been very similar to those of the disciples. Instead today’s world filled with sceptcism and doubt.
Now I know that having worked in a funeral home that if I saw one of the people who I had done their funeral services for alive and walking and talking before me that I would be a bit freaked out. Actually a lot freaked out. In fact I may have felt the need to make a door where there once was a wall.
In our scripture reading it tells us the story: 38He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have." 40When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, "Do you have anything here to eat?" 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate it in their presence.
We cannot feel a ghost and a ghost does not eat. Jesus was proving to them that he was real. That he was flesh and blood before them. Was he hungry? No, but he was showing them that he was Jesus. He was making them witnesses of what was to come. I can see Jesus’ face smiling and patient as the reality of him standing before them goes from fear to incredulity to joy and belief.