Summary: Christians deal with doubt everyday, particularly as it relates to the resurrection story. But a look at the way Christ handles the doubt of his followers should be a source of faith.
One of the things many of us preachers enjoy and appreciate is the opportunity to participate in Study Groups that help us prepare our weekly sermons. It is a place to bounce ideas off one another, to share insights and illustrations, to recommend good books and resources for sermon preparation. A couple of years ago, just before Easter, some colleague friends of mine in another state were gathered for their weekly Study Group. Needless to say, the topic that week was the resurrection story. Well, not all of the preachers in attendance were using the same resurrection account, and so up for discussion were all four of the gospel accounts of Jesus’ victory over death.
Now, it’s important to note that not all of the gospels tell the same story about Jesus’ resurrection. As a matter of fact, none of the gospels records the actual resurrection itself, they only record the DISCOVERY of the resurrection by the followers of Jesus, and even those stories differ from gospel to gospel. In any case, my friends were talking about these four different resurrection accounts from the four different gospels, and they were really getting hung up on the differences between the stories. It was causing a lot of problems for them as they were trying sort out what really happened and how best to convey the story of Jesus’ resurrection.
That afternoon, one of my friends called me. She was really upset about the Study Group. She told me what had happened in their gathering that morning, and then she reflected, “It was brutal…I don’t know what to think. Stuff like that makes you wonder if the resurrection even really happened. How am I going to tell this story on Sunday?” She was full of doubt.
Jesus’ resurrection from the dead defies all reason. No matter how hard we try, there is no logical explanation for what happened on that first Easter morning. And I know is that if we preachers struggle with the veracity of this story, many of you do as well. Of all the fantastic, miraculous stories about Jesus: healing paralytics, walking on water, knowing people he has never met, and so on, the resurrection story is the hardest for us to comprehend. It cannot happen. Period. So most of us here, I imagine, have learned to cling to this story in faith. But even “faith is a mystery of the heart that the mind wants to solve.” We want evidence, and without evidence, this inkling of doubt begins to emerge.
I imagine this is something we’ve all experienced. It’s nearly impossible to invest any part of ourselves in following God without feeling at least some doubt from time to time. The good news, though, is that we are not alone. Doubt has been a part of the Christian experience all the way back to the time of Jesus and those first disciples themselves! Thomas, in particular, carries the timeless reputation as the “Doubting Disciple,” as we see in our gospel reading this morning. But the truth of the matter is, all of the disciples showed signs of doubt both before and after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Mary Magdalene saw the empty tomb, twice, but she did not believe until the risen Christ appeared and spoke to her directly, personally. Then, when she went to the disciples and told them of her encounter, saying, “I have seen the Lord,” they dismissed her words because they had not seen the risen Christ themselves. So, in fear, they locked themselves in a room to hide.