Summary: Everyone has doubts, especially in trying times like these. Thomas shows us to guard in your low times, draw strength from others, and meet the risen Lord.
John 20:19-20, 24-29
In this terrible time of pandemic, you might be tempted to think, “Where are you, God? Why don’t you stop this? Are you really there?” Everyone goes through doubts in their faith, even Mother Teresa. She once wrote her spiritual director, “Where I try to raise my thoughts to heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul. Love — the word — it brings nothing. I am told God lives in me — and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.”
Her spiritual director reassured her with the basic message, “The fact that you have doubts means that your faith is real.” No doubts, no testing; and no testing, no real faith. Show me a faith that has never experienced doubt, and I’ll show you a day-old faith, or worse, a pretend faith, a fake faith. At times, we may doubt whether God hears our prayers. Sometimes we wonder when young children die or when an evil person seems to succeed in life, or we go through a great challenge like our current crisis. Everyone has doubts, and they’re actually good for you, because they drive you back to the risen Lord for answers. Let’s look at today’s scripture, at a guy who had doubts, and how Jesus addressed them:
John 20:19-20, 24-29
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord...
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “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.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Thomas gets a bad rap for his doubts. He even earns a nickname: “Doubting Thomas.” Yet, Thomas was just as committed as the other ten disciples, perhaps even more so in some ways. Just weeks before Easter, Jesus told the disciples that he had to go to Bethany, because his friend Lazarus was very sick. Most of the disciples cautioned him away from the idea because of all the hatred towards him fuming in nearby Jerusalem. Yet, Thomas responded, in John 11:16, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
OK, the guy’s a little pessimist, but you have to give him an “A” for bravery. He was willing to stick his neck out on the line. It was Thomas who responded a little later to Jesus’ assurances of heaven. Jesus was telling his disciples, in John 14, that he had to go away to prepare a place for them. Jesus told them they knew the way. But good old Thomas was brave enough to ask the question on everyone’s mind as he said, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” I’m glad he asked, because this prompted Jesus to respond with one of my favorite verses, as he said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:5-6).
Yes, Thomas had his gutsy moments. But by the time Jesus went to the cross, Thomas, along with every other disciple except John, had scattered to the four winds. They were all cowering in fear and self-preservation.
On that first Easter morning, the two Mary’s encountered the risen Lord, as did Peter and John. Then, on Sunday night, ten of the disciples met Jesus face to face. Christ spoke right to their doubts as he showed them his hands and his side, proving to them it was really him.
But where was Thomas? We don’t know for sure, but can you imagine the shock he felt when the others told him, “We saw him ... alive!”? Thomas is the original Missourian, as he replied, “Show me!” Let’s think about Thomas’ example as we, like him, go through our own times of doubt. How can you defeat your doubts? Three ideas: