Summary: This is the story of Doubting Thomas. God can meet us in our doubts and questions to increase our faith.
Finding God in the Questions
April 15, 2007
Do you remember the movie “The Christmas Story” that is replayed on television every year during the month of December? There is a scene in that movie in which Ralphy, the little boy who is the main character, goes outside and touches his tongue to a steel pole… and it sticks! I remember my son Chris saying to me one cold December day when he was about 10 years old, “What if I did that? Would my tongue stick?” He didn’t take me for my word, and so had to try it himself on the basketball goal post in the back yard. Yep. It stuck.
Kids always have those “what if” questions. What if I drank 10 root beer floats at one time? What if cows could really jump over the moon? What if I had gills? Would I be able to swim like a fish? What if the President came over for dinner? What would we serve him? What if I hit my sister? Will you be mad at me?
Those questions don’t always stop when we reach adulthood. I remember asking my mother and father what would happen if I chose to get married before I went to seminary.
We also ask a lot of “why” questions. Why is the sky blue? Why is the grass green? Why do I have to eat my vegetables? Why can’t I hit my sister? Why do I have to go to bed so early? The questions go on and on. Here are a few more.
• Why do they have Braille writing on the bank’s drive up cash machine?
• Why do banks charge a fee on insufficient funds when they know that the money is not there in the first place?
• Why does Superman stop bullets with his chest, but ducks when you throw a revolver at him?
• How come you never hear father-in-law jokes?
• Why do they use sterile needles for death by lethal injection?
The Scripture lesson for today is about questions. Questions and doubts and what ifs. Even the most faithful among us have them from time to time.
According to the Gospel of John, on the evening of the resurrection ten of the disciples of Jesus gathered behind closed and locked doors. Judas, for obvious reasons, was not there. Thomas, for reasons unexplained, was also absent the gathering.
We can only surmise what they were thinking and feeling. They were certainly afraid; the text makes that clear. Confused, lonely, depressed, desperate, disbelieving, lost: a thousand other emotions must have flooded their minds.
They had heard the story of Mary and her early morning visit to the tomb of Jesus. She came running to tell everyone that the stone had been rolled away from the grave and that he had risen from the dead.
Even though the news was good, they still huddled behind doors that were bolted against unwanted visitors. They didn’t know if or when the same people who put Jesus to death would show up at their door. They were taking no chances.
The Disciples were facing their own “What If?” situation. What if this was all a dream? What if it had never happened? What if they were imagining things? What if all of this talk about Jesus being the Messiah was just so much talk? What if Jesus really couldn’t be trusted?
Suddenly, right there in their midst stood Jesus. The locked and closed door had proven to be no barrier to him. “Peace to you” he said. Then he held out his hands for everyone to get a good look at the places where the nails had pierced them, just in case this further confirmation of his identity was needed.
For some reason, Thomas was not among them. We have no idea why. Maybe he was too grief-stricken to face his friends. Maybe he was cowering in fear in his own dark corner. Maybe he had been delayed. Maybe he had gone off somewhere to pray, meditate, and reflect on all that happened. We just don’t know. We only know that he was missing.
Sometimes after Jesus left them, Thomas did indeed appear. They told him the news, that Jesus was alive. But Thomas the skeptic told them that he would believe only when he could see the nail prints, only when he could place his hand in the wound on his side. Only then would he believe.
So, skip ahead a week. They were gathered together once more. This time, Thomas was with them. Again, just like the week before, Jesus suddenly appeared before them. This time, he focused his attention on Thomas. Walking over to him and gazing into his eyes, he said, “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.”