Summary: Lessons on faith and doubt, looking through the life of Thomas
Is It a Sin to Doubt?
One of the hardest decisions Krista and I made before Jacob was born was not which hospital to have the birth. Not which doctor would deliver our little guy. Not which pediatrician we would see, even though we went back and forth on that call. The hardest decision was what to name the new baby. Names are big stuff. Kids are stuck with their monicers for life Names have meaning, so we looked for a name of someone in the bible that God used in a special way.
What’s in a name? Names change. They’re shortened. Elizabeth-Beth. Kathleen-Kathy. William-Bill. Now if you don’t like the label your parents gave you, you can go down to the courthouse with $69 and change it. Some of us take on nicknames, pet names, and sweetheart names. Babe Ruth, Dizzy Dean, Mr. October. Johnny Appleseed, Air Jordan, Rough Rider, Ike, Slick Willie. Brothers and I. Maybe you have nicknames and don’t even know it-- Einstein, class clown, jock, family workaholic, Black Sheep in the family. No matter how hard you try, it’s hard to shake those reputations off, even if they’re wrong.
One of the bible names Krista and I definitely chose to avoid was Judas. Judas Iscariot, as many of you know, was the disciple who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. A traiter. A fake follower of Jesus. Judas has forever become a bad label. It didn’t used to be that way. In Jesus’ day. Judas was the most popular name among parents in naming their boys. Why? One of the heros of Jewish history was a Judas Maccabeus who led the Israelites in a revolt in 167 BC against the Greeks and won independence for Israel. He was a national hero. Judas means "Praise of God." But 99% of parents aren’t going to name their kids Judas because of Judas Iscariot the traitor.
Another name that developed a bad reputation in the Bible was Thomas, even though parents often name their kids Thomas-or Tom. Nothing wrong with the name-it means "Twin". In the Bible, Thomas was one of the twelve disciples-but he forever developed the reputation as "Doubting Thomas". He doubted Jesus-had weak faith. Didn’t believe enough. Thomas-known as the doubting one. Parents tell their kids, don’t be like doubting Thomas. He didn’t have faith.
Let’s read the story, and see why he developed such a bad rap...
John 20:19-20; 24-29
Would you believe that this doubting one, was also one of the most dedicated of the followers of Christ. That, despite his doubts, he had more faith than the others? That’s crazy. If you want to be a Christian, but still have questions and doubts, that does not make you a lesser person or weaker disciple. In fact, you may be the most dedicated Christian in church and have loads of questions.
1. Look at Thomas again. John 11. Jesus was chased out of Jerusalem. Bible says the Jews tried to stone him but he escaped their grasp. So Jesus and 12 disciples find safety in hills or quiet village. Suddenly, news comes that Jesus friend, Lazarus has died. Jesus decides to go back to Bethany, only 2 miles away from Jerusalem. Disciples are thinking-is Jesus crazy? He’s going to get stoned goes near Jerusalem. How absurd. Verse 8 "But Teacher, a little while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?" Jesus made up his mind. Yes he was going. Verse 16 "Then Thomas said to the rest of the disciples- "Let’s go too, so we can die with him." Thomas the doubter. Thomas the pessimist. People can say whatever they want, but he was no coward. He had guts and loyalty and courage. Death was no deterrent from following Jesus. The danger was real, but he followed anyway.
2. John 14, a day before Jesus is crucified on a cross. Scene: candlelit upper room. Jesus’ last supper with his disciples. John 14:1-6. Thomas, didn’t have the answer-so he questioned Jesus. He wanted to follow, but had questions. He was sincere. Jesus answered that the way to eternal life is not a road you travel, not a city you conquer, not a path you travel, but a person you love and trust.
3. Even though Thomas had the bad rap, the other disciples were just as guilty.
Text: Matthew 28:16-20 "When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted." (v. 17)
It’s not clear in this passage from St. Matthew’s gospel exactly who is doubting. Are some of the disciples just worshiping and others just doubting? Are some of the disciples worshiping and doubting at the same time? Not clear. Do know, more than one person. Some.
However we interpret Matthew’s text, what’s remarkable in it is Jesus’ response to the doubters, whoever they were. At first he seems to ignore them. He immediately gives the disciples the ’great commission’: "go therefore and make disciples of all nations..." It is quite easy for us to regard this as the sort of task appropriately given to faithful, confident worshipers, not to doubters. It seems natural for us to want to make sure our own doubts are resolved before going out to tell others about God. We assume that sharing our faith should be left to those who feel 100% confident about our message. To go out and preach when you’re not totally sure about it seems like a good way to make a fool of yourself, or worse, a way to become a hypocrite and a charlatan.