Summary: 3rd in a 3 part series about finding significant answers to life from intimate encounters with Jesus.
“What About My Doubt?”
JOHN 20: 19 - 31
In 1957, Lieutenant David Steeves walked out of the California Sierras Mts. 54 days after his Air Force trainer jet had disappeared. He related an unbelievable tale of survival after parachuting from his disabled plane. For almost 3 months he said he had eaten berries and dug snow tunnels to sleep in, had seen no one during the entire time & finally walked out on his own. By the time he showed up alive, he had already been declared officially dead and his story was viewed with much skepticism because during that same time frame his assigned unit had been sent to the Korean War. When further search failed to turn up any wreckage, a hoax was suspected & Steeves was forced to resign under a cloud of doubt. He lived for 2 decades branded as a deserter and possible spy. One story had him selling the plane to the Russians, another shipping it piecemeal to Mexico. Steeves died in 1965. In 1977 a troop of Boy Scouts hiking through Kings Canyon National Park discovered the wreckage of Steeve’s plane and his story was confirmed. His family was issued an apology from the military and was told that Lt. David Steeves’s name was reinstated with honor. One of Steeves friends, Eugene Junett, after the ceremony told the Associated Press. “This is nice, but then he added: “I just wish someone would of believed Dave back then.”
We have all heard things that are hard to believe. TV shows and the museum of “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” make millions of dollars telling about things hard to swallow. So is it too difficult to blame a man who has been told the ultimate unbelievable tale, that Jesus who had been put to death had come back from the grave, for his skepticism? I think we all, to some degree, can identify with Thomas, one of the 12 hand picked followers of Jesus. Like Thomas, there have been things we’ve wondered about. Maybe circumstances or your upbringing makes it incredibly difficult for you to believe in God at all. Or maybe you believe in some kind of God but this Jesus.. Being God and man, dying, raising from the dead.. that’s just too much. But maybe, and this probably applies to most of us in a church service, you believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Son, but is there a consistency between what your lips’ say you believe and what your lifestyle expresses? You see we can say we believe but maybe a deeper question is does the way we live confirm our belief or our doubt? Doubt can be a destructive force, eroding confidence in ourselves and in God. Since Thomas’ doubt is recorded in detail let’s look at who he was, see the causes of doubt and how we can reinforce our conviction and articulate it not only with our lips but with our very lives.
I. THE CASE OF THOMAS: Who Thomas was...
It’s a shame that some people are remembered only for their mistakes; forever living down one failure or blunder in their life. For example, the name Richard Nixon immediately conjures up the "Watergate Scandal." We forget about Mr. Nixon’s positive accomplishments and we remember the negative- A President who resigned in disgrace. Not long ago President Bill Clinton was referred to at the “New Nixon” by one author because he may be remembered only for his sexual immorality with Monica Lewisinky and being impeached. If you’re into baseball the name Bill Buckner brings up a baseball blooper. We remember him for a ground ball that went through his legs that cost the Boston Red Sox the World Series in 1986. We don’t remember he batted .299 with 102 Rbi’s that same year that helped get the Red Sox into the post season. Students of public speaking remember the name of Harry Von Zell. Not for the resonant voice or 100’s of flawless introductions. But for the one time that it is said he introduced the President by saying, "Ladies and Gentlemen, here he is, the President of the United States, Mr. Hoobert Heever." Shakespeare, in Julius Caesar said, "The evil that men do lives after them. But the good is oft buried with their bones." So it is with Thomas. But many don’t remember that Thomas wasn’t the only one to doubt. The other disciples didn’t accept the resurrection at first. When the women came with the news that the tomb was empty and Jesus had risen, Luke 24:11- "They told the apostles what had happened, but the story sounded like nonsense, so they didn’t believe it."(NLT) Yet Thomas is the one who forever bears the label: “Doubting Thomas.” Maybe the reason for that is because we don’t know much about Thomas, whose name Didymus means twin. Were it not for the Gospel of John we would know nothing except he was one of Jesus’ twelve closest followers. But we have 2 snapshots of him there that are worth seeing because they help us understand why Thomas reacted the way he did to the claim that Jesus had risen.