In a Peanuts comic strip, Charlie Brown is talking with Lucy as they walk home on the last day of school.
- Charlie Brown says to Lucy: “Lucy, I got straight A’s. isn’t that great!”
Lucy in her typical fashion shoots down poor Charlie Brown and says: I don’t believe you Charlie Brown. Unless you show me your report card, I cannot believe you.”
Can you relate to Lucy? Seeing is believing, isn’t it? Most people have to see something before they can believe it.
Let me ask you a few questions:
• Have you ever felt like you missed something big that everyone else seemed to know?
• Have you ever felt like it is hard to believe in something you cannot see, or touch, or feel?
• Have you ever felt that something just could not happen?
If you have ever felt like this you would be in good company with Thomas.
Thomas was the only one of the remaining disciples who was not hiding in the Upper Room, afraid that those who killed Jesus would come after them. Perhaps Thomas was the only one bold enough to venture out into Jerusalem’s streets to buy food for his fellow disciples. Perhaps he drew the short straw and was shoved out the door kicking and screaming. All we know is that he was out in Jerusalem when Jesus appeared. And Thomas willingly chose to come back to his community, to the frightened followers of Jesus hiding out in that Upper Room, instead of leaving them there in their fear.
When he returns Thomas is assaulted by testimonies. On Easter morning, Mary Magdalene, had told the disciples
I have seen the Lord! (John 20:18)
But no one believed her because she was, after all, a woman saying.
Now all the disciples are shouting:
We have seen the Lord. (John 20:25)
But Thomas doubts. However, it is not entirely clear WHAT it is Thomas doubts.
• Does Thomas doubt the truthfulness of the other disciples? Does Thomas doubt the sanity of his friends?
• Does Thomas doubt the identity of the one the other disciples claim to have seen?
• Does Thomas doubt the actual death of Jesus?
• Does Thomas doubt the physicality of a risen body?
Whatever it is that Thomas doubts, it is not enough to make him leave the disciples shut up in the tiny room. He voices his “doubt” and makes absolutely clear what he requires to vanquish his doubt. But eight days later “Doubting Thomas” is still living in that small, rented space with the other scared disciples. His doubts have not caused him to leave the other disciples. His doubts have not led the believing disciples to throw him out of their fellowship. The doubter and the those who believe live together as a community of disciples.
Scriptures suggest that “Doubting Thomas” is the reason for Jesus’ second visit. He somehow knows that Thomas is still questioning. The moment Thomas sees Christ, he abandons his doubt. He does not demand all those ‘proofs’ he previously insisted upon; his response is immediate. His gut reaction is to blurt out
“My Lord and My God”. (John 20:28)
Doubt is not a bad thing. There are times in life when doubt is healthy and reasonable. A few weeks ago I saw a tabloid with a story on the cover about Elvis being alive and in Hawaii. Now I seriously doubt the reliability of that story because it is just not reasonable.
We, as Christians, believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. Jesus was crucified, He was dead and buried, the tomb was empty, He was seen by many people and the apostles were changed in radical ways after that first Easter. Even those who did not at first believe.
Doubt is not negative until it leads you to choose not to believe. This was exactly what Jesus was warning Thomas about. Literally, Jesus was saying:
- “Thomas, you are acting like a person who has no faith, stop it and believe.”
The only way to survive your doubts is to believe. Now we don’t believe everything that comes our way like that story about Elvis but we are called to believe the account of the gospel and that Jesus is alive.
Believing means to put your complete trust in something or someone. To believe in Jesus means to depend totally on Jesus and place your trust in Him 100%.
Do you believe in Jesus?
Have you put a complete trust in Him or just a partial trust?
No one knows what it is that you need this morning, or what you have doubts about, but Jesus. Just as He knew what Thomas needed so long ago, He knows today what you need and He is waiting to meet that need.
Do you present that need to Jesus or do you continue to doubt?
Let us pray:
Almighty and living God, who strengthened Thomas with sure and certain faith in your Son’s resurrection, grant that our faith may never be found wanting and give us the ability to share that faith with others. Amen
Delivered to In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 7 April 2013