#96: Answering the Doubter

John 20:24–29

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 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.”
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!” 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.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

We have seen how Jesus appeared on the first Easter Sunday morning to Mary. As the day progressed there were other appearances. First to two disappointed friends making their weary way back to Emmaus. They had expected so much from Jesus until the crucifixion. Then a third appearance story happens as the disciples are in hiding behind locked doors and filled with fear. These are failure and disappointment stories. Jesus’s followers are not filled with optimism after Good Friday, quite the opposite, they think it is all over and they are fearing the worst. This, of course, is another big clue to the truth of the resurrection, how could such beaten people become world beaters?

My own favourite failure and disappointment transformation story is that of Thomas. The story of Doubting Thomas, as we now call him, works perfectly for me because I am a Doubting Robin. For some doubt is an intellectual thing, for others it is often more emotional, growing out of their temperament. And for some of us it is both.

I haven’t always been a doubter. In fact when I first became a Christian I was filled, for several years, with overflowing confidence and belief, even certainty. Don’t ask me where it has come from but as I have got older, experienced more of life and probed around more in the deep chambers of my rather melancholic ‘inner me’ doubts have become an ever present reality. The doubts have entered my house of faith like a combination of rising damp and woodworm. I have all sorts of doubts. Does God exist? Did Jesus rise from the dead? Am I a true Christian? Is the church really on the right track? I used to think it was a terrible thing for an evangelist and a vicar to be racked with doubt and I tried desperately to hide it away from people. Now I think, ‘This is me’. ‘This is who I am’. ‘This is who God called’. Gradually I came to realise that my doubts were more about me than about God. God is a big God, he can cope with my doubts. So even as Doubting Robin I am still finding Jesus, still following him and still trying to become like him. Why, because I have discovered a ‘knowing ‘and a devotion that is deeper than my doubts.

Jesus’s response to the not quite believing Thomas is, ‘Reach out and touch me’, ‘Try me out’, ’Look at the evidence’, ‘Probe and search’. It is as if Jesus is saying, ‘I know you think this is impossible, incredible but find out for yourself that it is true. Stop doubting and believe’.

This is not a theoretical story made up of ideas and hopefulness. It is rather a historical, made out of solid rock, observational story. It is tangible, you can feel its authenticity, you can reach out and touch its truthfulness. Who could have made it up and imagined it? It is a ‘this is what really happened eye witness story’.

Many of us get frightened by our doubts, they feel like they are eating into the solidity of our faith. The result is we sweep them under the carpet, sing louder and pray longer. In my experience the best thing to do is to let them become like probing fingers. When we reach out to touch Jesus we find something for the brain and something for the heart. Firstly, for the brain or intellect, we find a bunch of rational and logical factors that have to be taken seriously. Secondly, for the heart, we find something or someone who is authentic, true.
We find a living friend and leader. We intuitively know that death could not defeat this supremely good man. We reach out and touch the still living Jesus.

Today’s question then is, ‘What is the biggest doubt facing you about the resurrection of Jesus?’

Lord Jesus,
Risen from the dead,
Full of glory, life and light.
As I reach out to touch you,
May you speak into my brain with your truth,
And warm my heart with your living presence.