But Thomas (who was called the Twin) one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” John 20:24-25
Thomas has been labeled “Doubting Thomas” since this event was recorded by John, and many throughout the centuries have ridiculed him for questioning Jesus resurrection. However, Thomas’ response was really no different than the others, or from any of us. The others needed physical proof too. That is why Peter ran to the tomb to check out Mary’s report. It was only after Jesus came to them that evening through a locked door that they were certain of his resurrection. Thomas needed a personal encounter with Jesus too.
And yet most people simply remember Thomas as a doubter. Perhaps we need to recognize Thomas as one who was seeking to know Jesus more fully. Doubt is not rejection, but holding a belief with hesitation and uncertainty. Doubt involves believing something with questions about whether it is really true or not.
God does not reject those who question. Jesus did not reject Thomas or deny him his need to touch his wounds. When he saw Jesus he believed in the resurrection. Jesus’ Presence was enough. God welcomes our deepest questions so we can come to faith, and when we seek him, God will supply us with the faith we need. When we think belief requires certainty, then doubts and questions can be paralyzing, painful, and sometimes even lead to despair, but the Bible does not teach that certainty is required for faith. Faith comes as God supplies it to us and with that supply God brings peace and continues to encourage us to seek to know God even more. Understood this way, belief does not require certainty. In fact, we each hold beliefs with varying degrees of confidence.
A colleague friend of mine when I taught at Texas A&M University claimed to be an atheist. She always questioned me about troubling things she had read in the Bible. The fact she was reading the Bible indicated to me that she was seeking to know God. Yet she put up a good front. Before she retired she had to have surgery for cancer. My husband and I went to the hospital to pray with her prior to her surgery. She said, “Well you know I don’t believe in God, but obviously you do. Thank you. I want us to keep talking about this later.” So we did, and when she left the hospital she asked me to baptize her. I baptized my friend at age 65. She said, “I’m not sure what I believe, but I do believe there is a God, and I want to know God better.” Her faith grew by leaps and bounds. She told me two weeks before she died at age 65 “I am so glad that I know God and that God knows me and still loves me.”
Understanding faith in God also means that we need to be available to people who have doubts, and fears, to extend God’s loving care to them, which gives them opportunities to believe. That is touching them with faith and physical evidence that Jesus can bring faith and peace to them. You can provide the physical evidence, like that which Jesus gave to Thomas, bringing them to a stronger faith in God. No doubt about it. Believing in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a faith sight that God gives when someone reaches out to support someone else who needs to touch Jesus.
Who can you touch today? Alleluia! Christ is Risen. Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Rev Sue Beall – NLS Spiritual Director