An exploration of the doubt of Thomas the apostle and how Jesus reached into his doubt, and our doubts. Preached in the churchyard of the Church of the Good Shepherd, the Sunday after Easter 2021.
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 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.”
Thomas, the twin, had been with Jesus for all of his ministry, he had seen him feed thousands, walk on water, heal the sick and cast out demons. Thomas had heard Jesus speak in parables to reveal mysteries hidden since the foundation of the world. Thomas had heard him teach, proclaim who he was and why he had come. Thomas had eaten at the last supper and fled in the garden of Gethsemane. Thomas heard the Easter message proclaimed by those who had seen it first hand.
But hearing this message he does not respond with uncertainty – Thomas is anything if not certain. He responds with conviction that he will not believe in Jesus’s resurrection or the Apostolic Witness (note-Thomas is an Apostle) unless he touches the risen Lord with his own hands. His doubt is not quiet, it is fierce. There is a fear hidden in disbelief, that fear is appropriate for faith is a refiners fire, it burns us, it touches everything, it transforms every relationship, pulls us away from what we think we want to love and replaces our loves with higher ones. Faith in the resurrection means that our life and existence is more than we can ask or imagine, more than we can control, more than we can rewrite. And so doubt rages, or drags, or picks at our depths. May we learn to expose this, to encourage one another, and turn to God praying “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief” Thomas’s fierce doubt was so strong many call him Doubting Thomas to this day. It overcame his identity. But Jesus did not leave him there forever.
26 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!” 27 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.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Despite all that Thomas had experienced, he did not on first hearing know the Risen Lord and that same Lord had not breathed the very breath of life into his lungs. We can, we should, and we must proclaim the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus, on his birth, life, death and resurrection hang the fate of all life, hang all our hopes, hangs our very breath and tears. But all our proclaiming, explaining, teaching and singing will not make a single disciple unless the Holy Spirit is received by them, unless the scales fall from their eyes, unless they see Christ crucified and resurrected. You can not make that happen, that is not in your power, God alone can do this and when he does it is irresistible. So pray for those you have and do witness to, pray that they might receive the Holy Spirit, that they might encounter our King. Do you wish to have faith and find you have not? Ask that you might receive. Knock that the door may be open to you. Persist like a widow desperate for justice. Hunger and thirst and be satisfied. Pray: Lord God of the Universe, I want to know you but I can’t help but think you are bunch of made up nonsense, lies and wishes of half-starved half-mad nobodies from millennia gone by, a crutch for the weak, but I want to want you, I want to trust you, I want to know you, make yourself known to me and in me, give me the life of your Spirit, let me know Jesus as my Saviour, in whose name I yearn to pray. Cast away my doubt.
In this story we hear that Jesus comes and greets those who had abandoned him, those that had made themselves his enemies with an overwhelming Peace. He breaks through their locked doors, our obstacles and defences are nothing to him, and he stands among them and speaks into Thomas’s doubts. He commands Thomas to believe and Thomas has no choice but to confess who Jesus is, his Lord, his King, his friend, his God.
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
May we believe and have life in Jesus name. Amen.