Tag Archives: Doubting Thomas

Miscalled

Guercino - Doubting Thomas - WGA10951

Guercino – Doubting Thomas [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

His name is legendary, Doubting Thomas” – the name-tag we give him. Really, we are being cruel to Thomas. Thomas was a sceptic, but in many ways one of the most heroic of Jesus’ disciples. The first three gospels do not tell us anything about him. John, the writer of the fourth gospel, is different. The first time John introduces us to Thomas is on the occasion when news came to Jesus about the illness of his friend, Lazarus, at his home in Bethany. This was one of the places where pilgrims lodged on their way to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover week. For Jesus to go to Bethany at that particular time was to court trouble. It was a hotbed of hostility to Jesus – he knew it; the disciples knew it. When Jesus told them Lazarus was dead and suggested they should call at the Bethany home en-route for the Holy City and Passover, the disciples were reluctant to let him do it.

From all accounts the disciples went so far as to say, “if he insists on such madness, he can count us out.” But not all of them, not Thomas! His was the voice that rose above the clamour of debate and criticism. “Let us go,” he pleaded, “that we might die with him.” Here is a cameo shot of the real Thomas – the Thomas whom Jesus chose to be a disciple. Thomas, along with his colleagues, may have seen nothing but death at the end of the road that led through Bethany, but Thomas, absolutely loyal, may have been the one who saved the situation that day, persuading his co-disciples not to leave Jesus in the lurch. Thomas has been called “the honest sceptic and the courageous pessimist.” That about sums him up. One thing is sure, it is a great comfort to find Thomas in the pages of the New Testament because there is a bit of Thomas in all of us. I do not understand those Christians who tell me: I” have never known a moment of doubt”. Take a look at Thomas – we may find the way to face our own doubts and pessimism.

Thomas doubted, but Thomas faced his doubts honestly, openly and bravely. In an Upper Room in the closing hours of his life, when he was trying to convince the disciples that the way of the Cross was inevitable, Jesus said, “You know where I am going and the way is known to you.” But it was a bit too much for Thomas. “Lord,” he exclaimed, “we do not know where you are going, how can we know the way?” You have got to take your hat off to Thomas. He could not live with an unasked question. He was not prepared to allow what he did not understand to pass without grappling with it and he refused to believe what he did not understand. We have got to admire his honesty. Transfer him to present times and we might find Thomas unable to sit in the pew and let the preacher get away with it! Follow in Thomas’ footsteps and note, from his example, that the way to deal with doubts is not to stifle them, but to bring them out into the open – to look at them as through a microscope with Jesus our mentor. “Thomas,” Jesus addressed him, “you may not understand, but you have me: I am the way, the truth, the life.” And there came a day when Thomas did understand. When Thomas was told that the Risen Christ had visited his friends he said “unless I see in the hands of Jesus the mark of the nails and can touch the wound on his side, I will never believe it”. Then Jesus came to Thomas as he had come to those who needed him most in those bewildering and exciting post-resurrection days. And Jesus did exactly as Thomas required. “Here I am,” Jesus said, “Do with me as you wish.” Thomas looked and realised there was no need for this kind of testing. In next to no time, his heart bursting with love and overflowing in devotion, the greatest confession of faith any man or woman can make was on his lips: “My Lord and my God.” (John 20: 20-29)

Who dares call this man “Doubting Thomas”?

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