Beyond reasonable doubt (21-04-22)
A Bible Reading: 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.”
I have a lot of sympathy with Thomas. Christian belief is not always as simple and as straightforward as we might like.
Personally, I have always believed in God, taking a lead from my parents from childhood. Early in my teens I began to explore the person of Jesus, initially recognizing him as a real historical person. Then, in my late teens, I was introduced to Jesus as living Lord and Saviour, and my Christian beliefs became central to my way of life.
My faith has grown and developed over time, but it has not always been solid and secure. Like Thomas I have had my wobbles. Post-natal depression after the birth of Rachel left me anxious and uncertain, questioning the foundations of my faith at a deeper level for the first time. More recently, the death of our daughter, Anna, left me with even bigger questions tangled up with distress and grief. God had not answered our many prayers as we had hoped. From time to time in my life, many big faith questions have had to be faced honestly and worked through afresh.
As one of the twelve disciples, Thomas had been involved in the life and ministry of Jesus for three years. He had witnessed first-hand the teaching, miracles and healing. He knew Jesus personally, the kind of man he was. Thomas had then witnessed the events leading to Jesus’ arrest, rigged trial and horrific and unjust death by crucifixion. Thomas’ world had suddenly fallen apart and racked with distress and grief he wasn’t sure what to think any more. Thomas too had to face up to dashed hopes and work things through bit by bit until he came to a new place of faith.
Interestingly, the other disciples had also doubted. When the women first came back from the empty tomb and told them that Jesus had risen, the disciples didn’t believe them and thought they were talking nonsense. It was only when Peter and John went to look in the tomb for themselves, and when Jesus appeared to them all behind locked doors, that they began to grasp the reality of the resurrection. Thomas was not present on this occasion, so it is not surprising that it took him a little longer to come back to a place of belief.
There are times in all our lives when we need to explore further and deeper until we are convinced, like Thomas, that Jesus is Lord and God. Doubts can lead to greater faith and deeper belief over time. This very much resonates with the teaching of Leading your Church into Growth (LyCiG), which encourages us all to dig deeper and grow in our spiritual understanding and discipleship. Several notable lawyers have set out to disprove the resurrection, and have come to the same conclusion, that the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is beyond reasonable doubt. Frank Morison’s book Who Moved the Stone? is the most well-known. Maybe this post-Easter period is a good time for us all to re-examine what we believe, so that with Thomas we can come to a fresh place of belief and say of Jesus with conviction: ‘My Lord and my God’.
Lord Jesus, reveal yourself to us afresh, that we might know you in your risen power and proclaim with confidence that you are the living God. Amen.
See what a morning gloriously bright by Keith and Kristyn Getty