“Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” John 20:19-31
Poor Thomas. Thomas has been saddled with the name “Doubting Thomas” for a very long time. No one refers to Peter as “Sinking Peter,” because when he got out of the boat to go to Jesus, he looked down, and started to sink because he got scared.
What about Andrew and Philip, who questioned Jesus on the hillside near the Sea of Galilee when Jesus tested them about how to feed the multitude? Philip said, “Two hundred Denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” (John 6:7) Andrew said, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves, and two fish, but what are they among so many?”It seems they did not do so well on their test. Maybe they didn’t study hard enough.
This wasn’t the only time when the disciples doubted the truth of Jesus’ words. St. Mark wrote that when Mary Magdalene told the disciples that Jesus was alive, and that she had seen him, they would not believe it. (Mark 16:11)
I think Jesus was used to being doubted. Nicodemus doubted Jesus when he told him that he must be born again. He asked Jesus a silly question; “Can a man enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born again?” Jesus asked him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand this?”
But there is Thomas. He is known as the Doubting Thomas, despite so many others who have doubted. He was not with the disciples when Jesus first visited them. Jesus had showed them his hands and his side. He breathed on them and gave them the Holy Spirit.
He gave them the authority to forgive sins, or to retain them, if necessary. Some sins cannot be forgiven if the sinner is without remorse, and does not intend to repent. The Confession that we read each Sunday says, “We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.”
And most importantly, Jesus made them Apostles. He did this when he said, “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” Apostles are those who are sent out.
But Thomas was not there for this important meeting. So there was an opportunity for Thomas to be tested. Thomas did not believe the other Apostles. He wanted to touch Jesus for himself, put his fingers in the holes of his hands, and put his hand in Jesus’ side.
Now it wasn’t a bad thing to do, really. Jesus put up with a lot of doubt while he was on this earth. He did not condemn anyone for doubting.
I bet that most if not all believers had their doubts at one time or another. I certainly did. If Jesus did not condemn Thomas, then he will not condemn you or me for having doubt.
There are many people have the same doubt as Thomas. Unless they could see Jesus for themselves, they will not believe. They reject faith as foolishness. Many attack Christianity because if they cannot believe, they want others to join them in unbelief.
Having doubt and asking questions are OK, because it’s the best way to learn.
According to Christian philosopher and theologian, Paul Tillich, “Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it’s an element of faith.”
Faith is the acceptance of things hoped for and yet unseen. It is a conviction that the words of Holy Scripture are true, and that Jesus is who he says he is.
But faith is not something we have to generate ourselves. It is a gift from God, and if we are open to this gift, it is freely given. Trusting in God is reinforced when you hear of how others have trusted him and have been healed, or have found their way because of his grace and mercy.
The father of the boy who had an evil spirit said to Jesus, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” Jesus rebuked the evil spirit and called it out of the boy. The father saw and believed. As Jesus told Thomas, and indeed he tells all of us, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” That is faith.
The Apostles were given a mission to spread the Good News of salvation of the belief in the Lord Jesus, and we, too, have that same mission.
So when we tell others about our faith, or when we live out our faith by giving to others our time, talent and treasure, we are reaching out to the lost, the hurt, and the dying as Jesus would have us do.
It’s easy to have doubt about our mission, or what it is that we might be able to accomplish, but when we remember that it is not a matter of what we do, but it is a matter of what Jesus can do through us, then we can do all things through him who gives us the courage to persevere. We are not sent out helpless, on our own, with no support.
As Jesus breathed on the Apostles and gave them the Holy Spirit, we, too, have been given the Holy Spirit. He is the one who works through us, and even if we do not see the results we expect, the Spirit will bring the works to fruition.
St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians (1 Cor 3:6-9);
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.”
The field will produce more workers for God to continue the planting and watering, and for spreading the Good News of Salvation through Jesus Christ. We are God’s fellow workers, you and I, and this is the work he has given us to do, so let’s get to it.
Remember, it’s ok to have doubts, but don’t let them discourage you from growing closer to God. Use those doubts to question and to learn and to grow in the knowledge and love of the Lord. Amen.