Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Doubting Thomas

One of Jesus disciples, by the name of Thomas, is often  delegated to our lower levels of esteem.
Poor Thomas - we tend to look at him sideways almost embarrassed for him that he should have such doubts !

A few posts back I wrote about "Doubt - An Enemy?" .. and want to follow it up with a look at the bible character whose very name is synonymous with doubt. Doubting Thomas.

What if we remove our pre-conceived judgment about him ... and look at him again with a fresh and unbiased eye.

In Matthew, Mark and Luke we only find Thomas mentioned in the list of Jesus' twelve disciples.
It is  in John's account that we glean something of who he was as a man and something of his story, as well as a life-example for us to learn from.

John first refers to him in John 11:16 when Jesus told His disciples that their friend Lazarus had died, and He said "Let us go to him."
John records Thomas' comment to the other disciples. "Let us also go, that we may die with him."  A rather strange thing to say, isn't it ? Does it indicate a tendency of Thomas' to see the 'dark' side of things?  Hopelessness?  Seeing the problem without an answer?   A man who see his glass half full? Or a man who is sensitive to the suffering and sorrow of others?

The next time we see Thomas is in John 14:1-6 where Jesus speaks the words we all know by heart ... "Let not your heart be troubled .....  I go to prepare a place for you .... I will come again ... that where I am , you may be there also.... and the way you know."  
Again, it is Thomas' response that is recorded.  He said, "   "Lord, we do not know where you are going, and how can we know the way?
I believe those questions resonated in all the disciples' minds,but only Thomas had the courage to ask it, the honesty to reveal his lack of understanding.  Those who dare to ask the questions are the ones who seek the answers. Was Thomas a deep thinker? One whose mind absorbed the words of Jesus, thought not only about what the words meant, but also what they meant for him personally?
Jesus does not rebuke him for his question, He patiently gives him the answer! Why? because Thomas asked!

Then we do not hear anything more about Thomas until John 20:19-29.
Jesus, had risen from the dead, and  suddenly appeared to the disciples who had gathered behind locked doors for fear of the Jews. Jesus responded to the disciples' joy in seeing Him by extending to them words of peace and a commission.
Missing from this group gathering was Thomas.  Where was he? We don't know, but we know he wasn't 'hiding' with the rest of the disciples. Perhaps he chose to be alone with his thoughts, trying to figure out what had happened, and why?  Grieving that Jesus had died and asking over and over again,"Why?"

The disciples sought him out, eager to tell him that Jesus was alive - they had seen Him !  A miracle had happened!!
Once again we have recorded Thomas' response - the one he is famous for...."Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe."   
We are so quick to shake our heads at Thomas and say ... "Oh you of little faith!!!"  but wait -  How many times in bible history do we see people who doubted and were brave enough to express it?

We can look at Abraham, whose faith faltered and he said, "Lord, could my servant not be my heir?  or my son Ishmael?"   and God patiently answered Abraham and assured him that God's promise to him would be fulfilled.  He needed to wait just a little longer.

We can look at Moses who shook his head at God's assignment saying he could not speak, he was not the man God needed - He should choose another.  And God patiently answered Moses and showed him God had indeed called him to deliver God's people.

We can look at Gideon who doubted that God could possibly have meant him - the least of the least family in the least tribe!  In his doubt, he put out a fleece, still doubted and put out another fleece and then when he dared not ask for another sign - God so patiently told Gideon "If you still doubt, go down tonight to the tents of the enemy."

We can look at the desperate father who brought his possessed son to Jesus, begging Jesus to heal him. When Jesus said all things were possible to those who believed, the father reached through his doubt to grab hold of faith. "Lord, I believe! help my unbelief!" 

We can look at Mary, the mother of Jesus, when confronted with the 'impossible' asked... "How can this be?"

I believe God showed us the examples of doubting people in the bible - about whom we we forget their doubts because we focus on what their resulting faith brought about in their lives.
God wants us to voice our doubts, because voicing them puts us in a place where we can conquer our fears, over come them in our seeking for the truth. Having faced our doubts and found the 'faith' answers, we then stand on a solid foundation. We have tested God's word and found it to be sure!

And so we see Thomas, the last time we hear him in scripture, once again asking the question, seeking the answer that will slay his doubt.  Jesus never speaks a word of rebuke to Thomas but comes to him personally.  Jesus stands before him and holds out His hands and shows him His side saying .. "Touch me .. and believe."
And we see Thomas; response ... he worships ... "My Lord, and my God !"  His faith will never again be shaken!
One more reference to Thomas in Acts 1:13 - when the disciples gathered in the upper room to wait the coming of the Holy Spirit, Thomas is not missing from this gathering !

Instead of seeing Thomas as an example of something I don't want to do - feel guilt because I doubt -  I have come to see him as an encouragement.   When I feel the uncertainty of doubt, I don't need to fear asking the questions.
I know that God will acknowledge my doubts, in fact, He invites me to voice them, seeking the answers He is waiting to give me.
Listen to the words of James 1:5, "If any of you lacks wisdom  let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and WITHOUT REPROACH, and it will be given to him."
When my doubt gives way to faith, my response will be like Thomas' -  I will cry out that He is the Answer, He is the way and the truth! - the One true God I love and worship !

**There is an interesting detail provided about Thomas in John 11:16, It tells us that Thomas was also known as Didymus.  Didymus means 'double' or 'twin' - Thomas was a twin.  Is there a 'hint' of  hidden meaning here? Can we infer from Thomas' names   -  that 'doubt' is the twin of 'faith' ?  If we let 'Doubt' ask the question that leads us to truth, do we encounter the other twin, 'Faith' ?



Lovella ♥ said...

This is the third time I have heard or read about Thomas in one week so clearly there is something for me to learn. I so appreciate learning from Thomas that it is better to stay in fellowship with other believers and be encouraged by them instead of isolating myself and missing out on learning from others and community worship.

I am confused by your mention of Judas in John 11 and John 14. Is that just a typo or are you comparing Thomas and Judas as similar personalities?

Julie said...

Thank you, Lovella, it was a 'typo' ... and I have corrected it.