When in Doubt

Oratio 39

Lectionary Reading:

John 20:19-31


The resurrection of Jesus has taken place, but no one has  reported to have seen him except for the women at the tomb. The disciples are in hiding. Their Messiah has been viciously executed on a cross and they are in fear for their lives. Their hopes are dashed. But, suddenly, in the midst of this fear and this hiding, Jesus shows up. Oddly, the disciples were locked into a room, but Jesus mysteriously enters somehow. The last thing they are expecting is a dead Jesus strolling into their hiding place, or rolling in like nearly headless Nick from Harry Potter.

The disciples rejoice once they hear Jesus speak to them; “Shalom,” Jesus says. This is the critical moment when Jesus breathes onto the disciples; a moment reminiscent of Yahweh breathing life into Adam in the creation story of Genesis. Jesus is risen, and he breathes newness and new life into his disciples in the form of the Spirit (breath in Hebrew also means Spirit). The disciples are charged and empowered with the same abilities to forgive, heal, and spread the good news just as Jesus did. The disciples in the room appear to undoubtedly accept this encounter.

But one of them is not present. His name is Thomas. It’s possible that Thomas is grieving so severely that he cannot be with the others. Maybe he needs to grieve on his own. When his fellow disciples find him and tell him the news, “Thomas! We saw Jesus! He is risen!”, the disciples are met with Thomas’s disbelief. Thomas tells them, unless my hands physically touch the wounds on Christ’s risen body, I do not believe your story.

Thomas’s reaction is logical and reasonable. In fact, within the grieving process, denial is one of the first steps the person grieving must go through. In addition, after people die, people who grieve often think they see their dead loved one. Thomas is a cynic. He’s a skeptic.  And there is nothing wrong with that. Thomas often gets criticized and critiqued as “Doubting Thomas.” But how is Thomas any different from the other disciples in the gospels? Didn’t Peter doubt Jesus who called him to walk on water with him? Didn’t he sink like a rock when he began to lose faith? Didn’t Mary and Martha lose faith in Jesus? Didn’t the other disciples constantly waiver over Jesus’ true identity? Yes. They all doubted. They all struggled with their belief. Thomas isn’t an anomaly. Thomas is us.

Every single one of Jesus’ followers must have doubted him at some point. Many of them must have debated whether or not this person, this God-man, this messiah, could be God in the flesh. A week later, Thomas is with his disciple friends in the same room where Jesus appeared a week before. The doors are shut. Jesus returns again. Thomas is there. Instead of shaming Thomas, or rebuking him for his disbelief of what his friends told him, Jesus showed up; perhaps Jesus showed up just because he know Thomas needed that verification. Jesus met Thomas exactly where Thomas was at; in the middle of a crisis of faith; at a point of doubt, disbelief, and grief. Jesus showed up to make sure Thomas had what he needed in order to be reassured that this Jesus is not just a resurrected man come back from the dead. In this moment, Thomas realizes who Jesus really is. He is now able to merge Jesus with the Creator God, Yahweh. They are one. Jesus is God.

Each of us are unique and have unique needs, thoughts, and ideas. We have specific feelings and points of reliance. The disciples needs where each different. This uniqueness was important enough for Jesus to show up for Thomas in the middle of his disbelief. And we can be rest assured that Jesus will do the same for us. Do you struggle with disbelief? Has pain prevented you from believing? Has trauma and spiritual abuse robbed you of your faith? If so, I’ve been there. Thomas was there too. We are all like Thomas at some point or at multiple points in our lives and that’s okay. Jesus will show up for you and breathe new life into your bones and resurrect a new life inside of your weary and broken hearts. Remember, that Jesus did not hold a contingency over Thomas’s head. He will not hold one over yours. Praise God who sees us in our despair and responds to us in love, patience, and grace.

Grace and peace,

Erin Green

Co-Executive Director, Brave Commons