Thursday, April 8, 2010

Believing Thomas

I think that "Doubting" Thomas has gotten a bad rap. The negative moniker "doubting" was attached to him on the basis of the story in John 20:19-31. In this Easter day story, Thomas isn't present when the Risen Christ appears to the other disciples. When they tell Thomas what happened he says, in effect, "I don't believe you. I need to see the Risen Christ for myself."

There are several different types of doubt that Thomas doesn't exhibit. He doesn't doubt the existence of God. He doesn't doubt that Jesus existed. He doesn't express "existential" doubt, which is deep and powerful uncertainty. The nature of his doubt is, "I need to experience this for myself."

Thomas's spiritual journey to faith in the Risen Christ is a common one. Rather than taking someone else's word, he needs to have first-hand experience in order to believe. What's so wrong with this?

In fact, Thomas makes the ultimate confession of faith when the Risen Christ appears to him a week after Easter. He says, "My Lord and my God!" This is the confession that the author of John's gospel wants us, the readers, to make. This author says that he wrote the gospel so that we would believe that Jesus is the Christ and, in believing, have new life.

So my nickname for Thomas is Believing Thomas. His doubt of his fellow disciples leads him to a powerful encounter with the Risen Christ that results in faith. So may our "doubts" lead us to faith.

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