Is my cup half full or half empty? Is my doubt a half a doubt or a whole doubt? The Doubting Thomas that lives and breathes within Us all. John 20:24-25

“Are ye able,” said the Master,
“to be crucified with me?”
“Yea,” the sturdy dreamers answered,
“to the death we follow thee.”

“Doubt sees the obstacles;

Faith sees the way.

Doubt sees the darkest night;

Faith sees the day.

Doubt dreads to take a step;

Faith soars on high.

Doubt questions, “Who believes?”

Faith answers, “I!”

Faith always has its doubts.

I once had the impression that if you doubted, you could not have faith — that faith and doubt were contrary to one another.

But I gradually began to understand that this is not true.

Doubt is the very proof of faith. Doubt is actually an attack upon the very faith we have. You cannot have doubts unless you have faith.

Faith is the way God works, and so the enemy is bound to attack your faith immediately as he sees you beginning to act and live and walk by faith.

Therefore, doubts will always begin to arise and seek to live— as a result of Satan’s attempt to overthrow your faith. There is no faith without doubts.

Jesus himself, though he always lived by faith, and everything he did was by faith, nevertheless was subjected to times of severe doubt.

Otherwise, he was not one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning, (Hebrews 4:15 RSV).

Doubt is part of the life of faith.

If you and I are trying to walk by faith in a promise God has given you, and you and I are troubled by doubts, this is the proof you and I are really living by faith.

We are all supposed to have doubts and we are supposed to have questions.

God gave us our free will.

When we were being formed in our mother’s womb, God gave us our emotions though yet unformed and undefined, totally unknown and unexpressed by us.

From the time we were born – without our realizing it or knowing it, we took our very first crying session and blessed every last pair of ears within hearing distance. God created us and authored our whole lives, and we went and lived.

We went forth from our mother’s womb and God being God, knowing the full length and breadth of humanities sinful ways, then God gave us the Psalms.

Hang in there!

God knows who we are.

We are not always too sure who God is.

So, we have our doubts, and we have our questions.

Still, Jesus comes to our doubts and answers.

Jesus gives us an opportunity to see him.

Jesus gives us an opportunity to know him.

When our doubts are severe, and questions are many and deep.

Jesus notices us, He looks at us and He acknowledges us fully.

Jesus lets us come to him.

Jesus lets us touch him.

Jesus lets us question him.

Are we learning to see our doubts as corollary to our faith?

Do we process our doubts through what we have proven to be true?

Have we experienced the holy fear of living into an audacious faith?

“Lord, we are able. Our spirits are thine.
Remold them, make us, like thee, divine.
Thy guiding radiance above us shall be
a beacon to God, to love, and loyalty.”

John 20:24-29Amplified Bible

24 But Thomas, one of the twelve [disciples], who was called Didymus (the twin), was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples kept telling him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the marks of the nails, and put my finger into the nail prints, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later His disciples were again inside the house, and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, though the doors had been barred, and stood among them and said, “Peace to you.” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and put out your hand and place it in My side. Do not be unbelieving, but [stop doubting and] believe.” 28 Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, do you now believe? Blessed [happy, spiritually secure, and favored by God] are they who did not see [Me] and yet believed [in Me].”

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Each of the four synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – include in their Passion/Resurrection narratives a series of startling episodes related to the appearances of the risen Christ to his disciples locked behind a heavy door.

In these episodes the remaining disciples (minus Judas who betrayed Jesus), after having passed through a phase of doubt, unbelief, trouble, confusion and astonishment, come to the point of believing that Jesus has been risen indeed.

There is, however, a special episode preserved by the Gospel of John that stands out from among the post-resurrection scenes.

This is the incident of the appearance of the risen Lord to Thomas, brilliantly narrated by John (Jn. 20:24-29).

The specialty and the importance of this event lie in the fact that it presents the relation between doubting, seeing and believing in God, in the resurrection of our Savior Jesus the Christ, in a truly splendid, superbly formulated manner.

More specifically, it reveals the significance of believing after, or because of, having seen the risen Christ, and believing without having seen him.

Therefore, the Thomas incident as it is reported in John 20:24-29, is worthy our investigation and discussion. 

The Appearance of the Risen Christ to his Disciples

John is the only Evangelist who has preserved the story in which Thomas is depicted as moving from unbelief to belief after his encounter with the risen Lord (John. 20:24-29). 

The episode took place one week after Jesus had appeared to the disciples in the absence of Thomas (John 20:19-23).

In the above-mentioned appearance of Jesus to his disciples, he showed them his hands and his side (edeixen autois tas cheiras kai ten pleuran autou), and the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord (idontes ton Kyrion) (John. 20:20).

What we have here, despite the brevity of the description, is the emphasis on the visible aspect of the appearance, even to the very specific mentioning of the “placing our fingers and our thoughts and doubts” in his hands and of his side.

The two main verbs at the center of the narrative are verbs of optical impression, of seeing: Jesus showed … The disciples saw (edeixen … idontes).

In the scene that immediately follows, namely John 20:24-26, the disciples tell Thomas, “We have seen the Lord” (eorakamen ton Kyrion) (John 20:25). 

Here, a basic verb of seeing (eorakamen) is employed by John the Evangelist as a startling expression of the experience of these disciples’ encounter with Savior Jesus Christ the resurrected, and of their questions, their doubts, faith in him.

Thomas’ response to the information/witness offered by the other disciples, includes in an emphatic way the very same verb of sight:

“Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails … I will not believe” (ean me idon … ou me pisteuso) (John. 20:25).

Disciple Thomas without “explicitly dismissing out of hand the other disciples’ confession,” refuses, nonetheless, to confess his personal believe that Jesus is risen from the dead, is alive and there, unless he sees him with his own eyes. 

The condition imposed by Thomas is clear and absolute: personal verification by sight, direct access by eye contact and nothing less.

Thomas even intensifies his terms by adding the need not only to see but also to touch Jesus at the very marks of his crucifixion:

“Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe” (John. 20:25)

Thus, Thomas makes his own individual test, his personal direct seeing of the visible marks of the crucifixion and even the touching of these marks, the absolute condition and the strictest, non-negotiable term for our believing.

Any other evidence is inadmissible. The disciples’ affirmation that they have seen the Lord is treated with utter skepticism that borders on rejection.

An unyielding attitude of greatest doubt is being described here, a situation where our believing seems to be unthinkable without seeing, without direct “hands on, eyes on, ears upon” physical evidence and strictest verification.

Have you ever had that degree and measure of doubt in God and resurrection?

I believe there isn’t a person alive who hasn’t lived that doubt in his or her life.

In his book The Thomas Factor, Winkie Pratney says that

“One of the major reasons that God will allow doubt in our lives is because we have not grown.” (Winkie Pratney. The Thomas Factor. Old Tappan. Chosen Books, 1989, p. 103).

He says that “Doubt comes when we take our eyes off God” (page 94).

In the whole passage of this scripture (John 20:19-31) we see that Thomas is struggling with his “growing pains”. He is struggling mightily with his lack of faith. It is as if he is on the exacting border between believing and doubting.

Considering Thomas’ struggles as we read today in John’s narrative,

As we consider what we know to be our own deeply personal struggles …

We must ask ourselves, “Who is the object of our faith God or ourselves?”

This is a question all of us must confront at times when our faith is being tested.

As much as it was devastatingly true for Thomas as he himself lived in those days, directly effected, and affected by the depth of his emotions and course of events as they actually played out, took place, is it also as mightily true for us?

Today, as we move towards the celebration of the Pentecost, I want you to think about the ways that you see that Thomas’s doubt is mirrored in your own lives.

I want you to think about how the Gospel of John mentions Thomas in three different ways,

Thomas the courageous believer,

Thomas the inquisitive and

Thomas the doubter.

THOMAS THE COURAGEOUS

How would you define courage?

1) An athlete’s definition:

Would it be as the late Tennis Star Arthur Ashe described it?

“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever the cost”.

2) An actor’s definition: Or would it be as the late actor John Wayne said,

“Courage is being scared to death but saddling up and riding ahead anyway”. 

3) A disciple’s definition: Or would it be one of Jesus’s own disciples Thomas defined it,

“a faithfulness unto death” (John 11:16).

Can you imagine a modern-day press conference where journalists might try to question Thomas with a gotcha question?

Imagine their piercing questions.

The interview is going fine, and Thomas is calm until they ask this question:

“You once said that you would follow Jesus. Your exact words were, “Let us go that we might die with Him” (John 11:16). What happened?”

All of a sudden, the interviewee, Thomas, begins to appear intimidated and angry that they put him on the spot.

Take it a step further,

imagine that you are Thomas in this interview.

How would you have responded to all of the cameras and microphones?

How would you have responded to the sudden barrage of repeated questions from every corner of the room, reporter and journalist, at the same time?

THOMAS THE INQUISITIVE

Recall Thomas’s question to Jesus about where it is He is going in John 14:6?

1) A hope graph: If you could graphically picture Thomas’s hope on a scale, then what would it look like between when Thomas had confidently expressed his “faithfulness unto death” up to the moment where he wanted to know the way?

2) A silent minority? Already, you can see the character of Thomas shifting toward doubt in this very question as compared to the courageous statement that he made in John 11:16.

Notice how Thomas says “we” when he really seems to be speaking for himself, at least for the time being.

3) Is seeing always believing? But then we get to Philip’s request to see the Father (John 14:8) and it becomes apparent that maybe there is a “we” after all.

It seems that he might have a little bit in common with Thomas’s need to see in order to believe.

Jesus clarified not only His direction, but also His identity.

1) Jesus’s answer: In answering Thomas’s question, Jesus said,

“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

2) Our future: Not only was Jesus telling them that He was soon going to die (John 13:33), but He was also telling them about where He was going.

He also spoke of hearts having no fear, of the rooms He was preparing in the Father’s house when He would come and receive each of them (John 14:1-4).

That promise is true for all of His believers.

THOMAS THE DOUBTER

The other disciples had already seen Jesus, but Thomas was not there when they saw Him.

We have to remember that by this time, that there were only 11 other disciples because Judas had hung himself as the result of his severe doubts and anguish.

Ten of those 11 had seen the resurrected Jesus.

1) Jesus’ appearance behind locked doors:

Those 10 disciples were present in the room with the doors locked in fear of the Jewish authorities when the resurrected Jesus appeared among them, saying, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19).

2) Needing proof: It was not until eight days later that Thomas saw Jesus Christ resurrected (John 20:26).

It was not until Thomas saw Jesus just over a week later that he believed.

He said that he would not believe unless he put his hand in Jesus’s hands where the nails were and the wound in His side.

Jesus told him to do just that.

John’s narrative does not specifically mention it. We do not know if Thomas actually physically touched both the nail scared hands and wounded side.

Thomas had to live in doubt for over a week. I know a lot of people who say that they do not like to miss church because they do not feel right all week long.

3) Feeling awkward because of absence:

There have been those rare times in history when we have had to practice social distancing for a great length of time.

Going to church is not something that we do for somebody else.

Going to church is something that we do for ourselves!

We go to church to nurture our faith as well as to encourage one another in the faith.

From John’s narrative, we are not told why Thomas was absent. We are told that his absence made him insecure and doubtful where the others were secure.

4) Needing peace:

We all need that blessing of peace that Jesus gives to us (John 20:19).

Thomas still seemed to be afraid.

Maybe he was still afraid of death. The others were liberated from the prison of that fear whereas Thomas was still one of its prisoners.

Until Thomas saw Jesus resurrected himself, he said that he would not believe.

Faith in Jesus is not something that we just talk about.

Faith gives a bridge over troubled waters!

It is something that we all have to walk on and cross over whenever we find ourselves facing our own barrage of ever greater questions and our doubts.

Satan would love nothing more than to use our doubt to his advantage.

He is betting against us. Satan will try to cheat in order to win.

He tries to use our doubt for leverage.

St. Augustine of Hippo ever so eloquently stated it this way:

“Faith is to believe what you do not yet see; the reward of faith is to see what you believe.” 

“For what we see now we see dimly as a poor reflection in a mirror, then we shall see face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

Until we are able to have the reward of faith—to see what we believe,

we will have to walk by faith until we receive our sight.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this devotional,

Doubt sees the obstacles;

Faith sees the way.

Doubt sees the darkest night;

Faith sees the day.

Doubt dreads to take a step;

Faith soars on high.

Doubt questions, “Who believes?”

Faith answers, “I!”

If we are honest with ourselves, then we will admit that there are lots of times when we possess doubt as Thomas did.

When Jesus came to Thomas and told him put his finger in the holes of his hands and side from His crucifixion scars, Thomas began to believe.

In much the same way, God uses our faith to help others to develop the eyes of faith so that they, too, may begin to believe without having to rely on sight.

They see us having peace that passes all understanding in spite of the trials of everyday life.

It is then our faith becomes a living testimony of trusting and believing in the resurrected Christ so unbelievers may want to have the faith that gives us hope in knowing Christ holds our future just as much as He helps us in the present.

It’s the place where we can confidently connect the question with our response:

1. “Are ye able,” said the Master,
“to be crucified with me?”
“Yea,” the sturdy dreamers answered,
“to the death we follow thee.”
Refrain:
Lord, we are able. Our spirits are thine.
Remold them, make us, like thee, divine.
Thy guiding radiance above us shall be
a beacon to God, to love, and loyalty.

In the name of God, the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us pray,

Father, stir my heart to continue to seek after you. I want to know more about you, and I also want to be more aware of your presence in my life. I want my character to be conformed to your will. So please know that my doubts and questions are my seeking you and not my seeking some random tidbit of knowledge. Give me the Spirit of revelation to know you more completely so that I might be transformed by your will rather than being conformed to the culture around me. In Jesus my Savior’s name, I pray. Gloria! Alleluia! Amen.

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Author: Thomas E Meyer Jr

Formerly Homeless Sinner Now, Child of God, Saved by Grace.

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