Some time back, as I was pondering the subject of doubt, I focused on the fellow who inherited the unfortunate moniker Doubting Thomas.
But, was he really any more of a doubter than any of us, or any of the disciples?
I think not, as the following scenarios affirm:
- The women believed the words of angels that Jesus had risen and ran to tell the others (Matthew 28: 6-8). Yet Mary wasn’t 100% sure until she saw Jesus and he called her by name (John 20:16).
- Peter didn’t believe the words of the women at all. Like Thomas, he had to run to the grave to see for himself (Luke 24: 11ff).
- Some had to see Jesus catch a boatload of fish before they got it (John 21: 7).
- Even when others saw Jesus Himself and then heard him speak, they STILL didn’t believe untilhe “opened their minds.” (Luke 24:31 and 45)
For some, it took only the word of others. Some had to see to believe. Still others had to hear His words.
Finally, some just couldn’t believe until Jesus touched their minds and opened their eyes. Hm.
Doubting Thomas? Or Doubting Us?
Some other things struck me about the Doubting Thomas account in John 20: 24-31. Thomas said he would not believe until he saw Jesus and put his hands in the holes on Jesus’ hands and side.
How did Thomas know a risen Jesus would have holes, anyway? Wouldn’t a risen body have no imperfections like the gouges from nails and a spear? In fact, why DOES the risen Jesus have those holes? Perhaps the marks of Jesus’ painful suffering are actually signs of perfection: Jesus, the perfect sacrifice who paid for sins once and for all.
When Thomas did see Jesus, he didn’t have to put his hands in the nail holes to give the greatest declaration of Jesus’ identity in the gospels:
Jesus is the Messiah, but more, He is “My Lord and My God!” What faith!
Finally — and this is the part that struck me the most — in verses 20:29, John repeats what Jesus said following Thomas’ declaration:
Because you have seen me, you have believed, but blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.
It’s natural to interpret this as Jesus saying, “Hey, if you manage to believe in my resurrection based only on the words of others, then you have some kind of deep faith. You are blessed for having that kind of faith. Good going!”
Here’s the way I read it:
Remember that some folks didn’t believe until Jesus touched their minds? Well, I think what Jesus really meant by His blessing was this: “You are blessed to share in this experience. I gave the apostles and some 500 people first-hand knowledge of my resurrection. They believed in part because the saw and heard me.
“But, YOU, you have the incredible blessing of believing without being able to see me. You are blessed to have to rely entirely on two things:
- The testimony of others who saw me (the New Testament writers) and
- My touch.”
And that goes back to my struggles with doubt. When it comes right down to it, I believe because of a feeling of assurance that Jesus is who He said He is and did what He said He did. I believe because He touched my mind and opened my heart’s eyes.
“How can I believe a feeling,” I asked?
Now I come full circle, “How can I believe apart from a feeling?”
How can I believe apart from Jesus touching my mind and convcting me (there’s that feeling) that He really did rise from the dead?
And if He arose, He is God and the Cross accomplished its purpose.
I am blessed because I get to experience belief apart from sight. I believe because He touches me. And so do all who do believe. And we are blessed.
Oh, Lord: Thanks for touching my heart again and restoring my faith. It’s different than before: not so adamantly sure, but tentatively leaning on You, sensing a new work about to begin. Thanks for blessing me so. Amen.
Note: If you are suffering with doubt, I wrote a number of posts on a season of doubt that assailed me:
- Doubting at Last
- Doubting Less, but Not Doubtless
- Without a Doubt?
- More About Doubt
- Wondering about Doubt?