Test: John 20:24-29
I guess I always get the bad press. I’m the doubter. Did you know I’m even in the dictionary? Doubting Thomas: "one who habitually or instinctively doubts or questions." How original. But come on. Would you have believed it? Seriously, would you have? Be honest. Your friends come to you and tell you that they’ve seen your friend, your teacher, who you saw put to death and buried with your own eyes, out of the tomb, walking around, alive. You’d be a bit skeptical too, wouldn’t you?
Anyway, I guess I’m getting a little ahead of myself. I’m Thomas, one of the original twelve. If you’ll bear with me, I’d like to tell you my story. My real story. I’m sorry if I sound a bit defensive. It seems I’m pretty famous these days on the interweb thingy and people are making a big deal of this so-called Gospel I supposedly wrote. That’s a bunch of bunk – I never wrote such nonsense. Someone else wrote it and shot my name down to give it credibility. Have you ever read that thing? It’s incomprehensible jibber-jabber. Maybe a little skepticism is a good thing, especially when it comes to whacko theories on the inter-whatever-you-call-it.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, my story. I guess the trouble really started about the time of the Lazarus incident. Actually it started a little before that. When we heard Lazarus was sick, we had just hightailed it out of Jerusalem because Jesus was saying things that was getting him in trouble again with the Jewish authorities. He was always saying and doing things that rubbed them the wrong way. Way the wrong way. Get-a-stone-thrown-upside-ya-head the wrong way. Anyway, we had just made it out of Jerusalem with our lives intact when we heard Lazarus was sick. Jesus didn’t tell us at first that he had actually died, and we argued with him about the safety of going right back into the area where we might be walking into certain death. Then he told us that Lazaurus wasn’t sick but that he was actually already dead. “Great!” I said, “let’s all go back and die with him.” There was more than a touch of sarcasm in my voice, but we had all followed Jesus that far, so we couldn’t just let him go back to Jerusalem alone.
I’m sure you know what happened when we got to Lazarus’ house. Four days in the tomb and when Jesus called him out it was like he was in there just waiting him to call. Jesus officially achieved rock star status. He was bigger than, hmm, Miley Cyrus? It seemed like everyone was coming out of the woodwork to believe in him. That was the last straw for the Pharisees. They called their council together and decided enough was enough and that they were going to shut down his act altogether. They even wanted to kill Lazarus – get rid of the evidence, you know?
I was with him the night they nabbed him. It was kind of an interesting night. He kept on talking about how he was getting ready to go somewhere. We didn’t really know what he was talking about. He told us that we went going to able to go with him that time, but that afterward we would be able to. He spoke like we knew where he was going, but we honestly had no idea. None of the other disciples said anything, so I blurted out, “Lord, we don’t know where you’re going, how are we supposed to follow you later? How do we get there? He said that He was the way, and the truth and the life. And then he told us where he was going – back to the Father.
Not long after that, we were in the Garden, surrounded by soldiers and officers holding torches and lanterns. After that everything happened so quickly. We all fled into various places of hiding. While I had always thought that I’d stand by Jesus side and fight to the death for him, I wasn’t that brave. Even Peter –PETER – chickened out in the end. We left him, all alone to fend for himself.
Was I scared? Of course I was. But mostly I was confused. How could they arrest Jesus? He had slipped from their grasp many times before. I kind of just assumed that he’d do the same thing again. After all – he was supposed to be God right? He was supposed to be in control of everything – I mean, he raised a guy from the dead! We all watched from a distance, waiting to see how and when he was going to slip through their fingers once again. But he never did. They dragged him through a series of kangaroo courts presuming guilt before even hearing him out. Since the Jews couldn’t lawfully execute anyone, they had to take him to Pilate. Now hears the weird thing. By all accounts it seems that Pilate wanted nothing to do with these shenanigans and wanted to let him go. He had Jesus beaten, hoping that his bruises would appease the crowd, which by this time had whipped itself into a frenzy, thirsty for blood. I heard that Pilate almost begged Jesus to defend himself against the false charges brought against him so that he would have a means to let him go. Here was Jesus’ chance. But instead of making his defense, Jesus belittled Pilate’s authority, almost daring him to go through with the execution. Pilate couldn’t stand to have his authority challenged, and when the crowd roared that he was no friend of Caesar if he let Jesus go, he gave in and sent Jesus to the cross.
I couldn’t risk going out to the crucifixion sight so I stayed in and prayed to God that Jesus would be miraculously rescued. Surely our Lord could not be killed. He was our hope. I had put all my trust and dreams in him. I had left everything to follow him because I believed he was the Holy One of God, sent to be our Salvation. I believed that He was the way, the truth and the life – so how could the Way end in death? As I prayed I gained confidence that at any minute Peter or James or John would find me and tell me that Jesus got away. Or that his sentence was overturned at the last minute. Or that, I don’t know, angels from heaven intervened and rescued him from the cross. It sounds silly, but I was ready to believe anything at that time. So I prayed and waited, and prayed and waited. But no one came. When I went out later that evening, my hopes were dashed. Jesus had died on the cross sometime before sundown. Apparently Joseph and Nicodemus had gotten permission from Pilate to take down his body and put it in the tomb already. I never even got to pay my respects.
Honestly, I didn’t even feel like it. I didn’t feel like anything really. How do you feel when all of your hopes, when everything you’ve based your life on is gone in an instant? It was like waking up in the morning and hearing that your retirement is gone. No it was worse. It was like coming back after evacuating from a hurricane and finding out that you had lost everything. No worse. Because those things are possessions – you can always regain them. I had lost my saviour. My hope in this world and the next. My friend. Have you ever lost anything? You ever lost everything? Have you ever had the person you love most just leave you. You just feel dead inside and like you never want to live or trust or love again. I had put my trust in him, and in the end he turned out to be a liar. Or a lunatic or even worse, certainly not the Lord over everything that we were all making him out to be.
So yeah. When the other disciples found me a couple of days later and told me that they had seen the Lord, I wasn’t interested in getting back on that train again. I had been burned once already. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. They tried to convince me to believe, but my heart was already dead. I pitied them, actually. They were obviously living in denial and had somehow become delusional, spurring each other on to false hope and pathetic illusions. They weren’t about to suck me into their delusion. I told them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe."
For a week they tried to rope me in, and for a week I rebuffed them. Where is he? With each passing day I felt more and more sure that they were suffering some sort of group delusion. I wasn’t the only one who doubted. Matthew told me later that others had their own doubts as well. It was a very tense eight days.
I don’t remember exactly how they roped me into coming over on that eighth day, but I’m glad they persisted. We had the doors locked again, because we were still scared of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, there He was. Jesus. Right there with us. He greeted everyone, and then looked right at me. The hair on the back of my neck stood on end. What was he going to say? What would he do to me? I had doubted! I had said that I was through with him. I had told them all I’d never believe, unless – he spoke:
"Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe."
No condemnation in his voice. No rebuke. No judgment. Just an offer to let me inspect his body to see that it was indeed He.
As you can imagine, my perspective changed quite a bit in that room. I now believe and know that Jesus is the Holy One of God. He is my Lord and my God. I have touched him with my own hands, I have seen him with my own eyes, and I have heard him with my own ears. He is risen from the dead and He is Lord.
You know, when John first wrote his book about Jesus, I was a little embarrassed that he had to include the story of my doubt. I mean, for all of history people would remember me as the doubter, the one who said he’d never believe in Jesus. But I’m kind of glad John told my story. I’m sure that some of you are doubters. Some of you are probably skeptics. Maybe it helps that you know you’re not the only one who thought the idea of God dying and rising again was ridiculous. And maybe my story will help you to believe, because if a skeptic like me can be won over, then maybe you can too. As Jesus said to me, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
That’s why John included my story. That’s why he wrote his book, “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
I hope that having heard my story, you understand that there is a place in the faith for doubters like me.