Trusting Thomas (John 20:24-29)

 

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There are two questions that arise from the story of Jesus and “Doubting Thomas.”

First, where is your head at?

The story is often taken to indicate that while Thomas believed on the evidence he saw, people are much better to believe in Jesus without any evidence.

Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe
(John 20:29 NRSV)

However, the lesson for us actually goes the other way. When Thomas asks for evidence, Jesus provides it. In fact the verse above refers to those who have believed on the testimony of eyewitnesses, which is evidence! When people ask us for evidence for the truth of Christianity today, we should be ready to provide it. And there is much evidence, all of which comes together to create a strong cumulative case. We do well then to learn what the evidence is through what we call apologetics.

but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and reverence. (1 Peter 3:15-16 NRSV)

So we learn from Thomas that the intellectual side of faith is important and that our minds ought to be engaged.

Second, where is your heart at?

“Doubting Thomas” is  a terrible name for Thomas. Though he begins with doubt, as most of us do, he breaks through to belief, so he ought to be called “believing Thomas.” But then even that name would not capture it because belief in our time and place often has the connotation of a dry intellectual assent. When Thomas does express faith it is not done so in a detached rational statement of religious dogma. It is done with passion: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28 NRSV). He has not just made a creedal statement and so joined a religion, he has made a statement about his relationship with Jesus, and so entered into a new depth of relationship. A better title for Thomas would be “Trusting Thomas.”

Which brings us to a valuable insight. While sometimes we consider faith and religion from a purely intellectual perspective, God is speaking to our hearts. While people often ask for, look for, or expect God to provide some big “sign in the sky” to prove His existence, God is doing a far greater work over a much greater period. While we look for evidence that God exists, God provides evidence that He loves.

Suppose, being Mother’s Day, that you discover you are about to become a mother for the first time. This might come as shocking news, especially to us guys! Now suppose too, that you really don’t know anything about motherhood. That part will come more easily to us males. Will you ask the question: “how can I prove to my child that I exist? When my child gets old enough shall I hire a skywriter to write my child a note in the sky?” Of course you will not ask such questions. But you might ask “how can I express love to my child over the long term so that she knows that I love her?” A good answer to that can be found in the writings of Gary Chapman in the “Love Language” series of books where Gary speaks of five basic ways we all express and receive love. They are; acts of service, words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, and gifts. Engage in these over the long haul and your child will know that she is loved.

Now consider that while people sometimes look for a grandiose sign from God, God is ready to provide rich evidence, not just of His existence, but of His love:

  1. Acts of Service. We say grace at meals to thank God for the provision of food. While we are at it we could thank the Lord for gravity, families, air, . . . the list could go on and on.
  2. Words of Affirmation. I could choose a few verses from the Bible, but in fact the whole storyline of the Bible, from beginning to end speaks of God’s love for us.
  3. Quality Time. We can think of God’s presence with us through the Holy Spirit. We can think of worship, and prayer. God is willing to spend time with us.
  4. Physical Touch. Yes, there can be moments when we feel the presence of God in a physical way. If you have never felt this, perhaps you have not asked, or been open to, or needed this.
  5. Gifts. The gift of Jesus, the gift of reconciliation, the gift of eternal life, the gift of forgiveness of sin, the gift of the Holy Spirit. We could keep going. Yes, God expresses His love for us through gifts.

Thomas was not looking for some grandiose sign of God’s existence. He was looking, and appropriately so, for evidence that, yes, Jesus did rise from the dead. But Thomas went far beyond some sort of intellectual statement of belief, to an expression of relationship. While the intellectual evidence of God’s existence is great, let us remember that the evidence goes way beyond what can be considered intellectually. The evidence is the kind of evidence we find in relationships, the kind of evidence that goes beyond saying “I exist, I wish you would believe that I do,” to “I love you, I want you to trust me.” Are you looking for evidence for God as if He is something to behold in a test tube? Why not try on the evidence of Christ as the Lord and God who loves you?

photo credit: Robin Hutton via photopin cc

thinking credit: my sermons and blogs would not exist were it not for others. In particular I can thank author and cold case detective J. Warner Wallace for steering my thoughts on how Doubting Thomas supports the evidential approach to faith. His website pleaseconvinceme.com is a great place to learn some apologetics.

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