Where is Your Faith

Today I want to talk to you about a story that many of you have probably heard before.  We spent the last section of Bible Study studying the disciples; who they were, what they accomplished both within scripture as well as their lives before and after Jesus.  In one of those weeks we looked at the disciple of Thomas and through the study as well as discussions that we had a group, this disciple’s story became so very different than I ever imagined about him.  I’ve wanted to talk about this ever since that week but I was waiting for the right week to do it.  I think that beginning this Lenten season is a perfect time to take a look at the disciple Thomas, often called ‘Doubting Thomas’.  Follow along with me, if you would, as we read John 20:24-29.

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 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.”

Thomas is one of those disciples that doesn’t get a lot of words written about him.  In fact, he appears to speak only in the gospel of John.  He is listed in the other gospels, but none of the things he says are recorded in Matthew, Mark or Luke.  We don’t get a story like some of the others as to where or when he was called by Jesus to be a disciple.  He just kind of starts showing up.  Thomas was also called Didymus, which means The Twin (as mentioned in the passage for today).  We don’t know who he was a twin of, but there are plenty of speculations you can find, but we won’t get into that today because it doesn’t really matter. 

The first time we get to see Thomas, Jesus is on his way to raise Lazarus from the dead, although he is despised in the region.  The disciples try to discourage Jesus from going to that region, despite his relationship with Lazarus and his family.  When Jesus insists on going, it is Thomas that says, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”  This exchange paints us a picture of who Lazarus is as a person.  Clearly, he is fiercely loyal to Jesus.  He is brave and willing to die for the person that he is following. 

Thomas speaks up again in the gospel of John as he is listening to the teachings of Jesus.  Jesus is telling his followers that he is returning to Heaven to prepare a place for them there and that they will come to that place.  Thomas asks a simple question that gives us a very powerful answer.  He says simply, and I’m paraphrasing here, “We don’t know how to get there.  We want to come, but don’t know the way.”  Jesus responds with what is arguably  the second most important verse in all of scripture.  He says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  Thomas makes it clear that he wants to have what Jesus is offering but doesn’t know what he has to do.  Again, we see that Thomas is a man of great faith in Jesus and is willing to do whatever he has to in order to follow him wherever he may go.

Jesus was clearly a teacher, mentor, maybe even a hero to Thomas.  Who is your hero?  Is there someone in your life that you have always looked up to, even to the point that you can see almost no faults?  So who is that person?  Is it a person in your field of work or study that has achieved great success?  Is it a person that has accomplished things or awards in their life that you hope to one day achieve?  Was it a person that behaved or acted in a way that inspired you?  We all have these type of people in our lives.  As frightening as it may seem, we may be that person in someone else’s life.  However, it is important to note that we are nothing compared to the hero that Jesus must have been to these people, even before he proved himself to be the son of God and returned from the dead. 

The point I’m going to make here is an obvious one.  How many of these people let you down in some way at some point?  Thomas clearly looked up to Jesus.  He believed in him to a point that he was willing to follow him into death itself if necessary.  In fact, after the apostles went out into the world to spread the church, Thomas was killed in India for converting many people by Hindu priests.  Thomas believed in Jesus and never doubted in him until the end of his days.

Yes, I just said that Thomas didn’t ever doubt Jesus.  “But he was called Doubting Thomas and he doubted the resurrection.  He is the poster-child for doubt.”  It’s true that this is what Thomas said in the moment, but it is the meaning and point that Thomas was making that is significant.  What is important to note in Thomas’s story is that Thomas was told by the other disciples that Jesus had appeared to them.  Thomas was away from the group at the time.  It wasn’t until Jesus appeared a second time to the group, with Thomas present, that Thomas was shown the wounds and believed.  He declared Jesus to be God.  Thomas didn’t doubt Jesus or the power of God, he doubted his fellow disciples.  He doubted the stories that humans were telling him about God.  He wouldn’t accept the word of a person when it came to the dealings of Jesus.  He knew that the Truth of God came only from Jesus and not from these friends of his, of which he knew quite well and probably knew their flaws quite well too.

Thomas’s faith was in Jesus from the beginning.  People could fail him but his Lord never would.  I would put it out there that Thomas’s faith wasn’t lessened because of his doubt, but rather, it showed that his faith was focused solely on Christ.  His faith was great indeed.  He wouldn’t let anything blur the truth.  He wouldn’t let people tell him anything that Jesus didn’t. 

Jesus does give him a soft rebuke at the end of this passage by saying, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”  Jesus is reminding Thomas, as well as everyone else gathered that he is not going to be around anymore.  He was going to heaven to prepare a place for the rest of us.  It would be up to the apostles, Thomas included, to be able to spread the story and the teachings of Jesus without the aid of having him standing there giving earthly proof. 

So that is where we are today.  We don’t get to see the person standing in front of us with wounds in his hands and side.  We don’t get the adventure of walking with Jesus and hearing his teachings directly from his mouth.  The story of Thomas is the story of ourselves.  Its hard to have faith.  It is hard to understand God.  Thomas gets the luxury of being shown the truth.  We must arrive at that same truth through faith.  Do not be afraid to doubt.  Jesus allows Thomas his doubt, and then reveals to him the truth.  You can question or doubt God’s plan for your life.  You can question or doubt God’s actions in this world.  You can even question or doubt the existence of God at all.  He’s big enough to take your doubt and allow you to have it.  Because after Thomas had his doubt, Jesus revealed his truth.  God will reveal his truth to you in time.  That’s also when Thomas proclaimed Jesus as his Lord and God.  Once God reveals his truth in your life, that is when you can proclaim him as Lord and God of your life for all to hear and see.  If you’ve had God show up for you and reveal himself to you, and you haven’t declared your faith for others, you’re missing the lesson of Thomas.  “Blessed are those that have not seen, yet have come to believe.”  You are blessed for your doubt and ultimately for your faith.