But Thomas … one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came … he said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails… I will not believe.” John 20:24-25
It was exactly one week after Easter in 2007 or 2008. We were living in Baton Rouge at the time. It was a glorious afternoon in early spring and after worship I decided to go for a run. I had just turned onto Hagerstown from Stones River (all the streets in our subdivision were named for Civil War battle sites) when I stepped on a nail. I didn’t see it, but didn’t need to. I felt it. It was a biggie, penetrating the heel of my shoe all the way into my skin. I certainly didn’t need to go to the hospital but the nail had punctured the skin and left a decent-sized blood stain on my sock. I had to call off the run and hobble home. I limped in the door to find Amy and Thomas in the living room. “You’ll never guess what happened to me,” I said and proceeded to tell them about my injury. My son looked up from the page he was coloring (he was about 5 or 6 at the time) and said with great boldness, “No way, dad. I don’t believe you. I won’t believe you unless you show me the nail mark in your foot first.” Did I mention his name is Thomas?
A week (after the resurrection) … Thomas was with them … and Jesus came and stood among them and said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands …”
The Disciple Thomas will be our focus in worship this week. Unfortunately, he’s remembered for the name “Doubting Thomas,” as this one event in his life has determined the way history views him. But his skepticism represents a fundamental theme in the Gospel of John — Believing without seeing. Not everyone, after all, would (or will) have an experience with the risen Jesus Christ in the flesh as the disciples did. In that sense, the story of Thomas asking to see the nail marks is designed to move us to v. 29 of chapter 20. Jesus said, “Have you believed because you have seen me (Thomas)? Blessed are those who have not seen, yet have come to believe.”
Doubt and skepticism are things we experience because we are human. Even the popular phrase, “Trust but verify,” is a bit of an oxymoronic homage to doubt and skepticism (after all, can you really trust if you have to verify first?). And yet as Thomas shows us faith does emerge from skepticism. Untold billions have come to follow the path of Christ over a span of two millennia without having “seen” the risen Christ. We will spend the sermon time this week considering how faith emerges from doubt. I invite you to think of times in your life when you have been skeptical, but God gave you faith in the midst of it (maybe it was a financial situation you came through; or a health situation; or something else). Some situations are admittedly easier to find trust in the midst of than others, but God desires our faith to be strengthened through them all – and not be dependent on concrete and tangible realities for its existence.
Blessings – Michael