Labels are hard to shed. Just ask the disciple Thomas. We don’t know him as Faithful Thomas, Steadfast Thomas, or Devoted Thomas. No, he is infamously Doubting Thomas. Granted, he was hesitant to believe that the risen Christ had visited the disciples on Easter evening. Too bad he wasn’t with them. Yet, despite the fact that his story begins in doubt, it ends in faith. The unfolding story of Thomas is good news to all who have doubts about faith.
Perhaps the most significant thing Thomas did was that he stayed around. Even while doubting all that he had heard, he stuck with it. Thomas didn’t understand all the claims that Mary and the disciples were making. After all, Thomas had been around enough to know that dead people don’t get up and walk around, carry on conversations, or make house calls. Yet, he must have remembered that Jesus did say something about his resurrection. Thomas could have been upset over the fact that he missed out on the important event. He could have quit because he was absent for a special experience. Or he could have given up because Jesus visited the other disciples and never quite got around to visiting him on Easter Sunday. Yet, despite his skepticism, he hung around.
We all experience times in which our faith is tested. We struggle with the fact that many in the world (and in our community) go hungry while others have food spoiling in their refrigerator. We struggle to understand when tragedy strikes the lives of faithful and good people. Our hearts break when we see injustice and inequity perpetrated around us. We wonder why someone else has a special experience of faith that brings peace and contentment to their lives and have had that same encounter.
Not only did Thomas stick around Jerusalem, he continued his connection with the community of faith. The other disciples had something that he did not have. They had experienced something that he had not experienced. Yet, Thomas remained in their midst. Though he could not affirm the statement, “The Lord has risen,” he was with those who could.
Connection to the community of faith is central to the life of faith. Thomas recognized it and so should we. The community of believers can carry us when our faith can no longer bear us up. There are times in our lives when we are not able to sing the songs of faith. That is when the community of faith sings the hymns of praise for us until we are touched by the hand of God and find the tune of adoration in our hearts. There are other times when we find it hard to pray, as if our words simply bounce off the ceiling and echo back to us. But these are the times that the community of faith prays for us and for our needs. They do so until we once again sense the loving presence of Jesus and are able to talk to our friend and Savior. We stick with the community of faith until the presence of Christ mysteriously comes to us and transforms our doubts into belief and our fears into faith.
For seven days Thomas remained with the disciples, wishing that he had experienced what they had experienced. He did not abandon the community of followers of which he was a part. One week later, Jesus came to him and Jesus came to them. He came mysteriously and miraculously. He came with his presence, his power and his peace. And when Jesus came, Thomas’ doubts turned to belief.
It is interesting that John doesn’t describe what the disciples were doing when Jesus came. He doesn’t tell us Jesus arrived as they were doing their evening devotions, or that Jesus came in the middle of their prayer service. Jesus has a habit of just showing up and surprising us. When Jesus comes, where Jesus comes, why Jesus comes, to whom Jesus comes – these are all mysteries. That Jesus comes, though is a fact of faith. We can trust that Christ’s presence will break into our reality if we open ourselves to that possibility, stick close to the faith we have heard, and remain in the community of believers.
Ultimately, Thomas demonstrates faithfulness in the midst of doubt. In the end, he has an encounter with Jesus and he boldly proclaims his faith. While Thomas certainly offers us insight into the life of faith, the story ultimately hinges on Jesus. Thomas may have been looking for Jesus, but it is Jesus who comes to Thomas. In all the stories of the resurrected Christ, it is Jesus, freed from the tomb, who comes and finds the disciples. Thankfully, Jesus still does that today. May Christ encounter you in ways that strengthens your faith, offers you hope and brings you joy.
If you would like to view past editions of Moments with Mike, follow this link: https://corridordistrictnc.org/category/from-the-ds/