Doubting Thomas and the Bad Rap

Doubting Thomas and the Bad Rap

This Lenten season, we encountered the passion story through the music of Jesus Christ Superstar. But what happens when someone so controversial, so polarizing, so … popular … is suddenly executed? This week, our Lectionary text includes some of the closing vignettes from the gospel of John.

John 20:19-31 (CEB)
Jesus appears to the disciples
19It was still the first day of the week. That evening, while the disciples were behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. When the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with joy. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” 22Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you don’t forgive them, they aren’t forgiven.”

Jesus appears to Thomas and the disciples
24Thomas, the one called Didymus, one of the Twelve, wasn’t with the disciples when Jesus came. 25The other disciples told him, “We’ve seen the Lord!”

But he replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my finger in the wounds left by the nails, and put my hand into his side, I won’t believe.”

26After eight days his disciples were again in a house and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus entered and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here. Look at my hands. Put your hand into my side. No more disbelief. Believe!”

28Thomas responded to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”

29Jesus replied, “Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe.”

30Then Jesus did many other miraculous signs in his disciples’ presence, signs that aren’t recorded in this scroll. 31But these things are written so that you will believe that Jesus is the Christ, God’s Son, and that believing, you will have life in his name.

Consider these questions:

  1. How could Jesus have entered a locked room, yet still allow people to touch his nail scars and wounds?
  2. Do you sympathize with Thomas’ skeptical position? Why or why not?
  3. Verses 29 through 31 clearly address people well removed from this story by space of time. What does this proof (that is, the gospel accounts) mean to you? How do the stories of Jesus shape or impact your faith?

Post-Worship Update on 4/30

Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found at this link (will open in a new tab).

Adam’s message on Sunday explored the tension of faith in the resurrection with the conflicting accounts in the Gospels. This leads us to the tension that many of us experience regularly, a tension between faith and doubt.

Clearly this tension is different for us today that it was for the disciples. We have been told all our lives that Jesus was raised from the dead, yet that’s not a consistent and life-long message that the disciples heard. But perhaps it’s possible that we can be whole and complete Christians in experiencing both faith and doubt.

Consider these questions:

  1. What is something you have believed even if you don’t have direct experience? This could be a religious or spiritual example or something else. Have you always believed this, or has there been fluctuation and/or doubt?
  2. Adam quotes Bishop John Shelby Spong, who wrote that Thomas’ ultimate realization is that, “the crucified one is the presence of God among us.” Then Adam ties this idea to the pronouncement that Jesus would be Emmanuel (which means, “God with us”). How does the connecting of these two ideas impact you and/or your faith? What does it mean? Does it change anything for you?
  3. Is it possible that deep spirituality could be in both our doubt and our faith? Is it possible that Jesus could be both human and divine? Could the incarnation of God be in both the crucifixion and the resurrection?