Faith and Doubt
February 5th, 2020
From: "The Parable of Joy: Reflections on the Wisdom of the Book of John"
19 Early in the evening of that first day of the week, the doors all having been shut for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst of the disciples. He said, "Peace to you."
20 Having said this, He showed them His hands and His side. The disciples were overjoyed to see the Lord.
21 Once again Jesus said to them, "Peace to you. As the Father has sent Me now I am also sending you." 22 After He said this He breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone's sins, they have been forgiven. If you withhold forgiveness, it will be withheld."
24 Now Thomas, called Didymus, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 When the other disciples told him they had seen the Lord, he said, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands and put my finger into the place where the nails went in and put my hand into His side, I will never believe."
26 Eight days later, His disciples were inside, and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, with all the doors shut, and stood in their midst. He said, "Peace to you."
27 The He said to Thomas, "Bring your finger over here and see My hands. Bring your hand and put it into My side. Do not be faithless but faithful."
28 Thomas answered, "My Lord and my God!"
29 "Because you have seen Me you believe?" Jesus said. "Blessed are those who believe without seeing."
When Jesus first appears to His disciples, He does not point to His familiar face to prove it is Him but to the scars in His hands and side. He is recognized by His wounds. Before He had promised them, "After your time of grief, you will be given a joy that no one can ever take from you." This is that promised moment. The joy they experienced would be enough to carry them through a lifetime of service to Him and carry all but one of them to martyrdom.
For some reason Thomas was absent when Jesus first appeared to the disciples. When the disciples told him that they had seen the scars themselves, Thomas was adamant. "Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands and put my finger into His side, I will never believe." For uttering these words he has been forever labeled, "doubting Thomas."
He was made to wait a whole week. Then Jesus appeared again to them. His words to Thomas might be stern, or they might be whimsical; whichever, they are not condemning. Thomas is never castigated by Jesus for not believing the unbelievable truth that He is alive again.
The Greek makes Jesus sound almost amused. "Bring your finger over here," He says. "Don't be faithless but faithful."
The one who was so insistent a week ago has now broken down. He does not put his finger in the nail prints. He does not thrust his hand into Jesus' side. He becomes a "believer" in the truest sense of the word. Thomas grasps, "My Lord and my God!"
Through the story of Thomas, John preserves the legitimacy of doubt as the partner of faith. As Pascal said, only he who doubts can truly believe. Throughout the ministry, Jesus has sought followers who have the faith to believe without seeing. Thomas, even after receiving word of the Resurrection, still insists on proof, which Jesus gives without much complaint. Jesus pronounces a barocha, or blessing, on all those who will come after the Eleven who were gathered in that room. "Blessed," He said, "are those who believe without seeing."