All throughout His ministry, Jesus drew crowds and created believers. Now, one man stands before Him, and he doubts.
“I doubt it,” Thomas proclaims. “I doubt the resurrection. I doubt You are the risen Christ. I doubt it all. Convince me I am wrong.”
Think about everything Jesus and the disciples experienced before Jesus died on a cross and rose again. They suffered every kind of persecution and received labels of notorious criminals throughout Jerusalem.
Judas betrayed Jesus and gave Him up to die. Most of the disciples fled. Peter denied he knew Jesus. Then the trial and crucifixion of Jesus followed by His burial. All of this just over the course of a few days.
For Thomas, not believing this tale told by the disciples is the most natural, sensible, understandable thing in the world.
But it’s also pretty natural and sensible and understandable for people to close ranks when they find themselves in trouble or feel threatened or are in danger. It’s natural to weed out the ones who don’t believe what we believe, to identify the stranger, the unbelievers, the “others” among us, and get rid of them before they do any harm.
With Us or Against Us?
If anybody has a right to purge the membership rolls or ask for a loyalty oath, it would be Jesus and the disciples. Resurrection or no, they are still wanted men. Peter and the other disciples may feel convinced Jesus is risen, but they’re not the tip of any iceberg.
The rest of the world would agree ― Thomas is on the right track.
“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.”
Given what he and the disciples went through together, you’d imagine Jesus just sitting Thomas down and giving him a good talking-to.
“Well, Thomas, everybody else here seems to believe I have risen from the dead,” the Lamb of God lays it out there. “That makes it 10 to one. And you know Judas killed himself because he got on the wrong side of what’s going on here. Maybe something here is bigger than you and your doubts. Maybe you’d just better fall into line before you lose your soul the way Judas did.”
But that’s not how Jesus responds. Jesus takes Thomas’ doubts seriously. He takes Thomas seriously.
“Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt, but believe.”
That’s the moment when we see the truth Thomas saw. Faith doesn’t pave the way for blessings — faith is a blessing.
“Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Thomas’ doubts weren’t relieved when he heard the testimony of his fellow disciples. It didn’t do anything for him when he heard the reports from the men he lived and shared everything with for the past three years.
Whatever happened to Thomas, it began with the words of Jesus, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus didn’t even say those words to Thomas. He said them to the other disciples, so they felt united in grace and peace to welcome Thomas into their belief in the saving power of Christ.
The average person probably learns more about Jesus from TV commercials than anybody living in the Holy Land knew about Him when Jesus lived on Earth.
But unless they receive the Holy Spirit, they remain as confused and doubting as Thomas — or Judas, even.
We can’t simply breathe on doubters the way Jesus did and give them the gift of the Holy Spirit.
But we can welcome them and support them and love them until the Risen Christ breathes the Spirit onto them.
They Won’t Mince Words
That can be a scary thing, though, opening up to people who doubt or maybe we don’t even know. We fear the responses of those who doubt. We fear how they’ll react when we explain why we believe.
And then there’s the violence against those of us who do believe. It seems like every week or so you hear about some kind of disruption — somebody pulling a gun or trying something violent.
We live in a world where the strangers, the skeptics and the unbelievers win all too often. It feels like every time we look, we grow weaker as they grow stronger.
“I doubt it,” they’ll say. “I doubt the resurrection. I doubt your risen Christ. I doubt it all. Convince me I am wrong.”
What do we do? How do we react when we find these nay-sayers, these trouble-makers?
Beloved in our Lord Jesus Christ, we bear witness to the firstborn of the dead, the ruler of the kings of the Earth. We do as He did. We listen to the doubts, then show the reality of Christ in our lives.
And while only God Himself holds the power of breathing the Holy Spirit, we hold the power to welcome any doubter into our midst and explain the reasons why we believe.
Then leave the rest up to Jesus.