This is the first in a series of posts on doubt. I recently saw the move “Doubt” on DVD. It reminded me that it seems we can never be sure about anything except the truth of God as revealed to us in the Bible. Unfortunately we even have doubts about that, since some of these truths are difficult for us to comprehend. I want to use the early disciples, and especially Thomas, as the basis for this discussion.
Picture the scene: the cowering disciples are barricaded in a house behind locked doors, fearing for their lives. Their charismatic leader has been brutally killed, and they are in hiding from the authorities. Who knows, they could be the next ones to be strung up on a cross. They are scared, disheartened and doubting, despite all that Jesus had said earlier to prepare them for what happened. Not a very promising beginning for the Church of Jesus Christ.
But then suddenly Jesus appears among them in that locked house. From other Gospel accounts we know they had received reports of an empty tomb, but they were still in serious denial. From Luke’s Gospel, we learn that Jesus showed up just as two guys were reporting about Jesus’ visit to them on the road to Emmaus. Luke’s Gospel also tells us that even though Jesus was standing right there with them, the disciples were still skeptical, as we read (Luke 24:36-38):
While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” NRSV
Despite showing them his hands and feet with the marks of the nails still visible, Jesus could see they still thought he was a ghost or apparition. Finally, Jesus asked for some food and ate in front of them, showing them he had a real body and was bodily resurrected from the dead. Even though all of the disciples had doubts, poor Thomas gets the bad reputation, probably because he was so forceful in his denial:
“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” (NIV, John 20:25)
More on the subject of doubt in a future post.