Over the course of my life I have experienced many challenges. Often, I was faced with whether or not to believe for a hopeful outcome. In many instances, I did not receive what I was hoping for, and other instances I did. Each challenge was a blueprint of its own demonstrating God’s unique way of bringing about a matter that never duplicated anything else before.
It was a day many years ago when my mother informed me that she had a terminal illness. Those words were so difficult to hear, but were even more difficult for her to say. The thought of this devastating illness taking her life was more than I could bear. She was my mother, and the only confidant in my life. There was no other woman as wise, genuine, and loving toward me than her. I have fond memories visiting my parent’s house on Sunday afternoons. I would join my mother in the backyard, underneath the patio cover with a glass of tea, and we would sit and talk for hours. I miss those days and even more so as the years have passed.
In time, she walked her final journey in life. I never knew another human being as brave as my mother. She did so with an unmistakable grace that most people did not recognize what she was going through.
While I hoped for a hopeful outcome, it was hard to believe. There were times when I doubted. Despite what I could not see, I still had to believe. What I came to realize was that in my mother’s journey was my own journey with God.
Whether doubting or believing, I had to come a little closer…to Him.
Such as the disciple Thomas…
“But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
The other disciples therefore were saying to him, “we have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I shall see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
And after eight days again His disciples were inside, and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst, and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then He said to Thomas, “reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.”
Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”
(John 20: 24 – 29)
Prior to this event, the gospel writer John addresses the issue of unbelief and how it culminated in Jesus’s crucifixion. Jesus’s enemies did not believe that He was the Messiah. In addition, John addresses the disciples’ developing faith which leads to the moment between Jesus and the disciple Thomas.
In verse 25, the disciples were together exclaiming they had seen the risen Lord. Thomas was not with them when the resurrection took place. Upon hearing the other disciples, Thomas was not convinced. He was skeptical. He needed bodily proof of the resurrected Christ. He said… “Unless I shall see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
Thomas was unique in this matter because he had not witnessed the risen Christ. Much can be said of the disciples and the lessons Jesus taught them. Throughout the gospels the disciples had personal moments of diminished faith even as they walked among Christ and were witnesses to His miracles. Still, a resurrected Christ may be difficult to believe, particularly if it had not been seen. What must be understood is that the twelve disciples, including Thomas, represent the personally developing faith in all of our lives. It has to develop and grow based on our experiences and the lessons learned from our lives with God.
I can identify with Thomas. He was analytical and perhaps it was his nature to question, probe, and validate that which was before him. Particularly if one is accustomed to disappointment and rejection that clear and concise proof is needed. There is no doubt that Jesus’s death on the cross must have been painful and sorrowful to the disciples that were left behind. Then to hear that Christ resurrected from the dead had to be anything but believable. Thomas was not the type to readily accept information without verifying the source and the context. In this moment, Thomas needs convincing proofs in order to believe.
Verse 26 says after eight days Jesus appeared miraculously behind closed doors where the disciples had gathered, including Thomas. Upon declaring His peace to the disciples He turns His attention to Thomas.
In verse 27, Jesus says to Thomas“…reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.” Here our loving Savior shows compassion toward Thomas by meeting him in his unbelief. At this pivotal moment Thomas declares “My Lord and my God!” He believed.
Jesus says in verse 29 “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” Jesus speaks of the blessings given to all of those who believe in Him and yet have not seen Him, ever, whether prior to His death or in the risen substance of His deity.
Much has been said about the disciple Thomas who has been known as “doubting Thomas.” As though asking questions, seeking clarity, or some kind of evidence is not the hallmark of being a follower of Christ. We all have had our moments of a certain unbelief, or inability to believe. Some challenges in life are more difficult than others and so it may result in a moment of unbelief. Unbelief may be as a result of disappointment, weariness, rejection, fear of failure, or years and years of waiting on God without indications otherwise.
When Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross we were not there. Yet, we believe. We as His followers believe He died on the cross, was resurrected and lives today as our Savior and Lord. Even so, for the most experienced followers of Christ there are moments in life when it may be difficult to believe.
During the years of my mother’s illness, I often felt I was carrying the burden of her life in mine. My believing in the risen Son of God to heal my mother was a load worth my carrying but there were times when it became too much. The heaviness of the emotional and spiritual burden weighed down my ability to believe, at times, that God had a better outcome. What I learned during that time was in order to minister to my mother’s needs I had to come to a higher source.
Though I believed, I had to believe more and come a little closer…
As I looked into the eyes of my God, I came to see His presence. In so doing, I came to see my reflection bathed within His eyes. I knew the journey had begun. Like a father looking into his child’s eyes knowing how precious and knowing she is mine.
As I walked toward my God, I came to feel His presence. In so doing, I came to sense I was closer. His presence radiated around me, and His Spirit felt more familiar. Like a close friend that is there even when they aren’t there.
As I stood in front of my God, I came to know His presence. In so doing, I came to know I was closer. His garment drenched with crimson stains became familiar as He adorned it upon me . Like a man that I loved He draped Himself around me for the long walk home.
As I reached out to touch my God and place my finger upon His hand I could see the gaping hole that pierced Him deeply. In so doing, I came to sense I was closer. The mark on His hand were like marks that penetrated my soul. Like a void that cannot be filled were that His mark became my scars always there and forever willed.
As I reached out with my hand to touch my God on His tender side, I could feel a hollowed wound so gaping wide. In so doing, I came to know I was closer. The wound on His side became His life for mine. Like my protector until the sweet bye and bye.
As I came a little closer to Him, I came to know, to understand, and to believe in the Son of God who is all things and is to come.
To believe in Him, I had to come a little closer, to know that what was in my hands ultimately rested in His pierced hands and the wounded side of Him.
And in my journey, all doubt was removed, and believing in Him. I knew then, my risen Savior whom I believed and settled in.
There is nothing wrong with doubting, or unbelief. In our human condition we all will be challenged with what we believe, how we believe, and in whom we believe. The disciple Thomas serves as our example of the human condition. Though doubt and unbelief may arise we must come a little closer toward Christ. We must seek the risen Christ so that we may believe.
In essence, Thomas had to come a little closer to the risen Christ not only to see, but ultimately to believe. It is during these times, Christ is inviting us to come closer to Him. As we come closer to Him we are able to see Him in all His glory as the risen Savior and Lord.
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Photocredit: The author’s own.