Doubting? Peace be with you!
By Rev. Canon David B. Tabo-oy
“”A week later the disciples were together again indoors, and Thomas was with them. The doors were locked, but Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” v27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting, and believe!”
– John 20:19
That very evening the disciples gathered again, once more behind locked doors, not knowing for sure what to think about what had happened that first Easter day. And in the middle of their confusion, Jesus came and stood among them. His words to them are his words for us. He said to the disciples, “Peace be with you.” Just when things seem terrible, Jesus is there. Just when things seem hopeless, Jesus is present. Just when things seem impossible, Jesus can help.
For the disciples, things could not have gotten worse. By the end of that first Easter weekend, just about everything in their lives was in shambles. Their careers had been abandoned. Three years before they had heard Jesus say to them, “Follow me,” and had cast their lots with him. Following Jesus was to have been their future. And now all that was gone. Their futures were in shambles. What would they do now? For Jesus was gone — no, worse than gone — he had been crucified. And perhaps the same fate awaited them. Was there any future for any of them after what had just happened? Their faith was shaken. They had trusted Jesus. They had believed in him. Their whole understanding of God, everything they believed and lived for had died with him — just collapsed, like a house of cards! And it was all gone!
For the disciples, just when everything seemed at its worst, Jesus was there for them. Standing in the midst of them. Alive. Jesus is there to grant them strength and hope. And that would make the difference for them. Jesus came to them and changed their lives. Jesus came in the midst of them and they emerged as different people, confident and assured of God’s love for them.
So we can understand the way Thomas must have felt. He hadn’t been there. He had missed out. For him, the darkness of night still filled his heart. For him, life was still hopeless. His hopes had died with Jesus. For him, the future was still unsure. For he had yet to meet the Risen Lord, and because of that, doubt filled his heart.
“Unless I see for myself, I will not believe. Unless I can feel the marks of the nails with my own fingers and touch the wound in his side with my own hands, I will not believe.” We know all about doubt, don’t we? For we have all felt the same way Thomas did. Thomas knew what it was like to live without peace. He had experienced it for a whole week. That’s what the Gospel reading is about this Sunday — a week of darkness, a week spent without hope, a week without Jesus.
The story of Thomas shows us that there is no hope without the resurrection of Jesus. There is no way to make sense of our earthly existence without God. But then that shouldn’t be a surprise to us. The Gospel writer John said that when he wrote, “He who believes in the Risen Christ has life. And he who does not believe is dead already.”
When we allow doubt to dominate our lives, when we close ourselves off to the possibilities of God, when we live our lives with only death as the end for us, we walk through life down a dead-end road. But doubt need not lead to death. Doubt does not have to destroy faith. Listen to what Jesus said to Thomas when on the week following Easter he appeared to him. In verse 26 it says, “Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ “
There is a remedy to doubt. There is help for us when we find ourselves filled with questionings and doubt, when the world seems to collapse in upon us and all our props are knocked away. Take Thomas as an example. Thomas made the mistake we often make. He thought he could do it alone. Devastated by the death of Jesus, he separated himself from the other disciples. He sought solitude in his pain, isolation for his loneliness, and thought he could maintain his trust in God all alone. But what we see is that his doubts came from being absent from the disciples, from being separate and alone when Jesus appeared to them on the first Easter day.
But his doubts were answered in the presence of the other disciples. It was only in the fellowship of believers, only through the Body of Christ, that Thomas found the assurance that he so desperately sought and needed. “Put your finger here,” Jesus said to him. “See my hands. Reach out your hand and touch me, if you must. Do not be doubting but believe.”
When doubt dominates our lives, when doubt draws us apart from the church, then doubt can be deadly. But when doubt leads us to look deeper for God, when doubt sends us searching for God’s wisdom and goodness, when doubt forces us more fully into the fellowship of believers, then even doubt can be a blessing for us just as it was for Thomas. For in the midst of doubt, Jesus is there. Even when things seem darkest, a light shines: Jesus, who said, “I am the light of the world.”
When doubts and questionings cloud our vision, when troubles and difficulties close our eyes to the goodness of God, we need to move closer to our Savior. We need to draw more deeply into worship, spend more time in Scripture reading and prayer, and reach out more strongly to our brothers and sisters in the faith. The Episcopal Church in the Philippines’ VMG2028 summed it all: “Scripture-inspired, Spirit-fired, Discipled parishes.”
Mature faith, faith that serves us for a lifetime, is not a faith that has never experienced doubts. Rather it is faith that constantly searches and seeks faith always on the lookout for Jesus, faith that trusts that even when the worst has happened, there in the middle of it stands Jesus. Jesus knew that was the kind of faith we need. That’s why he said, “Peace be with you. Do not be doubting, but believe. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” That’s his promise for us — blessed are you and I, for in believing we have life in his name. Amen. BLESSED EASTER TO ALL!
Let us pray.
Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP, Collect for Second Sunday of Easter)**