Weekly Meditation: 3rd April 2016
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
We call him “Doubting Thomas” for a single mistake that he made. Thomas, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, was not there when the Lord appeared to the rest of them after his resurrection. As many of us might do if we have missed out on something good, Thomas disparaged the disciples’ claim to have seen Jesus. And furthermore, it would not be enough now for Thomas just to see the risen Lord. He would have to touch the wounds, put his finger into the holes made by the nails and his hand into Jesus’ side where the sword had pierced him (John 20:25).
Thomas doubted – he did not believe – and who can blame him? People did not come back to life, especially not someone who had been crucified, bound with grave-cloths and loaded with spices, then sealed into a tomb.
When Jesus appeared a second time, however, Thomas was there, and it was to him that Jesus spoke, inviting Thomas to touch his wounds and believe (20:27). It was a wonderful demonstration of grace; it addressed and met Thomas’ needs, and it revealed God’s mercy to one whose faith had been weak. God is not sparing in his love; he does not turn away from those who fail once or many times; he is ready always to give another chance.
Thomas had no doubt, this time, that Jesus was alive. Nor had he any doubt about who was speaking to him. In one instant of time he outpaced the other disciples in belief, faith and confidence when he declared to Jesus, “my Lord and my God!” (20:28).
Thomas is barely mentioned again in the scriptures, but we can be certain he was with the disciples when, with Peter as their spokesman, they confronted the Sanhedrin and testified to the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 5:30). With them, Thomas could declare, “We are witnesses of these things” (5:32). Tradition states that Thomas eventually took the gospel to India, but whether or not that is true, Thomas can be counted among those who spent – or even gave – their lives for the propagation of the gospel and the establishment of the Christian Church.
Nicknames are unkind things; rarely if ever are they complimentary. It is unfortunate that Thomas is distinguished for one failure, rather than for his great statement of faith and for his future witness. In recognising Jesus as Lord and God, Thomas provided one of the clearest statements of Jesus’ divinity. Could it have been Psalm 118 that was running through his mind as he faced Jesus? In meeting such love and grace, might he have thought, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love endures for ever” (118:1)? And perhaps he then remembered how the psalm ends; “You are my God, and I will give thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you”. (118:28).
As preachers, when we take the gospel into churches, especially where we are not so well-known, do we make our faith as plain and unequivocal as did Thomas? Do we preach a clear message? In these “post-modern” times when truths are frequently seen only as relative, we can become ashamed of making absolute statements. Certainly, we as individuals are not qualified to do so. However, when we have the authority of the Scriptures, we have every reason to proclaim a doubt-free gospel. Of course we must be sensitive to the occasion and the audience, and we must not be selective with our use of scriptures, having already decided what our message will be; we must be free of personal prejudices. That said, there are the central, unequivocal truths of the Christian gospel that cannot be spoken too frequently – the redeeming blood of Jesus, the grace of God that is offered without qualification to all, the certainty of the resurrection, the deity of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. These truths we can and must preach so that no one leaves our churches with any doubts about what Christians believe, or about the way of salvation.
By Susan Thorne