Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


Doubting Thomas

Tomorrow, the Gospel reading is the story of Jesus appearing first to the disciples without Thomas and later appearing to them when Thomas is presnt. This is the Thomas often called Doubting Thomas.

Thomas speaks in only two other verses of scripture. And they don’t necessarily give us a picture of a rock-steady Apostle. In the story of Lazarus being raised form the Thomas touches the spear mark in Jesus sidedead, Thomas is there at Jesus’ side when Jesus says they are going to the outskirts of Jerusalem to raise Lazarus from the dead. Jesus’ endangers all their lives by going to Jerusalem at this point as powerful people in Jerusalem want Jesus dead. Thomas knows this and says to the Apostles, “Let us also go to Jerusalem, that we may die with him.” Thomas could mean, let us go so that we can die with Jesus or with Lazarus. What is clear is that Thomas doubts that the group can go to Jerusalem and come out alive. Is Thomas ready to die, or is he trying to get the gung-ho group to slow down and see what the cost of discipleship might be? We can’t be sure, but given what else we know about Thomas, I wouldn’t want to dismiss the possibility that he is being facetious. Jesus says, “Let’s go to Jerusalem.” And the not quite so fool-hearty Thomas says, “Let’s all go to Jerusalem so that we can die with him.”

Once in Jerusalem, Jesus is having a farewell talk with his disciples. Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” And Jesus goes on to say “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you there myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the place where I am going.”

Thomas is the first one to raise his hand at this point, waving it in the air to get the teacher’s attention. Thomas says, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus replies “I am the way, the truth and the life.” I’m not sure if that answer was enough for Thomas.

That’s all we have of Thomas though. Once Thomas said, “Let’s all go up to Jerusalem and die.” Another time Thomas asked, “How can we know the way?” And the third time he demanded some physical proof to believe. These three scenes sketch a portrait of indecision that gets Thomas labeled as the ultimate doubter. Whether that distinction is fair or not, that’s the label Thomas the twin is stuck with.

The thing worth noticing is that Thomas was part of Jesus inner group. Thomas was Jesus' friend and traveling companion. Jesus did not toss Thomas out for his doubts, but answered them, giving Thomas what Thomas needed in order to believe. So maybe Thomas did doubt. Jesus showed through his love of Thomas that he loves doubters and wants to give doubters the answers they need in order to believe. The willingness to ask questions, to really seek for answers to questions of faith is one sign of an active faith.


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