Tag Archives: John 20:19-31

Why?

There are many ways of asking “Why?”.  The small child who endlessly repeats the question to each attempt at answer infuriates, and raises suspicions that attention is more important than an answer.  Yet for Christians, it is a sign of success when someone without faith starts to ask “Why are you bothering? Why are you doing this for me?”.  It is also a good question for Christians to ask at Eastertime: “Why is this happening? Why do others care about what I think or do?”

John’s gospel gives us an insight into the life and ministry of Jesus.  He takes us through both the success of his teaching and healing, and the pain of his passion and death.  But it is only in chapter 20 that he comes to the question “Why?”, with a clear answer, “these [signs] are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name”.

John 20:19-31 has shown us the disciples receiving both new hope and authority, then Thomas finding answers to his doubt, and the gospel writer summing up his purpose in writing.  The hope is that we who read the gospel now will see Jesus as the one promised to bring life to a climax, and that not in a merely intellectual way, but as the recipe for life as it is meant to be.

Like the repeated question of the small child, that needs us to do more than find the right words.  We have to pay attention, to engage, to change.  It is much easier to find an excuse not to – but then we miss out.

Good doubt, bad doubt

It is important to encourage the right sort of doubt – and not the wrong sort.  But do we know the difference?  John (John 20:19-31) tells the story of the first Easter evening.  Jesus appeared to the disciples, but Thomas was absent, and refused to believe their story.  It must have been a difficult week!  When Jesus appears to them all, a week later, Thomas outdoes the others in his declaration of faith.

So, what is good or bad doubt?  Bad doubt is an excuse.  I can’t prove that my choice of spouse will be right – so I won’t make a commitment in marriage.  I can’t prove that my choice of career is correct, so I won’t put energy into doing it well.  You can go on.  Bad doubt feeds cynicism, laziness, lack of faith.  There are many things we either cannot prove in advance, or don’t try to.  (I drive a car, but don’t check the brakes every time I start off).

Thomas teaches us a sort of doubt which may not be comfortable, but looks for an answer.  Jesus resurrection is so unlikely, he wants good reason.  When he gets it – as Jesus invites his checking – he is ready to change his opinion and commit.  Without his doubt, would he – could he – have been as firm in his following a Risen Lord?  Good doubt is helpful, encouraging us to ask the right questions – questions which can deepen understanding, strengthen conclusions, sharpen our perception of reality.