Tag Archives: Thomas

Direction

It helps to know where you are going – whether on a walk, or a career or retirement plan. Stephen as he dies ( Acts 7:55-60 ) has a vision of Jesus in heaven, and knows that he is going to join him (which infuriates his opponents and seals his fate).

In John 14:1-14, Jesus speaks of going to prepare a place for his followers, but Thomas seems confused – and I imagine he is not the only one.  Do you ever think of a door in heaven with your name on it? Think about it for a moment. Your place, ready and waiting. What do you think about that, what do you want to do as a result?

Thomas hasn’t yet understood what is going to happen to Jesus – why he must die and rise from the dead. Jesus will not push him faster than he can absorb it, but makes clear that he is central to everything, and Thomas needs to keep following.  (We know that he does, and gets there in the end – see John 20:24-29 ).

Phillip is is danger of going off at a tangent. He would like to see God. Perhaps he has some idea of being like Moses on Mt Sinai, glimpsing God passing by.  But Jesus is more important than Phillip has realised – Jesus shows God to us. Father and Son (and Spirit) work so closely together that to know one is to know the other.  Not only do you have your room in heaven, you work for God!

“those who believe in me will do what I do – yes, they will do even greater things” John 14:12. We are invited to see where we are going – how Jesus, at the centre of everything, not only gives us a place in heaven, but also involves us in his work on earth. We are told to ask. What are we meant to be doing, what is most important, what comes first?

Alongside that, What is God’s purpose for me, individually, – or for you? How does that fit in with the aim for my congregation and wider Church?  Perhaps we should be asking for particular gifts to use there in His service, or for openings to use the ones we know we already have. Perhaps we need the courage to offer them, or the energy to do it!

It helps to know where you are going – and heaven can’t be bad, and you won’t get lost by accident. Stephen knows where he’s going, but Thomas and Phillip are finding out – perhaps like us. Let’s make sure that we keep Jesus at the centre of everything, and work on realising his aims for us as individuals, and our church as his working group.

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.

Constructive Doubt (Thomas)

This Sunday we remember Thomas, reading of his doubt in John 20:24-31. Thomas is also remembered as the traditional founder of the Church in SW India, as a disciple of great loyalty (John 11:16), and one who could speak out and gain an explanation others probably also needed (John 14:5).
John 20:24ff teaches us a good deal about the proper place of doubt. Thomas missed Jesus at Easter, and wants evidence. It says something for the disciples’ relationships that he was still with them a week later, when Jesus again appears. Jesus is not angry at Thomas, but offers his battered body as proof. Verse 27 refers to doubt (or disbelief or faithlessness, according to translation), suggesting that it is not the opposite of faith, at least for those of Thomas personality. We need to allow questions and doubt, (not cynically and unendingly, but) to reach a more firmly grounded faith.
We don’t know if Thomas accepted that invitation to probe, but whether it is the wounds, or Jesus knowledge of his words, the reaction is remarkable. “My Lord and my God!” It seems that going through his doubt has brought him further than those who did not share that experience. His words are an embarrassment to those who cannot accept Jesus deity, but also to those who have no intention of being ruled, or living as disciples committed to obedience to a master.
Jesus’ reaction contrasts those who “see” him and those who will not. This is a reference to those who shared his company on earth, but perhaps also to those who “saw” his identity as Messiah, and as “God with us”. We may not live in the first century, but will find it easier to trust and follow as we recognise Jesus identity, and place in God’s plans for the universe and for us.
John ends his chapter recording the purpose of his writing – to bring readers to believe in Jesus and find life. The miracles he refers to in verse 30 are those of Jesus ministry, but should we include additionally the miracle of life given through faith in him?