Last Sunday was Easter Sunday, and every year, the story of “Doubting Thomas” is the reading for the Sunday after Easter. (John 20:19-31) The risen Christ appears to the disciples on Easter evening, even though the doors were locked. Jesus said, “Peace be with you,” then he breathed the Holy Spirit on them. But Thomas was not there, and he did not believe it when his friends told him they had seen the Lord.
The following Sunday evening, Thomas was with the rest of the disciples, and Jesus again appears to them. He again says, “Peace be with you,” and then he tells Thomas to put his fingers and hands in his wounds, saying, “Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas responds, “My Lord and my God!”
Thomas is usually called “Doubting Thomas” because he did not believe his friends. The assumption is that doubt is a bad thing, and that if someone doubts, they have no faith. But doubt is not the opposite of faith. Thomas still had faith, even though he doubted, did not believe, what his friends said – until he saw for himself.
Thomas is not the only one to have faith, yet not always believe. In Mark 9:24, a father has brought his son, who had an unclean spirit, to Jesus to heal. He asked, “If you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.” Jesus replied, “All things can be done for the one who believes.” The father replied, “I believe; help my unbelief!” and Jesus healed the boy.
In Matthew 28:17, Jesus is about to ascend to heaven. He and the disciples are on a mountain, “and when the disciples saw Jesus, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” They had faith, but they also had some questions. Questions are not bad!
As humans, we are not perfect and cannot have belief 100 percent of the time. We believe something, but sometimes something casts doubt on what we believe, so we ask questions to learn more, and often believe again. Or we may find we trusted something that was not trustworthy, so we believe something else.
One other thing to notice about Thomas, though, is his response: “My Lord and my God!” That expression of faith sounds like something we may expect to hear from Peter’s mouth! But Thomas had the reputation of backing Jesus (John 11:16), when he urged the disciples to go with Jesus to see Lazarus, “that we may die with him (Jesus)” in Jerusalem. It is unfortunate that he is remembered for being human, for being like us, having faith, but not always having belief.
Doubt and questioning is part of life. We believe – help our unbelief!