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Christian Resources
~
Why Doubt Him ?
(An Easter Reflection)





Cuthbert cross

Why Doubt Him ? 

(Originally preached on the Second Sunday of Easter 2010) 


Read : St John 20: 19-31 

Jesus said "Do not doubt, but believe." 

In June 1996 the Church Times published an article by a man called Tom Gardiner in which he had written "God is contemporary". Unfortunately, there was a misprint when the Church Times came to publication, and so the sentence actually read, "God is temporary"!  

I would imagine that the disciples must have felt that way as they huddled together behind locked doors; fearful and doubting. "God is temporary". The hope that they once had of the breaking in of God's kingdom had now passed. The expectation they once had that the wonderful promises made to them by Jesus would be fulfilled, was now no more. "God is temporary"? Well if not God, then their hopes, their expectations, their dreams had certainly passed. They had not lasted long.  

If there was indeed a God - and I imagine that some of them doubted that - then he was no longer there, or no longer interested, or no longer the kind of God they had imagined and hoped he was. Their dreams were shattered; their hopes were dashed; Jesus, their Friend and Lord was dead; their own lives were in danger.  

Understandably, fear and doubt would have dominated their thinking and their feeling.  

And let us be clear; they would all have doubted - not just poor old Thomas whom we all know as "Doubting Thomas" mainly because of today's Gospel passage. Thomas is really not given fair consideration. The reality is that they all doubted; at least they did until their encounter with the Risen Jesus. It was the same for the other disciples as it was for Thomas: the Risen Jesus had to show himself to them all before their doubt and fear would melt into relieved and joy-filled belief. 

And let us be clear; they would all have doubted - not just poor old Thomas whom we all know as "Doubting Thomas" mainly because of today's Gospel passage. Thomas is really not given fair consideration. The reality is that they all doubted; at least they did until their encounter with the Risen Jesus. It was the same for the other disciples as it was for Thomas: the Risen Jesus had to show himself to them all before their doubt and fear would melt into relieved and joy-filled belief. 

It is not a case of "doubting Thomas" so much as "doubting disciples". 

And in this, they are no different from us. 

We too have fears…
We too have known grief and loss…
We too have doubts!

Do we not?  

Well, fellow doubters, we are in good company! The disciples through whom God was to turn the world upside down also feared and grieved and doubted! So take heart. God used doubters and still can use doubters! 

Of course, the call of the Risen Jesus is to belief and away from doubt. 

"Do not doubt but believe". 

But doubts are not banished by our pretending that they do not exist! Doubts are confronted when we encounter the Risen Jesus and choose to believe. Yes - choose to believe!  

People sometimes speak of "losing their faith" as if somehow they had accidently mislaid it or left it somewhere! Faith is not like that! We choose faith - or fail to choose it; we nurture faith - or fail to nurture it. This is why Jesus directly challenges Thomas to make a decision, to make a choice, to do something: "Do not doubt, but believe." 

If we were to wait until we had incontrovertible proof before we chose to believe then we would wait forever. On the basis of the evidence we are invited and challenged to have faith: to believe. 

"Do not doubt, but believe." 

In urging Thomas - and urging us - to choose to believe rather than to doubt I do not think that Jesus is suggesting that we can finally and fully banish every doubt we experience. Rather it is that we are called - even in the midst of fear and grief and doubt - to choose faith. 

It is in the midst of times of fear and grief and doubt that the presence of the Risen Jesus is with us; and His presence can transform the situation. A band of frightened, grief stricken and doubting disciples who are hiding behind locked doors for fear, just a few weeks later are fearlessly standing before the Sanhedrin and the High Priest insisting that they must obey God and not people, and that Jesus has been raised. The presence of the Risen Jesus has transformed them. 

It is not that doubts are somehow sinful or avoidable. They are neither. 

Indeed, I think we should admit our doubts and even affirm that some doubt can be healthy. Tennyson famously said "There lives more faith in honest doubt than in half the creeds". 

Doubt has a positive and constructive role to play in faith development.  

Frederick Buechner has said "If you don't have any doubts you are either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving".  

The Christian faith is a belief that exists in the presence of doubts rather than a belief that has to remove all doubt in order to exist.  

But in the midst of the doubts that inevitably we have, Jesus calls us to choose to believe. 

"Do not doubt, but believe." 

In the believing, and in the encounter with Christ's Risen presence, we can be transformed, our fears can be addressed, our perspective on the darkness of the world around us can be fundamentally altered, our understanding of the Lord can be deepened, as was Thomas's who cried out "My Lord and my God".  

Don't let us be surprised if we have fears and doubts. But neither let us be content to remain in that place behind locked doors. As Thomas experienced, Jesus comes to us in our fears and responds to our doubts and touches us where we need to be touched so that we might have the faith and courage to take the next step. Let us open our hearts and our lives to encounter him. And let us choose to believe, and just as happened for Thomas and the others, in believing we will be transformed by the presence of the Risen Christ and that transformation of our lives will lead us into the mission of transforming the world, for we too, are the ones on whom he breathes his Holy Spirit and sends into mission. 

"Do not doubt, but believe." 

Rev David Denniston, April 2010

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