The Holy Gospel: April 15, 2012 (Year B)

Read;  John 20:19-31

Meditation:  “When It’s Hard to Believe”

I think Thomas has gotten bad press.  In some ways, he was the most honest apostle of the lot.  He was not about to claim an experience he was not having, and in that regard, he serves as a model for us when it’s difficult to believe.  He exemplified some things which are essential when we go through tough times….

(1) He didn’t hide his struggle.  Sometimes, church is just “too nice,” and we raise our hands with everyone else when our hearts are cast down.  Thomas didn’t do that, and it is one reason why he was able to end up where he did.  Honesty is the doorway to discovery.

(2) He believed in the experience of his friends.  Sometimes, we have to cling to someone else’s faith when our own is dormant.  He knew his friends would not lie to him.  He claimed the truth through them when he could not find it in himself.

(3) He stayed in the fellowship.  I think this may be the decisive factor that differentiated him from Judas (Peter did the same thing), and it is absolutely necessary that we do not cut ourselves off from supportive community when we are struggling.

(4) He followed Jesus’ instructions (which, in this case, happened to be exactly the set of conditions Thomas had laid down earlier).  We find our way back home when we respond to the promptings of the Spirit, rather than following our own numb spirit.

(5) He declared his breakthrough.  Thomas’ exclamation was one of the strongest in all the gospels.  When it’s hard to believe, we at least need to be as honest about our discoveries as we are about our doubts.

In 1973, I had the opportunity in Hyderabad India to walk down a narrow spiral staircase into a tiny cave behind the high altar of a church, where tradition says Thomas is buried.  It was one of the most-moving moments of my life, because I had never been that “close” to one of Jesus’ apostles.  In those few moments of meditation, I did not think of him as “doubting Thomas,” but more as “shouting Thomas”—whose life and witness made it all the way to India—and, in a strange way, into my own life as well, as I stood briefly in his little tomb.

There are times for all of us when it’s hard to believe.  In such times, follow Thomas.  He will lead you back to Jesus.

About jstevenharper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 31 books.
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