John 20: Thomas – Believing Scars and faith in the night

Meeting the Doubter

When Mary Magdalene met the risen Jesus,
She was transformed from crying in loneliness and loss at his grave,
To hope and joy and life.

Meanwhile, Jesus’ other friends were hiding inside, full of fear.
Every step on the stairs could be the police.
What did they think when Mary said that Jesus was alive?

The story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it.  (Luke 24:11)

The sun had risen for Mary.  They were still in the dark.
Let’s read what happened that night.

19 That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. 20 As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! 21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

24 One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. 25 They told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”
John 20:19-25

Doubt is when you are not sure, not certain that something is true.
Thomas is often called the doubter.[1]
He could not believe that Jesus was alive again. [2]

Why do you think Thomas would not believe?
Should he have trusted his friends?
If you were Thomas, what would you have done?

Thomas walked with Jesus for three years.
He saw Jesus bring dead people back to life.
He heard Jesus say, “I will be killed and come back to life.”
Now his friends said that had happened.
Thomas knew they weren’t liars or on drugs.
Shouldn’t he have believed them?

Maybe.
But I’m glad he didn’t,
Because I’m like Thomas sometimes.
I studied science at University.
I like to see and be sure.
I’m glad Thomas was at the first Easter.[3]
A hard-headed scientist to test the evidence. [4]
Let’s see what he found when he got Jesus in the lab.

26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
28 “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.
29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”
John 20:26-29

The Incredulity of St Thomas by Caravaggio (1602)

The Incredulity of St Thomas by Caravaggio (1602)

Meeting Doubt

Are you like Thomas sometimes?
Do you have doubts and questions about God or Jesus or Christianity?
I think most of us do now and then,
But we’re often afraid to admit it.[5]

I admire Thomas because he was honest.
If he could not believe, he would not pretend.
That’s a good example for us.
The first step towards finding truth is to be truthful.
And I believe that all truth is God’s truth,
So don’t be afraid to ask questions like Thomas did.

Sometimes doubt is bad.
It can be an excuse to be negative.
To feel more intelligent than other people.
An excuse to push God away so we can live without him.

Doubt can be a bad thing,
But it’s not wrong in itself.
Doubt is not the opposite of faith. [6]
In fact, doubt often builds our faith. [7]

Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.
Frederick Buechner  [8]

Sometimes our beliefs are built on sand.
They are shaky and unstable.
Doubt is a challenge to dig deeper and find solid rock.
So our faith can grow stronger,
and survive the storms of life.[9]

Doubt is not a sign of spiritual weakness – rather it’s an indication of spiritual growing pains.
Alister McGrath


Questions of the Head

You could say there are two sorts of doubt.
Intellectual doubts and emotional doubts.
Questions of the head, and questions of the heart.

Some of us have intellectual questions.
Is the Bible reliable or a lot of fairy stories?
Was Jesus God or just a good man?
Did Jesus rise from the dead or were his friends dreaming?
That was the question for Thomas.

thecaseforchristThose are good questions, and there are many useful books about them.
One place to start could be The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel (1998).
He is a journalist so it is easy to read, like a magazine.
Each chapter interviews an expert about evidence for the Bible and Jesus and the resurrection.
And it lists books that go deeper.

When I was a teenager, I started thinking about my Christian faith and reading books like that.
They show you don’t have to switch off your brain to be a Christian.
There is good evidence.

These books can be helpful, but here is a warning.
I wish I could prove life like a physics equation.
Understand everything.
Zero doubt.  100% certain.
Wouldn’t that be great?

Now I realise that’s impossible.[10]
Whether you believe in God or you don’t believe in God,
you can’t prove it in a science laboratory or a maths equation.[11]

God gave us brains.
He wants us to question and think and study as hard as we can.
But we cannot reach God’s truth on our own.[12]
Jesus said,

No one can come to me unless the Father draws him (John 6:44) [13]

Faith is a gift from God.[14]
One of my favourite prayers in the Bible says this.
It’s very short.

“Lord, I believe, help my overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24) [15]

You might like to pray that too.
“If you are there, God, open my eyes.  Help me to see you.”


Questions of the Heart

When Thomas said I will not believe,
maybe he needed some books on the evidence for the resurrection. [16]
Or maybe his real doubt was emotional.
And his real questions came from the heart.[17]

Jesus friends had been so excited.
They had such high hopes that Jesus was the King.
Then at Easter, Jesus died.

The Bread of Life was broken.
The Good Shepherd was killed like a helpless sheep.
The Light of the World was blown out like a candle.

They were so hurt and disappointed.
I guess that Thomas was afraid of being disappointed again if he believed.
Jesus alive again?
Too good to be true.
He was too sad and tired to trust.

Our faith can be affected by our feelings.
For some of us, they go up and down.[18]

When I’m preparing a sermon, I read lots.
I get excited about new things I discover.
I say “thank you Lord!”
Then I get stressed and depressed and don’t feel like praising at all!

It’s like tramping.
I’ve seen the sun set on the mountain peaks.
The snow is red and gold and gorgeous.
Then I wake up in the morning.
I step out of the hut.
Just grey fog.
No mountain anywhere.[19]

C. S. Lewis wrote,

Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.

In World War Two, a Jew hiding from the Nazis put it like this:

I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining.
I believe in love, even when I cannot feel it.
I believe in God, even when he is silent.


Digging Deeper

So what do we do when God seems silent and we can’t feel his love?
When questions rise up like fog and we can’t see the sun?

Remember that doubt is not wrong.
It’s a normal part of life.
It’s a challenge to dig deeper.[20]

First dig deeper into the Bible and find some hidden treasures.
Meet some people who had questions like you.
The author Philip Yancey says
Every argument of atheists against God is already in the Bible![21]
Especially in the Old Testament, there are many people like Thomas.
They wrestle with doubt and argue with God.[22]

There’s the book of Job.
A good man loses everything and suffers terribly.
His friends say the sort of unhelpful things people say when they don’t know what to say.
He just yells at God:
What have I done to you?
Why don’t you leave me alone?  (7:19)
Why are you so unfair?
At the end, God explodes in a burst of poetry.

There’s the book of Ecclesiastes.
A philosopher looks at life and says:
Nothing new ever happens.
History just repeats itself.
Everything is meaningless (Ecclesiastes 1)
I guess that’s how Thomas felt when Jesus died.

There are Psalms we don’t sing in church.[23]
People are in trouble, and God does not seem to answer.
One of them ends, “Darkness is my closest friend.” (Psalm 88:19)
If you’ve had depression, you might relate to that.
I suspect Thomas did.

disappointment-with-god-yancey1After the Bible, there are other books you can dig into.
One of my favourite authors for faith and doubt is Philip Yancey.
He is also a journalist and fun to read.
He grew up with bad church experience that made it hard for him to believe.

Maybe you’ve been hurt or disappointed in the past, so it’s hard to trust in God.
You might like Yancey’s book Disappointment with God.

Maybe you are looking for something more than this life, but you’re not sure.
You could try Rumours of Another World (also called A Skeptic’s Guide to Faith).
He wrote it “for those who live in the borderlands of belief”.

A-Skeptics-Guide-to-FaithDoubt is a challenge to dig deeper in the Bible, and other reading and thinking about faith.
Most of all, it’s a chance to go deeper in your relationship with God. [24]

Sometimes our view of God is too small and shallow.
We put him in a box.
Doubt can be God’s way to expand our understanding of him,
and teach us deeper trust (Isaiah 50:10).

Did you know that many great Christians in history had times of big doubt?
They felt like God was far away or even not there.
It’s called the dark night of the soul. [25]

After Mother Teresa died, her letters were published.
Look what she wrote:

Where is my faith?  Even deep down there is nothing but emptiness and darkness…  In my soul I feel just that terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me – of God not being God – of God not existing…  Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call?

Sometimes I go to church and people talk about feeling God’s presence.
But I’m like Thomas – I don’t see anything.
Sometimes when I pray, it feels like leaving an answer phone message – is anyone home?[26]
Does that mean I’m a bad Christian?  Or God doesn’t love me?

Mother Teresa felt like that,
But she kept on loving and serving God and showing the world his joy.
Then maybe I’m okay, and God is still there for me![27]


The Problem of Pain

What is the biggest reason we sometimes think God is not there?
The biggest question that stops people believing in God?

How about this:
If there is a good and loving God,
Why is there so much suffering, and why is life so unfair? [28]

WIGWIHurtsPhilip Yancey wrote about this too: Where Is God When It Hurts?
It’s a good book.
But in this life, we can’t fully answer.[29]
Jesus said, “You don’t understand now, but some day you will.”  (John 13:7) [30]

When we meet Jesus face to face, all our questions will be answered.
Right now, we sometimes have to wait.

While we wait, there’s something we can do.
Learn from Thomas.
Look at the marks of the nails in Jesus’ hands,
The wound of the spear in his side.[31]

Jesus said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
That means God knows all about pain.
In Jesus, God shares our scars. [32]
That helps me to trust him with the questions I can’t answer yet,
The doubts that don’t go away,
The pain I can’t understand.[33]

Thomas had to wait a week for his answers.
A long dark week of fear and sorrow, disappointment and doubt.

Then he met the risen Jesus.
He saw the scars himself.
And Thomas was transformed.

His fear and doubt turned into faith and worship.
The man with the most questions spoke the highest words of praise.
It’s a resurrection metamorphosis!
It’s the climax of John’s book.
The hard-headed scientist said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God” (20:28) [34]


The Man of Faith

The Bible doesn’t tell us any more about Thomas,
but there’s an old story that could well be true.

About 20 years later, Thomas sailed to India.[35]
They say he built a palace for an Indian king and gave money to the poor.[36]
Most of all, he shared the good news:
“I have seen the risen Jesus!
Darkness could not put out the light.
I know with all my heart,
He is the resurrection and the life.”

In 2007 I visited India.
The spiritual highlight for me was in Chennai, at the church of St Thomas.
They say Thomas is buried there, so it was the closest I’ve been to Jesus’ disciples.

The church was mostly empty.
Behind me a lady was singing quietly.
I sat and prayed and thought about Thomas.
How he doubted and found it hard to believe.
How I’m sometimes like that.

Then I remembered that Thomas said something earlier in John, that’s not so famous.
Jesus was going towards Jerusalem, and the disciples were afraid.
People wanted to kill Jesus up there (John 11:8)
Thomas was the most brave and faithful one.

Thomas, nicknamed the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go, too—and die with Jesus.”  (John 11:16).

In A.D. 72 in India, they say, Thomas did.
He wouldn’t stop talking about Jesus, so was killed with a spear.
It took doubting Thomas a while to believe that Jesus was alive.
When he did, he was dead certain, sure enough to die.

Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new creation.  The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

Did you notice, Thomas is called the Twin.
That meant he was born with a brother or sister, but we don’t know who.
In a way, it could be me – or maybe you.
Sometimes I have doubts and questions like Thomas did.
But he also loved Jesus, he was faithful and brave.
I hope I can be his twin, like him in that way too.

Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.
Open my eyes to see you are true.
Turn my doubt into dancing and my fear into faith.
Transform my whole life and make all things new.


Questions

Should Thomas have believed that Jesus was alive?
Why didn’t he?

Is it bad to have doubts about faith?
Do you have questions?

How can questions and doubt help us grow?
What should we do when they come?

How did Thomas experience a resurrection metamorphosis?


This was one of three talks on “Metamorphosis: Meeting the Risen Jesus”,
for the 2014 Global group of the Auckland Baptist Tabernacle.
You might also like the other two messages:

John 20: Mary – Rejoicing Tears at the tomb of life
John 21: Peter – Following Failure with the Rocky Shepherd


Resources on questions of faith and doubt

Some books I’ve found helpful:
Gregory A Boyd, Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty (2013)
Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark: A Doubter’s Dictionary (1988)
James W. Fowler, Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning (1981)
Os Guinness, God in the Dark: How to Understand and Resolve the Dilemmas of Doubt (1996)
Anson Laytner, Arguing with God: A Jewish Tradition (1977)
C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (1942)
C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952)
C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed (1961)
Brian D McLaren, Finding Faith: a Self-Discovery Guide for Your Spiritual Quest (1999)
Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus (1998)
Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church: a Memoir of Faith (2006)
Philip Yancey, Where Is God When It Hurts? (1977)
Philip Yancey, Disappointment with God (1988)
Philip Yancey, Soul Survivor: How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive the Church (2001)
Philip Yancey, Rumors of Another World (2003) renamed A Skeptic’s Guide to Faith (2009)

Some online reading:
Faith, Doubt and the Idol of Certainty: An Interview with Greg Boyd
Frederick Buechner and Faith Despite Doubt
List of William Lane Craig’s debates about the existence of God and the resurrection of Christ
Why It’s Good to Doubt God by Peter Enns
The Thomas Factor: Using Your Doubts to Draw Closer to God – free online book by Gary R. Habermas
Faith in the Fog by Jeff Lucas, sampler from his 2014 book
Doubt and the Vain Search for Certainty by Alister McGrath
When Doubt Becomes Unbelief by Alister McGrath
A book review of Doubting: Growing Through the Uncertainties of Faith by Alister McGrath
Doubt: The Tides of Faith by Brian McLaren
Is Doubt a Sign of Spiritual Weakness or What? By Roger E. Olson
Quick overview of N.T. Wright’s case for the resurrection
Philip Yancey on faith and doubt


[1] For a collection of paintings adapted from Caravaggio’s “The Incredulity of St Thomas” (1602), see here.

[2] John has mixed feelings about visible signs.  Jesus criticises those who won’t believe without miraculous signs and wonders (John 4:48).  But others see and don’t believe (6:36).  Jesus tells Martha, if she believes, then she will see (11:40).  Jesus’ parable of Lazarus said that people who won’t believe the Scriptures won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead (Luke 16:31).

[3] Einstein described scientific discovery as “a sudden illumination, almost a rapture… a great leap of the imagination” which is later confirmed by intelligence and analysis and experiment.  Of the search for universal laws, he said, “There is no logical path leading to these laws.  They are only to be reached by intuition, based upon something like an intellectual love.”

Paul Dirac, who won a Nobel Prize in physics of quantum mechanics, said “This result is too beautiful to be false; it is more important to have beauty in one’s equations than to have them fit experiment.” and “One should put one’s trust in a mathematical scheme, even if the scheme does not appear at first sight to be connected with physics.”

[4] I trust that other scientists honestly and accurately report what they saw in their laboratory, although I haven’t seen their results myself.    When Jesus died on the cross, the author of John says, “This report is from an eyewitness giving an accurate account.”  (19:35).  He ends the book by saying “This disciple is the one who testifies to these events and has recorded them here. And we know that his account of these things is accurate.”  (21:24)

John actually has the law court in mind, using these key words: witness/testimony/testimony (47 times), judge/judgement (30 times), true/truth (55 times, plus often false), believe (around 100 times).  Also advocate, and in some translations guilty and condemn.  There’s a literal trial in chapter 18-19, and the picture of a trial goes right through John.  Witnesses come and testify about Jesus.  Some say he comes from God and tells the truth, others say he tells lies.   Truth on Trial: the Lawsuit Motif in the Fourth Gospel by Andrew T Lincoln (2000) traces this theme.  As John’s readers, we have to be the jury and judge the eyewitness evidence ourselves: the cover of Josh McDowell’s classic Evidence That Demands a Verdict shows a judge’s hammer!

[5] Christian psychiatrist M. Scott Peck says that to grow spiritually, “You have to go through a phase of doubting.  One of the great sins of the Christian church is the discouragement of doubting.”

[6] Jesus didn’t actually say to Thomas, “do not doubt”, but “do not be unbelieving” (20:27).  In Tennyson’s poem “In Memoriam” someone says that “doubt is Devil-born” and the speaker disagrees:  “There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.”  Then he tells of someone he knew, who sounds like Thomas: “He fought his doubts and gather’d strength, He would not make his judgment blind, He faced the spectres of the mind And laid them; thus he came at length To find a stronger faith his own”.

[7] “The world of Christian faith is not a fairy-tale, make-believe world, question-free and problem-proof, but a world where doubt is never far from faith’s shoulder.”  (Os Guinness)  “It is not as a boy that I believe in Christ and confess him, but my hosanna has passed through a great furnace of doubts.”  (Dostoevsky)

[8] Emily Dickinson says, “We believe and disbelieve a hundred times an hour. It keeps believing nimble.”

[9] “A faith without doubts is like a human body with no antibodies in it.  People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask the hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic.  A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she failed over the years to listen patiently to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection.”  (Tim Keller)

[10] John Calvin said, “Surely, while we teach that faith ought to be certain and assured, we cannot imagine any certainty that is not tinged with doubt, or any assurance that is not assailed by some anxiety.”  In his book Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty (2013) Gregory Boyd argues that the quest for certainty is a form of idolatry.

[11] As Frederick Buechner wrote “Whether your faith is that there is a God or that there is not a God, if you don’t have any doubts you are either kidding yourself or asleep.”  C. S. Lewis said “Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable; but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable.”

[12] There are physicists with Nobel prizes, who are atheist, agnostic, Jewish, Christian… If the biggest brains on the planet can’t agree about God, there’s no way I can figure it out on my own!  Alister McGrath reports that a 1916 survey of scientists found about 40% had some form of personal religious belief.  Despite the argument of atheists that science is opposed to faith, when the survey was repeated in 1996, it found the same: 40% of scientists had active religious beliefs, 40% had none (were atheist), and 20% were agnostic.  (See here).  McGrath concludes:

The stereotype of the necessarily atheist scientist lingers on in western culture at the dawn of the third millennium. It has its uses, and continues to surface in the rehashed myths of the intellectual superiority of atheism over its rivals. The truth, as might be expected, is far more complex and considerably more interesting.

[13] Also “we must be born again” (John 3:5), and “apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).  “No one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3)

[14] Obedience is also key to discovering whether Jesus is from God (John 7:17), as George MacDonald saw:

Instead of asking yourself whether you believe or not, ask yourself whether you have this day done one thing because he said, Do it, or once abstained because he said, Do not do it. It is simply absurd to say you believe, or even want to believe in him, if you do not anything he tells you.

[15] “I have a lot of faith. But I am also afraid a lot, and have no real certainty about anything. I remembered something Father Tom had told me – that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.” (from Plan B, by Anne Lamott)

[16] Maybe, like other Jews, he thought that Jesus could not have come from God, because “anyone hung on a tree is cursed by God” (Deuteronomy 21:23). At the time, some Jewish teachers said there is no resurrection, others believed in a resurrection at the end of history, but no one believed in a physical resurrection right now.  The Resurrection of the Son of God by NT Wright (2003) has great detail.

[17] In his book The Thomas Factor (online here), apologist Gary Habermas writes “Emotional religious uncertainty is the most common variety. It is also the most painful. Its chief cause is one’s moods and passions, which explains its more subjective nature. But it very frequently masquerades as factual doubt by attempting to address the same issues.”

[18] C. S. Lewis said, “unless you teach your moods ‘where they get off’, you can never be a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion”.  He wrote about his own doubts in a letter to Arthur Greeves:

“I think the trouble with me is lack of faith. I have no rational ground for going back on the arguments that convinced me of God’s existence: but the irrational deadweight of my old skeptical habits, and the spirit of this age, and the cares of the day, steal away all my lively feeling of the truth, and often when I pray I wonder if I am not posting letters to a non-existent address. Mind you I don’t think so — the whole of my reasonable mind is convinced: but I often feel so”.

[19] C. S. Lewis felt like this when his wife died, writing near the start of A Grief Observed,

Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing him… if you turn to him with gratitude and praise, you will be – or so it feels – welcomed with open arms.
But go to him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this.

[20] “Questions can expand our understanding, uncertainty can lead to trust, and honest faith can produce outrageous hope.”  (John Ortberg)

[21] “When I speak to college students, I challenge them to find a single argument against God in the older agnostics (Bertrand Russell, Voltaire, David Hume) or the newer ones (Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris) that is not already included in books like Psalms, Job, Habakkuk, and Lamentations.  I have respect for a God who not only gives us the freedom to reject him, but also includes the arguments we can use in the Bible.  God seems rather doubt-tolerant, actually.”

[22] In the past, New Testament pictures of Thomas meeting the risen Jesus were sometimes paired with Old Testament pictures of Jacob wrestling the mysterious God.  The name Israel actually means “struggles with God”.  See Anson Laytner’s book, Arguing with God: A Jewish Tradition (1977).

[23] See the statistics and graph at “Not Learning to Lament: Comparing the Psalms to Songbooks”.  These suggest that 40% of the Psalms are laments, versus under 20% of common Christian songs.

[24] As the poet R. S. Thomas wrote, God can’t “be penned in a concept”.

[25] Thomas Merton says “You cannot be a person of faith unless you know how to doubt.” And “Prayer and love are learned in the hour when prayer becomes impossible and your heart has turned to stone.” In New Seeds of Contemplation he writes,

Let no one hope to find in contemplation an escape from conflict, from anguish or from doubt. On the contrary, the deep, inexpressible certitude of the contemplative experience awakens a tragic anguish and opens many questions in the depths of the heart like wounds that cannot stop bleeding.  For every gain in deep certitude there is a corresponding growth of superficial “doubt.” This doubt is by no means opposed to genuine faith, but it mercilessly examines and questions the spurious “faith” of everyday life, the human faith which is nothing but the passive acceptance of conventional opinion.

[26] “I talk to God but the sky is empty.”  (Sylvia Plath)

[27] See my sermon on God’s presence and absence in Psalm 139 and Job here.

[28] Maybe that was the problem for Thomas.  Jesus was the most good and true man he ever knew, and he suffered the most painful death.  Nothing made sense any more.

[29] Although Jesus said, “seek and you will find” (Matthew 7:7), with some questions we seem to seek and not find (John 7:34).

[30] “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.”  (1 Corinthians 13:12)

[31] “The wounds of Christ are his credentials to the suffering race of men” (William Temple).  Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from a German prison in World War II, “Only the suffering God can help.”  Near the end of his book The Cross of Christ, John Stott wrote:

I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross…  In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? … That is the God for me! … He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us… There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross which symbolises divine suffering.

[32] “If Christ spent an anguished night in prayer, if He burst out from the Cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ then surely we are also permitted doubt. But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.”  (Yann Martel, Life of Pi)

[33] “Jesus at his crucifixion… enters the darkness, freely, voluntarily.  The darkness is not dispelled or illuminated.  It remains vast, untamed, void.  But he somehow encompasses it.  It becomes the darkness of God.  It is now possible to enter any darkness and trust God to wrest from it meaning, coherence, resurrection.”  (Walter Wink.)

[34] Echoing John’s first verse, “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God”, and answering Jesus’ prayer that the disciples would see his glory (17:24).

[35] Maybe God allowed Thomas to have a longer time of darkness than the other disciples because he would go the furthest on his own and need the deepest faith.

[36] There is a Roman Catholic story that Thomas was in India, so didn’t see Mary’s Assumption to heaven in Jerusalem as the other disciples did.  Knowing his doubting temperament, Mary personally appeared to Thomas and dropped her girdle down on him as tangible evidence!

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