The Receptive Life

"We are beggars; this is true." (Martin Luther)

Forty Day Encounter With Christ: Day 38

He Knows My Doubt

Scripture Reading:  John 20:19-31

Meditation

The Evil One is the father of two fraternal twins:  terror and doubt.

During the Savior’s Passion, Satan’s demons dropped these two hellions on the doorstep of the disciples. When the disciples answered the door, the two unruly children pushed their way into the house of faith and began to wreak torment of soul and terror of conscience. Like defiant children, they destroyed the peace. And it’s such peace, at this time, that the disciples need the most.

The Jewish leaders have just struck the Good Shepherd dead and the blow has scattered the Messiah’s little flock. Now the temple police, looking to put an end to this blasphemer’s influence and to send a message to any who would want to continue his cause, are trying to round up the benumbed sheep and bring them to slaughter.

The disciples have become fugitives on the lam.

Members of the little flock, vulnerable and frightened, have gathered together in a small room. As they huddle behind locked doors, they plan possible escape routes out of Jerusalem. They long for the safety of Galilean soil. They believe that familiar territory will ease the terror. If the place of the Passion is out of sight, then it’s out of mind.

Until they can make their getaway, they need to lay low, keep quiet, and throw the wolf off the trail of their scent. The word is spread throughout the flock:  public movement must be kept to a minimum; travel only under the cover of darkness; keep the doors locked at all times. If anyone knocks at the door, first, identify, then unlock.

But when Jesus comes to the door he doesn’t knock.  In his post resurrection body, he walks directly through the door and enters the disciples’ presence. Standing among the frightened flock, Jesus says the word they most long to hear,

“Peace to you.”1

His words aren’t empty well wishes; they are accompanied by his physical presence. He substantiates his message by showing them the nail prints in his hands and the spear wound in his side. These are the definitive marks of their Master. He’s not a ghost or an apparition. He’s the crucified Messiah, resurrected in the flesh.

As soon as the disciples see the scars, the devil’s twins—terror and doubt—exit the room.

Heaven’s children—peace and hope—take up residence.

But Thomas, one of the Twelve, sometimes called the Twin, isn’t with the disciples. When he returns to the room where they are staying, the disciples excitedly and repeatedly tell him that they have just seen the Master. But the more the disciples insist, the more Thomas resists.

“Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.”2

Thomas is a practical man, deliberate in his discipleship. He’s the one among the Twelve who keeps his feet on the ground while the others get lifted away by fleeting, highflying emotions. He calculates the risks, counts the costs, and then, based on the facts, decides to invest his life in a certain cause.

Once he commits, his loyalty is as good as gold. He’s steady, as he demonstrated so ably when Jesus went to Judea to raise Lazarus from the dead. Even though some of the disciples had warned Jesus to stay put because the Jews were going all out to kill him, Thomas, thought it through and urged his peers,

“Come along. We might as well die with him.”3

Thomas is no-nonsense but he also likes things to make sense. Before he moves, he likes to measure every step. He has a methodical, matter-of-fact way of assessing situations and solving problems. When Jesus talked about eternal rooms in the Father’s house and the road that leads there, it was Thomas who asked the logical question that everyone else was thinking,

“Master, we have no idea where you’re going. How do you expect us to know the road?”

Jesus said, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me.”4

For Thomas, the pain of his Master’s death is greater than the promise of the resurrection. Right now it’s safer and easier for him to believe the worst than to dare to hope for the best. False hope is more painful than no hope. Without proof, Thomas chooses to hold onto his doubt. Right now he would rather cling to the pain than to risk reaching into the darkness for hope. Even the urging of his fellow disciples can’t change his mind.

His pain demands proof.

“Unless …”

Eight days later, Thomas’ conditional “unless” comes full circle. The disciples are again in the same room and this time Thomas is with them. Just as before, Jesus walks through locked doors. After calming them with his words of peace, Jesus turns his attention directly to Thomas. He gives no lecture. No upbraiding. He just reaches out his hands and offers an incarnational invitation to Thomas.

“Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.”5

Before Thomas can reach for the scars, the pierced hand of the Savior grabs his heart. Faith begins to beat fast. Hope now has an object to which it can cling.

Thomas said, “My Master! My God!”

Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.”6

Reflection

What doors are you locked behind? Who or what do you fear?

When was the last time you demanded proof before you would believe? Did you get it?

Thomas said, “Unless I see the nail holes … I won’t believe it.” What’s your “unless”?

Why is it safer to believe the worst than to dare to hope for the best?

Prayer

Father,

I so desire peace and yet terror and doubt torment me. Sometimes the pain of my life overcomes the promise that you have given to me in your Son. Afraid of disappointment, I choose to believe the worst rather than dare to hope for the best. For me, false hope is more painful than no hope. Without solid evidence given in advance, I would rather cling to the pain of my present circumstances than to risk reaching into the darkness of uncertainty for hope.

During this day, send your Holy Spirit to give me a faith that believes without having to see. Though I doubt, remind me that the Savior doesn’t rebuke or upbraid me; rather he walks through my locked doors, enters my presence, speaks “peace”, and shows me his scars. When I demand proof or give conditions, please be patient with me. Send the scarred Savior to meet me at my point of need. Before I reach out to him, may he grab my heart and cause it to beat fast.

It’s in the nail pierced Savior’s name that I pray. Amen

1John 20:19-20   2John 20:25   3John 11:16   4John 14:5-6     5John 20:27   6John 20:28-29

All Scripture references in the meditation are marked by italics and are taken from the Gospel reading for the day. Those verses quoted outside of the chosen reading for the day are noted. All Scripture quoted in this post is taken from THE MESSAGE: Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 2000, 2001 & 2002.  Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group. All rights reserved.

Updates

If you would to like sign up and receive updates to this site, enter your email address below: