Rev. Dr. Niveen Ibrahim Sarras, Ph.D
Thomas the Believer--John 20:19-31
April 11, 2021
“Seeing is believing. Of course with today's technology and photoshop capabilities, you can't always believe what you see. But in the realm of faith, ''Believing Is Seeing.'' Spiritual sight follows belief, vision follows trust, insight follows faith."
The Apostle Thomas was absent when Jesus appeared to the disciples. He could not believe that the other disciples saw the risen Jesus showing his wounds in his hands and side. So, the church has labeled the Apostle Thomas as doubting Thomas. This title carries a negative connotation. The church does not do justice to the Apostle Thomas, who traveled to India to spread the good news and create faithful communities who trusted and believed his testimony that Christ rose from the dead.
The Apostle Thomas was a skeptic who refused to believe without direct personal experience. He thought that the grieved disciples were imagining. He also assumed that the disciples saw a spirit. Encountering a spirit or a ghost of a deceased person is still a common belief in different communities around the world. Thomas wanted to touch Jesus to believe that Jesus is real and not a spirit because you cannot touch a spirit. He questioned his faith and the faith of his companions and demanded a proof. Jesus confronted Thomas "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." Jesus confronted Thomas with the reality that he was not among the dead anymore.
I do not discredit Thomas, and neither did Jesus. All of us have Thomas' moment. All of us questioned our faith at a certain point in our lives. I was skeptical of my faith tradition when I did my Ph.D. degree in Old Testament and after the death of my younger sister. I doubted almost everything the church has been teaching like the Trinity, angels, virgin birth, and many more. I searched for evidence to prove my inherited faith. I experienced a spiritual crisis. In the midst of my spiritual struggle, Jesus confronted me through my friend who was attending the same program. My friend engaged in spiritual and intellectual conversation with me. Gradually, I experienced a gentle spiritual awakening. Jesus came to me through my friend as he came to Thomas. As a result, my relationship with Jesus is deeper.
The story of Thomas teaches me not to be afraid of questioning my faith and be critical. Yes, it is okay to question your faith. Questions are actually a sign of growth, not weakness. A pastor and author, Gary E. Parker, writes,
If faith never encounters doubt, if truth never struggles with error, if good never battles evil, how can faith know its own power? In my own pilgrimage, if I had to choose between a faith that has stared doubt in the eye and made it blink, or a naive faith that has never known the firing line of doubt, I will choose the former every time... Faith is a knowledge within the heart, beyond the reach of proof.
Jesus transformed Thomas' life. He is no longer the doubting Thomas, but Thomas the believer. Thomas was a critical thinker. He was intellectual, and Jesus did not discredit him. His faith in Jesus, who is no longer among the dead, freed him from his doubt and fear. He responded to Jesus' resurrection by acknowledging him as his Lord and his God.
Thomas became a very well-known Apostle in India. He tolerated persecution for the sake of Jesus Christ. According to Syriac Christian tradition, the Apostle Thomas was allegedly killed and became a martyr in 72 C.E. Thomas, the believer, not doubting Thomas took his faith seriously. Because Thomas and the rest of the disciples believed the resurrection, we believe it, too. Our faith is based on their testimony.
We live in a time when it is difficult to be serious believers in Jesus Christ. It is easy to be a nominal believer as long as your faith does not get in anybody's face. The Apostle Thomas' faith changed the world. What about your faith?
The story of the apostle Thomas teaches us that the resurrection is true. It also teaches us that Christ is walking with us. I want to confront you with one reality. Jesus Christ is not dead. He is alive, and he comes to confront you today not saying: you are questioners, or skeptical, or you disappointed me. He didn't say that to Thomas, so he will not say it to you. He comes to confront you today, saying: "peace be with you."