Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Fear, Doubt, and Jesus' Faithfulness in John 20:19-31

Every year, the week after Easter, many churches (which use Revised Common Lectionary) traditionally read one story from John's Gospel about Jesus' friend, Thomas. And year after year seminarians, retired pastors, and associate pastors stand up to talk about their belief and unbelief.

To be honest I've been preaching about this one text on the Sunday after Easter for more years than I've been a pastor. There's something marvelous in this one story. Year after year this story of faith and fear just pops out right after Easter inviting us to look at the 11 surviving Apostles in their fear, Thomas in his doubts, and Jesus in his risen glory.

Thomas' story is so familiar that it's not hard to relate to him more and more over time. Last year in a post in this blog I pleaded for people to stop beating up on him. Its easy to accuse Thomas, but real faith involves doubts and outright disbelief.

We doubt God more often than we care to admit. We don't believe what our friends and the Word of God say is true about God's power and presence in the world in our Risen Lord Jesus. There's something greater going on than human belief or unbelief in John 20:19-31—God's, or more particular Jesus, is even when we are faithless. The wonder of Easter continues as Jesus reaches out for all his friends to show them that he has risen. The promise of Easter is life in the face of death; even when we fail to believe.

God is faithful. This promise is found in all the reading this Sunday after Easter. Its the news that Thomas (and all who doubt one day and believe the next) experience as true when they meet the risen Christ. Not all will believe in what they read or hear about God or even in their own experience of God in the world. John wrote simply,

Jesus did many other miracles in the presence of his followers that are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Then, by believing, you may have life through his name. John 20:30-31 NCV

There's a promise that's found in all of our readings today – God is faithful. It's the promise that keeps the church alive even when we doubt God is faithful.


LawAndGospel said...

Thanks for standing up for Thomas- how easy it is for us to make him the scapegoat for all our own fears we would rather not admit. I love this story for its promise.

david said...

After all, it is Thomas that acknowledges Jesus as Lord and God. another great post...thanx

Ivy said...

That was a powerful post. God's faithfulness is something I keep coming back to repeatedly in my life. Like his grace, it is overwhelming.