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Dealing with Doubt


JOHN 20:19-31. 

So here in chapter 20 we see the disciples meeting in a room in Jerusalem "locked...for fear of the Jews" (v. 19b). The amazing thing about this? The locked doors that reflect the fear of the disciples, but will also show the power of the risen Christ, who can be contained neither by a rock tomb nor a locked door.

What is Jesus' response to their fear? and yours? and mine? : Peace

"Peace (eirene) be to you" (v. 19c). To these frightened disciples, Jesus gives his peace, even as he has promised (14:27). The disciples, you and me will have peace in spite of persecution by a world that will hate them even as it hates Jesus (15:18-25). While this text uses the Greek word for peace, eirene, the concept is the Jewish shalom––more than the absence of conflict––a wholeness that is the gift of God.

Thomas Doubted
Thomas believed, lost faith, and then returned to even greater faith.

Different kinds of Faith, to Different Kind of People

Through this chapter, is interesting to see that there are different kinds of faith, and that faith comes in different ways and with differing intensities to different people. 

For example, the beloved disciple believes upon seeing the empty tomb (v. 8). Mary believes when the Lord calls her name (v. 16). The disciples must see the risen Lord (v. 20). Thomas says that he must touch Jesus' wounds (v. 25)––although that need seems to evaporate once he sees the risen Christ (v. 28). People have differing needs and find various routes to faith.

"But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus (the twin), wasn't with them when Jesus came" (v. 24). Didymos is the Greek word for twin. We don't know why Thomas was absent, but we do know that he earlier thought that going to Bethany with Jesus would mean death for the disciples as well as Jesus (11:16).

"The other disciples therefore said to him, 'We have seen the Lord'" (v. 25a). The first person to whom the disciples witness is one of their own, Thomas, who was not present when Jesus first appeared to them. Their words to Thomas ("We have seen the Lord") are essentially the same words ("she had seen the Lord") that were used to describe Mary's encounter with Jesus.

"Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe" (v. 25b). Thomas does not believe the disciples, but neither did the disciples believe Mary. They were a despondent, defeated people until they saw Jesus with their own eyes.

Thomas was not the only doubter and will not remain a doubter. He doubts the witness of the other disciples and so cannot believe the resurrection. Once he sees what they have seen, he will manifest great faith.

Thomas was not with the disciples when Jesus made his first appearance to them. As a result, he refused to believe. This should serve as a lesson for us. It is difficult to believe when we do not strengthen ourselves with the fellowship of other believers" (Gossip, 798).

Thomas believed, lost faith, and then returned to even greater faith.

Thomas was willing to die for Jesus (John 11:16), but still had doubt that Jesus was now alive. Jesus did not appear when Thomas was present however, in verses 24-29, Jesus returns and Thomas is no longer doubtful. Jesus is once again the loving and patient example when someone is doubtful. 

There’s no need for aggression or impatience. Some people need to doubt to believe.

Doubt can deepen your faith as you continue to search for the answer. Jesus is always tender and patient with our unbelief and we should follow His example when we are talking to someone with doubt about Christ.

When Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and believe,” and John ends this chapter with his statement that Jesus did other signs but they are not recorded here, we are reminded that we are to have faith – just believe – we don’t need to touch Jesus or see His wounds – we have all the written accounts of those who were there – we are to trust and obey.

“…and that by believing you may have life in His name.” (v. 31b) This reminds us that it is God’s role and His work that are empowering and saving – we simply respond. Our faith is a response – not a work; we recognize Christ because He reveals Himself to us. 

All the blessings and wonders that we experience are in Christ and He gives us faith that we can turn into more faith by our commitment and obedience.

Food for the Thought:

Have you ever doubted God? If you are like most of Christians, you probably have...and may have even felt guilty! But Jesus welcomes you to bring your doubts to Him. Just like Thomas, be honest and open with Jesus about your doubts. 

Jesus will meet you where you are if you are honest with him. Ask Him to show you who He is and to help you to believe what He says He can do...He's faithful...and just like Thomas, your faith will increase!

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