The Sunnier Side of Doubt

 

“Now Thomas, one of the twelve [disciples], called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus [had first appeared to the other disciples after his resurrection]. So the other disciples told [Thomas]: ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But [Thomas] said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:24-25; RSV)

 

Dear Friends in Christ: from the Gospel text for this coming Sunday (John 20:19-31), the Sunday now following Easter, and the hope we’ve been given in Christ’s resurrection … now comes the famous caricature of one of Jesus’ beloved disciples: Thomas. Oh, I know we’ve labeled him. Somewhere, in some sermon, someone laid down the label, “Doubting Thomas.” And the name stuck.// And to a degree, yea, it’s true. Thomas did harbor some serious doubt. However … it’s just that there’s a whole lot more here than “meets the eye” … (John 20:29-30; cf. II Corinthians 5:7 and Hebrews 11:1). 

At our Saturday night Vespers service (5:00 p.m. in Chapel), as well as our three services this Sunday (8:00; 9:30; and 11:00 p.m. in Main Sanctuary), I’d like for us to first, give careful pause and ponder what we really mean when we talk about “doubt” and how it relates to our Christian faith. And second: to gain a deeper understanding of the “good news” that comes to us on spirited wing in the hearing of the Gospel text from John 20; that is, how our risen Savior, Jesus the Christ enters anew into all the tightly closed places of our trembling and fear-filled hearts, speaking a word of Peace be with you (John 20:19, 26; cf. Psalm 119:35f; Hebrews 6:18f)

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We’ll also be drawing upon a large canvas “study” (by local Ethiopian artist, Eyab Mergia) of Caravaggio’s classic painting, “The Incredulity of Saints Thomas.” As you look at the small posting of it here, let me ask you: “In Carvaggio’s well-known technique of chiaroscuro (Italian meaning, “light-dark”) where in the subject matter of the painting does the light appear to be emanating from?” Moreover, “Is there something striking to you here, how Thomas’ finger is placed in Jesus’ wounded, yet resurrected body?” And finally, “Don’t you find it curious that Thomas’ eyes aren’t fixed on the place where his finger is touching Jesus’ wounded side … but rather, where?” Come and see!

 

“Eight days later [Jesus’ appeared again to the disciples, but this time Thomas is with them]… Then Jesus said to Thomas: ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.’ Thomas answered him,
‘My Lord and my God!’”
(John 20:26a, 27-28)

 

j.r. christopherson
Senior Pastor