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Thomas Got a Bad Rap

The title of “doubter” is both unfair and misplaced when it comes to [Thomas]. In many ways he was one of Jesus’ most courageous and devoted disciples. When Jesus decided to go to Bethany to raise Lazarus, Thomas was the one who encouraged the other disciples to go with him, even if it meant death for all of them (John 11:16). Thomas was the one who admitted that the disciples weren’t getting it when Jesus told them that they knew the way to where he was going, which inspired the famous words about Jesus being “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:5,6). And now, after the resurrection, Thomas refuses to believe on the basis of a second hand faith. He wants to see the resurrection the same way the other disciples have. There is a raw honesty in this, but for John, it is also the occasion to move his message to a climax. Throughout the Gospel John  has been calling people to a deeper seeing, and now Thomas is offered, initially, as the epitome of shallow, miracle-based believing – the faith is not really faith. Thomas wants the sign, the proof, the miracle, that enables him to believe. This is exactly the kind of believing that Jesus has been lamenting and that John is contrasting with true belief throughout the Gospel. It’s not that the other disciples had real faith, and Thomas was deficient. It was that none of them had really seen yet....  

Which leaves us with a searching question. Do we continue to get all hung up on the proof – the ‘how’, the ‘when’, the ‘if’ of the resurrection event? Do we make faith all about the miracle, the sign? Do we continue to seek signs and miracles to support our faith? Have we seen Jesus as an insurance policy, a super-hero who will swoop in and save the day? Or are we ready to lay aside proofs, signs, miracles and guarantees, and enter the mystery? Are we willing to see Jesus as the incarnation of God, as the invitation to intimacy with God, and as the Giver of life that transforms us and everything else?

- John van de Laar, "Seeing and Believing," Sacredise blog, April 26, 2011
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