24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” – John 4:24-25
In the story, Thomas makes a bold declaration that unless he puts his finger into the mark of the nails and places his hands in Jesus’ side, he will not believe. The evidence that Thomas requires is to physically touch the body of the risen Jesus.
In part 2 of this blog series, I challenged you to identify your doubt. Here is my question for you: What would it take to remove your doubt? Some of us need evidence. Others of us need information. Some doubts simply need encouragement. What would it take to remove your doubt?
During my time in the St. Bernard’s class, I had no idea what evidence I needed. I later found out what evidence it would take to demonstrate the existence (and/or non-existence) of God, but I did not have it. If you do not know what you would need, that is ok.
Many of us approach our doubts thinking we need one particular kind of evidence, or some mystery piece to solve the puzzle. My encouragement to you in this blog is to remain open and curious without becoming too focused on one particular thing. In other words, reconsider what it is you might need to remove that doubt.
One persistent doubt I have had is about miracles. While I have faith they can and do happen, there is some doubt. I used to think I needed to physically see (with my own eyes) a miracle take place in my immediate awareness. That would be great and I still long for that. However, as I reconsider the evidence, I am encouraged that miracles do happen without that piece of evidence.
When I reconsidered the evidence, I found there are many good reasons to believe in miracles without seeing one directly. For example, Christian scholar, Craig Keener, has set out to catalogue contemporary miracles. In his 2 volume, 1,153 page work, “Miracles,” Keener demonstrates evidence upon evidence for the existence of miracles. There is even report of a girl in Africa who was raised from the dead in 1990s and, though she had never heard of Jesus, began preaching the gospel to her tribe because, in her words, God sent her back to do so. That is amazing and I have no reason to doubt that actually happened. While I still desire to see a miracle happen in my midst, reconsidering the evidence for miracles encourages me in the midst of doubt.
In Thomas’s story, Jesus shows up in the flesh and presents himself to Thomas. He turns to Thomas and commands him, “Put your finger here. See my hands. Put out your hand and place it in my side. Believe.” Jesus is willing to give Thomas all the evidence he needs to believe. However, when presented with the opportunity to put his fingers in Jesus’ wounds, Thomas declines.
Did he wimp out? Did he change his mind? Why didn’t Thomas do what he said he would do. He said, “unless I touch the wounds, I won’t believe” and here we see Thomas believing without touching. Thomas reconsidered the evidence he needed. He didn’t need to touch the body of Jesus. Just by Jesus showing up, Thomas’s response was “My Lord and My God.”
Thomas did not need the presence of a body to touch, but the presence of a God to worship.
Is it possible that we look for the wrong kinds of evidence in our doubts? We think we need one thing to eliminate our doubts, but often we are given more than enough evidence (just not the evidence we want or are looking for). After this encounter, Jesus asks Thomas an important question, ‘have you believed because you have seen me?’ This is a question that applies to all of us as we reconsider the evidence. The implied answer is “no, I have not believed only because I saw you.” Jesus goes on to say that belief is possible and even preferred without seeing him in the flesh. He says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (John 20:29).”
Why would it be better to believe in Jesus without the presence of physical evidence? Christians have speculated on all kinds of reasons for this over the years. One such speculation is that “if we had evidence, it would no longer be faith.” It is as if we have to believe in Jesus without evidence. That is nonsense. In this passage, Jesus presents Thomas with all the evidence he needs and assumes that, if he does touch the wounds, he will believe. That is what Jesus said to him. Jesus says, “Touch and believe.” Jesus does not warn Thomas, “if you touch my wounds, then you will have all the evidence and you will have no more room for faith!” If that were the case, none of the disciples would be faithful because they all had the evidence they could ask for.
Evidence does not eliminate the possibility of faith. God is not opposed to evidence. In fact, I would say that God gives us enough evidence for His existence that any rational person must believe in God. I would go so far as to say that any rational person weighing the evidence for Christianity must come to the conclusion that Christianity is true. The case is that clear; we have all the evidence we need. That does not eliminate faith. It encourages it.
So, why does Jesus say that “blessed are those who don’t see and still believe?” It is not because evidence eliminates faith. The reason why Jesus says that happy are those who do not see and yet believe? That is what we will discuss in the final post in this series.
Yes. I did leave you with a cliffhanger…