God, be merciful to me, a cynic!
The Spice Box
by Sharon Robertson, Lt. Colonel –
I’ve always had a sneaking sympathy—even admiration—for the apostle Thomas. He was a guy who had a deep-seated need to see the evidence before he was willing to make a judgment. He wanted to weigh the facts, not simply accept the truth of an incredible, unsubstantiated statement.
Now, Thomas was a true follower of Christ. He loved his Lord and teacher. His loyalty was undebatable. He was willing to risk his life to accompany Jesus into Judea at a time when all the disciples thought it meant certain death and the end of their hopes and Kingdom-dreams (John 11:6-16). He was a believer, a man of faith—but not a man of the childlike faith that is able to accept unquestioningly what it cannot understand. He wanted to believe, but he had questions—he wanted answers.
It was Thomas who expressed his confusion and uncertainty as the Lord spoke of leaving his followers to prepare a place for them, that they might be with him.
“Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him, and have seen him” (John 14:5-7 NIV).
Apparently Thomas was able to accept Jesus’ statement as a working hypothesis, but whether or not he was able to comprehend fully Jesus’ words and appropriate them as a basis for faith remains doubtful. He believed; he followed; but his mind could not rest. “Who … how … what …?”
It was not until after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, and his appearance to the disciples that Thomas found the answers to his questions.
Now Thomas…was not with the disciples when Jesus came, so the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:24-29 NIV).
While there are many lessons to be learned from this passage, one that strikes home for me is Jesus’ ready acceptance of Thomas’s need. The Lord didn’t simply appear to Thomas, he encouraged him to reach out, to touch, to explore and be convinced. Jesus did not withdraw from his disciple because he doubted, or asked questions. That is important to me, because, like Thomas, I have a need to question, to seek to understand the whys and wherefores of my faith. And, like Thomas, I have found that the Lord encourages my search, my need to understand his Word. Too, like Thomas, I have found that the Lord rewards my search with understanding and ever-increasing faith.
And so I ask questions. As I study God’s Word, I am continually asking questions, seeking to understand, to resolve seeming conflicts, striving to make connections, to probe and feel my way to truth under the tutelage of the Master. Not all my questions have been resolved, but I have learned to know that the answers are there—that God fully intends that we grow in grace and understanding as we seek, and that he is willing for us to find through our search that indeed Jesus is “the Way, the Truth and the Life.”
And so, like Thomas, I reach out, and touch, and explore—and whisper in awe, “My Lord and my God!”