Sunday, April 19, 2009

Are You Like 'Doubting Thomas'?

After his rise from the dead, Jesus appeared to a number of his disciples in a couple of different circumstances. But present at none of these was one of his closest followers, the Apostle Thomas Didymus.

Thomas was one of Jesus' original twelve disciples, one of his inner sanctum. Yet when the others related the news to him that Jesus was indeed raised from the dead, and that the Lord had appeared before each of them, Thomas doubted. He said to them "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."

How many of you reading this feel the same way? You may have been raised in the Christian faith, yet for many that faith has become watered down, and in some cases has disappeared entirely. For others it is something that they profess, and yet do nothing about.

You claim to not need the Church, not need anything 'formal', not need anything sacramental. You are 'spiritual', whatever that means, and no one should dare to presume to tell you what you should and should not believe. After all, everyone has their own beliefs, and we should not force ours on others. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.

Jesus and his Apostles evangelized, and Jesus himself called on all of his followers to do the same, to spread his Word throughout the corners of the world. Once your life has truly been touched by Christ, there is nothing that you can do to hide that fact, and spreading that word and belief is something that you are bound to do in accordance with your faith.

Thomas was there in the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. He was there throughout the travels around the Holy Land as Jesus spread his message of love and hope. He was there as Jesus entered into Jerusalem in triumph. And he was there as Jesus was taken into custody, put on trial, scorned and scourged, and killed on a cross.

But apparently there was something particular to Thomas' belief in Jesus Christ, the same thing that is particular to many of your belief in Christ. He believed as long as he could see, hear, touch Jesus Christ. Once Jesus was dead, he was history, and Thomas did not have the faith to carry his belief beyond the grave, beyond that history.

Most people understand and believe that Jesus Christ was a real human being in history, and accept that he was a great preacher and holy man in his time who was indeed eventually considered a threat and was ultimately dealt with by the authorities. The rest comes with true faith.

A week after Jesus had last visited his disciples, just a couple of weeks after his death, burial, and rising, the group was again gathered in hiding behind locked doors for fear that the authorities might still be looking for them. Suddenly there standing among them was Jesus himself, appearing out of nowhere, and saying to them "Peace be with you."

He then turned and directly addressed Thomas: "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe." Thomas was overcome with Jesus' appearance in front of him, speaking to him again. "My Lord and My God!" is how he responded.

Thomas immediately recognized and acknowledged Jesus Christ for exactly who and what He was. Not a man somehow back among other men, but God himself, the Messiah raised from the dead to bring spiritual deliverance to all men. Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."

I myself have never seen Jesus Christ in person. He has never appeared to me in a dream or a vision. I have never viewed video of his life, or still pictures of his feats. I have never spoken with anyone who can claim any of these things either. But I have met Jesus Christ. He has come into my life.

I cannot claim to have always followed his word, always obeyed all of God's commandments, always been a regular church-goer, always set the best example. But I can say this. I cannot ever remember a time in my life when I did not believe in Jesus Christ as God.

It has been my ultimate happiness to learn more as I have grown older, and grown to understand more about Christ, how he died for my sins specifically. I only pray that you feel the same. That any 'Doubting Thomas' left out there today, especially among those who I count as loved ones, will seek and find what I have found in Jesus Christ.

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