“A Healthy Dose of Doubt”
John 20:19-31
Dr. Robert J. Anderson
April 12, 2015

  

Ever lie in bed wondering…?  Ever daydream wondering…?  Ever lie in bed wondering what life is really all about?  Ever wonder if your hopes and dreams are destined never to be fulfilled?  Ever doubt what you've been told about God and the nature of things?  Ever wonder if living a loving life, or being generous, or trusting in a life to come, is just wishful thinking?  I bet you have.  I know I have.  Everybody doubts from time to time, everybody has an occasional, if not a prolonged, "dark night of the soul."  Even great persons of faith and service have questions.

 

Mother Teresa of Calcutta had her list of profound questions and profound doubts.  She verbalized them to a superior many years ago.  When her letters were revealed, in the midst of the process of canonization in the Roman church, it caused quite a stir.  In a book published in 2007, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, letters were released that revealed these very personal doubts of a lonely, sometimes desolate, Teresa of Calcutta.  She wrote, “If I ever become a Saint—I will surely be one of 'darkness.' I will continually be absent from Heaven—to [light] the light of those in darkness on earth."  We can all identify with Mother Teresa.

 

Doubt has been a part of the Christian faith story from the very beginning.  (And, doubt isn’t limited to the New Testament only; for the Old Testament is filled with stories of people doubting their faith in God.)  Each era has had its own hallmark of doubt.  The early church questions whether God, as eternal and divine, could die and still be God.  Later in Medieval times, the scholastics cast the conversation of doubt in terms of metaphysics and in analytically intellectual terms; so the question was “Is the resurrection metaphysically and analytically intelligible?”  Then along comes the enlightenment and the rational and empirical arguments about the resurrection.  This asks, “Who actually has seen the dead rise?” that turns the resurrection of Christ into a symbol of an existential predilection for the future.

 

Throughout our lives we ask the questions of doubt.  We have been rationalists and want to prove everything.  Who has seen a body raised?  Then the analytical and metaphysical take over.  Is resurrection really possible?  Perhaps we’ve been somewhat mystical and wonder if resurrection is just an idea.  As we near the time of our death we may wonder if God can die and rise again; and we hope it is true.

 

A healthy dose of doubt is good.  Doubt often motivates us to look more closely at something.  Doubt often pushes us to find a solution to a problem that has been nagging us for some time.

 

In the midst of doubt and questions, there is Jesus!  The disciples covered behind closed and locked doors in their fear and doubt.  Jesus is determined to reach them not letting locked doors keep him away.  Jesus is determined to reach the overtly questioning Thomas, but equally wanting to reach out to the other fearful and doubting disciples.  You and I can take heart too, that when we are afraid and doubting, Jesus will come to us and let nothing stand in his way.

 

It is not just us that have trouble embracing the good news we celebrated last Easter when we greeted each other with Christ is Risen!  He Is Risen Indeed!  Mary told the disciples that morning that he was alive, but the disciples huddled in fear of those in power.  Thomas doubted, but he should not be singled out apart from the others.  One week after the risen Christ visited the disciples and they received the peace and Holy Spirit, they are, once again, found behind closed locked doors!

 

The Easter miracle is that Jesus comes again and again to those who are scared and confused.  He came again and again to the scared and confused disciples and he comes again and again to you and me when we are scared and confused.  Jesus offers himself over and over again to people who long to see him.  Over and over again he gives himself, his presence and peace!  There’s nothing meritorious about the conduct of the disciples.  They live in fear even with the experience of Easter; but Jesus comes to them anyway.  Jesus comes to us too!

 

Thomas doesn’t recognize Jesus.  You would think that he would see the hands of a carpenter and the callused feet from waling the roads of Galilee.  But, he doesn’t!  There’s a good chance that we won’t recognize Jesus when he comes to find us in our doubts and fears either.

 

Each time God comes there is peace.  When God does come we will recognize him in those moments when peace is offered.  When peace is offered in life’s most brutal violence and we realize that we are not alone, we know God has come to us.  Jesus’ appearance is sure to change in the different seasons of our life, and we will not always recognize him when doubts abound.  He may come to us in golden garb calling us to celebrate joyously the Spirit-filled promises.  He may come in beggar’s rags reminding us that the love that saves is vulnerable and costly and the glory that awaits us is humble.  He may come to us wrapped in a warm shawl of a wise grandmother who simply holds us as we weep.  However he comes, we will know he is inside the golden garb, the beggar’s rags, the shawl when we find not reasoned arguments but the proclamation of peace and touching love that is stronger than any violence we could ever know!

 

The God we know in Jesus Christ is a God who comes and there is peace.  Comes not once but again and again.  Comes not when all is clear but through locked doors letting nothing stand in his way.  Comes to us in our doubt, not once but again and again and again!  It’s called grace!  God’s grace!

 

Come Lord Jesus!  Come!