Can’t Believe Your Eyes? Ask to Touch it
I think maybe Thomas, you know, the one we call doubting Thomas, was a Kinesthetic Christian. The one who said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my fingers where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” (John 20:25) (the “it” being that Jesus stood – in body – among the disciples in a locked room after he had died) Sure, this could have been a ghost or a figment of their imagination. Thomas saw their sincerity, but he had trouble believing them.
I feel a certain kinship with Thomas, the doubter. I have doubts; I expect we all doubt at one time or another. It’s just nice to know that so did one of the disciples. The sticky thing is what do we do with our doubts. I’m often guilty of neglecting my doubt. Setting it aside to be dealt with later. But there on the fringes of my mind it teases, “Are you really gonna believe that?” “How can that possibly be.” “Surely there’s a scientific explanation we just haven’t found.” And the worst, “Don’t let yourself be fooled!” My credibility lies in that last one, so there’s a lot as stake in this believing in what you don’t see.
But Thomas honors his very human doubt. He demands proof. “Show me the evidence!” I wonder if the others in the room told him, “If you just had a bit more faith, like the rest of us, you would believe.” Or were there others who secretly were pleased because they still had some doubts but were afraid to speak up.
Honestly, if I were in that upper room and my friends – even dear, honest, Christ-following friends – told me that I just missed seeing, talking to and eating with Jesus, a man I knew to be dead, I would be a bit skeptical. In fact, I expect I might demand to see him for myself. And, as a kinesthetic Christian, I would probably insist on touching his hands and side. Just like Thomas.
For me that’s not demanding proof. That’s experiencing truth. I want to have the physical experience the others had. And more than just seeing, I want to lay my hands on him. I want to know with my fingers.
What happens next in this story of Thomas is so affirming for me. (It sounds a bit proud but maybe God inspired this very passage just for me… ) A week later when the disciples gather and Thomas is among them Jesus comes back. He returns, it seems, for the express purpose of meeting Thomas’ doubt. Now, couldn’t Jesus have waited a week to come back the first time? It would have been so much more efficient just to come when there was perfect attendance. But no. He has planned this appearance to happen twice – first to the eleven. Then, to Thomas. He has not come by request. Not as a curtain call or for an encore. He comes back because He knows what Thomas needs. He needs to touch the living God in human flesh. Jesus comes back for every one of us who needs physical evidence to believe beyond a shadow of a doubt so we can testify to what we believe.
To others Jesus has said, do not hold onto me. I have not yet ascended to the Father. He knows that their faith in him doesn’t rest on physical connection. They have believed simply because they have seen Him or because they have heard Him speak their name. Others will believe on the strength of miracles or by way of testimony or preaching. But for Thomas to be the disciple Jesus has called him to be, he needs to touch the living Christ. And when he does he says, “My Lord and my God.” He grasps now what he could not have claimed any other way.
Perhaps I will call Thomas my Patron Saint. Can I do that? (I don’t know the rules about saints) Because I do go about life noticing the touch of God in the tangible things of the world. I don’t demand them as proof, but I know they’re there. They have been provided because my Lord knows I need them to know He is God. He speaks my love-language even when it is not words.
One more thing the story of doubting Thomas brings home for me. All those today who are seeking by demanding proof. “Show me this God you speak of!” “Prove that He exists!” God knows their hearts, too. He knows what they need in order to believe. He has promised to come again. And I expect, in that moment, that even their doubts will be completely wiped out. And so will all our doubts, even the ones in members of the church who don’t voice them for fear of being labeled unfaithful.