Skip to main content

Big Doubts - John 20

This week we continue our study of the Gospel of John with chapter 20.  On Sunday morning Mary Magdalene arrived at Jesus' tomb early in the morning, but the tomb was open.  She left to tell the disciples and followed as 2 of them ran to investigate her claim.  The first to arrive stood outside of the tomb in shock as he observed the linen that had once been wrapped around the body of Jesus, was now laid to the side.  When the second disciple arrived he went in and confirmed that the tomb was indeed empty.  They left to tell the other disciples, but Mary stayed behind, crying at the entrance to the tomb.  When she looked up she saw two people dressed in white sitting where Jesus had once been laid to rest.  They asked her why she was crying.  She explained that Jesus' body had been taken.  Then a voice from behind asked why she was crying.  Assuming it was the gardener she asked him to tell her where the body had been taken.  When Jesus called out to her by name she looked and saw, not a gardener, but the resurrected Christ.  He told her to go to the disciples and tell them, so she did.  That evening he appeared to many of the disciples as they were gathered in a locked room.  After this encounter they told more of the disciples and Thomas said that he would not believe it until he put his fingers in Jesus' wounds himself.  Several days later Jesus appeared to Thomas while he was gathered with others in a locked room.  He encouraged Thomas to touch his wounds and believe. 

In my first role as a pastor, as a youth pastor for a small church in rural South Carolina, I had a young lady ask a question that I did not have an answer for.  I asked the senior pastor to join us for a moment and had her ask the question again.  In my innocence/ignorance I thought he would have the answer, but he did not.  Instead of saying "I don't know", he shamed her for her doubts in front of the whole group.  I was mortified at his response and I felt so sorry for this young lady, who had just trusted us with her doubts.  I have since learned to be comfortable with doubts, and to be the first to admit that I don't know something.  20 years later, here at LifeJourney, we had a visiting youth whose parents asked them how the youth group was after church.  Thinking they were out of earshot, I overheard as the youth excitedly told their parents that they had told us that they were agnostic and "they didn't hate me or anything!".  God is big enough to handle our doubts, we just have to be comfortable enough to sit with them for a little while.

Thomas had serious doubts that Jesus had been raised from the dead, and he let his friends know that he did not believe.  He said clearly that he would not believe unless he touched the wounds himself.  His friends could have shamed him for not believing them when they told them what they had seen with their own eyes, but instead they waited.  After a short wait Jesus showed up and met Thomas where he was, let him touch his wounds and built faith through hope instead of shame.  The young lady from SC who was shamed in front of her peers later encountered Jesus in new ways and her faith was built on hope, not fear.  I trust that the agnostic youth that entered our doors will encounter Christ too, but I will never shame them for their doubts on the way to that encounter.  

God, help us with our doubts.  Let us touch the wounds and believe.  Help us to sit with those who doubt.  Help us to trust that you will answer those doubts in your own way and in your own timing.  Let us trust that you are big enough to handle our doubts, and the doubts of those around us.  Amen.  


Popular posts from this blog

Death Will Lose it's Sting

Our reading from the Narrative Lectionary this week is 1 Corinthians 15:51-57. In these verses, Paul reveals a mystery, that in the end some will be transformed, given a new body, instead of facing death.  In other words death is not one of life's two certain terms.  It seems taxes may be the only guarantee.   " this world nothing can be said to be certain, except  death and taxes ." - Benjamin Franklin. Ok, all jokes aside, these verses are difficult to read.  Paul looks forward to a time when death will have no victory, it will have lost its sting.  But today, we are in the middle of a pandemic, surrounded by death.  Many are scared for their lives, or their loved ones, and too many have already been lost.  Death does not seem to have lost its sting at all, it feels as if it is closing in. When I worked in wilderness therapy I remember holding a child who was desperately trying to kill himself.  We cried together as he struggled to end it, and I struggled

Refusal to Return

The last cycle of The Hero's Journey begins with what Campbell calls "The Refusal of the Return".  In this stage the hero has finished their quest and won their award, but now they are faced with the idea of returning to their place of origin.  They struggle with the idea of leaving paradise, or sharing their wisdom with their old community.  After being changed so much, do they even still belong in the place they came from? In The Lord of the Rings, after Frodo has tossed the ring into the fire and the battle is won, he is so tired he wants to give up, there is nothing left driving him to return home, so he lays down and prepares to die.  Then, when the party regroups in Gondor, they linger there for a long time before each returns to their homeland.  Finally, when Frodo does return home, he is uncomfortable, he feels out of place, and wants to leave.  He has changed and realizes that he no longer belongs in the Shire.  After Christ's resurrection he met with Mary fi

The Return Threshold

  As we come near the end of our weekly series on the Hero's Journey, today we will cover "The Return Threshold".  In this stage, the Hero has succeeded in their quest and now they are coming back to their old world.  Joseph Campbell calls this the "ordinary world".   The return to the ordinary world usually includes some type of challenge.  Sometimes an enemy must be challenged, but sometimes the enemy is the ordinary world itself.  As we have followed the hero's journey we have seen the hero change, what was once important is no longer important.  While the hero has changed, the ordinary world has not.  The ordinary world holds values that the returning hero has abandoned for something greater.  This can cause tension as the hero tries to return as a changed person. In the Lord of the Rings trilogy, we see the Hobbits finally return to their home in the Shire.  Unfortunately in their absence Saruman and his orcs have taken over the Shire and must be defeat