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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.  

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