The "Doubting Thomas" in all of us

“Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, "Peace be with you."

When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

So Jesus said to them again, "Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you."

And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.

If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.

The other disciples therefore said to him, "We have seen the Lord." So he said to them, "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe."

And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, "Peace to you!"

Then He said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing."

And Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!"

Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book;

but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

-John 20:19-31


I was compelled to write a short essay on the topic of the upcoming Sunday--Thomas Sunday. In the Gospel reading we hear about the Apostle Thomas and how he, by the Grace of God, was able to overcome his doubt (the doubt is what has earned him the somewhat disrespectful nickname “Doubting Thomas”). The gist of this portion of the Gospel is that the Apostle Thomas wasn’t with the other Disciples of the Lord when He came to them from His Tomb following His Resurrection. When the other Disciples try to tell Thomas that Jesus had risen from the dead and come to them, Thomas doubts them. Thomas says that he won’t believe them until he pokes his finger into the Wounds in the Lord’s Body and sees the resurrected Lord with his own eyes. Eight days later, Thomas meets the Lord after his resurrection. Thomas sees the Lord, and the Jesus invites him to put his finger through the prints of the nails and the spear, and calls Thomas to believe. Thomas cries out: “My Lord and my God!” Christ answers: “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”


So aside from the surface level of this portion of the Gospel (which on its face is beautiful), what are we to make of this? In a historical aspect, we could say that this passage is a counterpoint to the Docetists (and this is correct). However, the passage applies to all of us, for in all of us dwells the same doubt caused Thomas to deny the Resurrection of Christ. Take heed to the last sentence in the Lord’s response to Thomas: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”


As Orthodox Christians, we struggle to believe in Christ, it is HARD. Many of us don’t think we’ve seen Jesus Christ in the flesh like Thomas and the other Disciples did, like the Mother of God, like Mary Magdalene. This notion is a difficult thing to struggle with, and the notion is entirely false. When we receive Holy Communion, we aren’t receiving merely bread and wine, but the Body and Blood of our Lord himself. This Mystery is hard for our souls and intellects to accept. We don’t perceive the Body and Blood of our Lord many times, and we (hopefully) don’t see them for what they are with our own eyes. This is mercy from God, as it would be quite terrifying to receive Holy Communion that looks and tastes and smells like Flesh and Blood. However, we must not doubt the reality of it being the Body and Blood of our Lord. When we receive Holy Communion, we are like Thomas. We can see and feel the Body and Blood of our Lord (which is perceived in our senses as bread and wine), and we receive the Grace of God when we go to Communion believing that what we are receiving is the very Lord Himself.


The bottom line is that doubt is a very unfortunate but very real part of faith for many. It can be a terrible thing to struggle with, and can very well lead to despair, or even apostasy. The solution to doubt has a few parts. For one, we should recognize the doubt itself. We should ask God for forgiveness and go to Holy Confession. We should pray to God asking Him to help us overcome this doubt. And, over all, we should have faith and conviction that when we receive Holy Communion, we are like Thomas, seeing and feeling His wounds. We should have his same attitude when he cried out “My Lord and my God!” Finally, once we are delivered from this doubt, we should thank God and guard ourselves from falling into it again. In this modern age of atheism, agnosticism, and pernicious heresy, we must remember the words the Lord spoke to Thomas: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”


Your Brother in Christ,

Olaf

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