Thomas wasn’t with the rest of the disciples when Jesus showed up. And even though they told him what they’d seen, he had his doubts. So a week later, Jesus popped in again, even though the door was locked. When Thomas stuck his fingers into the nail holes and the spear wound he of course was convinced. To which Jesus remarked ”have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” – paraphrase of JOHN 20:24-30
Both atheists and literalists point to passages like the one above from John to argue that the New Testament is a history text. Literalists take the passage to mean that “believing” is based on nothing more than believing that the physical body of Jesus came back to life. Atheists use it to argue that “believing” requires the suspension of common sense about how the universe works.
Both miss the point.
The Book of John was written as a teaching manuscript. That means that, even more than Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the writer expected the audience to become immersed in the text and to reach a more spiritual understanding of the Message of the Christ
Thomas’ problem wasn’t that he’d “go to hell” if he didn’t believe in a physical Resurrection. It was that, because he doubted our agapé relationship with God, he’d be afraid to live his faith in the transformational way that he was called to do.
It’s a problem we all share.
In order to live our faith we have to be confident in our faith.
Literalists and atheists enjoy the “certainty” that only their position could possibly be right. It’s an either/or way of looking at the world. It’s simplicity can be deceptively appealing.
Those of us who follow the radically inclusive Message of the Christ value the unity within our diversity. But that sometimes leads us to forget that there’s a profound simplicity underlying that diversity. It’s a more profound and enduring simplicity than the most detailed set of doctrines could ever encompass –
God is inseverably one with each of us, and with all of Creation.
Embracing that single understanding can enable us to “move mountains.”
The story of Thomas isn’t about whether or not we believe that a man named Jesus rose from the dead two thousand years ago. It’s about whether we have the confidence to believe, without ever seeing or touching anything – or anyone – material, that God is one with us.
More, it’s about whether or not we have the confidence to get out of our “locked rooms” of daily routine and complacency and to live as the Gospels depict Jesus as living.
It’s one of the hardest parts of being a Christian.
But we have an advantage over those who follow doctrines or dogma, or rely on text books and physical evidence.
We have a living relationship with God.