Living with Doubt
Faith in the midst of questions
Each week, we producing notes, discussion points and application questions for the Sunday talks — helping you go deeper into everything we’re looking at together and resourcing our Small Groups during the week. Use the embedded player to listen to the talk, or click here to visit Soundcloud and download it on a PC.
- John 20:24–31
We live in a very doubtful age, a very sceptical age, and that cultural climate has a tremendous impact on our thinking, on how we see ourselves, others, and God. But, as I hope we’ll go on to see, doubt is not the enemy of faith, but a crucial part of it; it’s something that acknowledges our own limitations and helps us get to grips with the fundamentals of what we believe and why we believe it. When we respond to doubt properly, it helps us turn cold doctrine into living faith.
Thomas is someone who knew this doubt. First of all, he seems pretty adamant in his disbelief, but it’s important to remember that this isn’t the scepticism of an enquiring bystander — this is the agony-filled cry of a friend who’s hurting. Nobody in the whole world understood that Jesus would need to go through death in order to achieve everything he had come to do. Thomas shows us the agony of faith in his struggle, but his is a cry of someone who longs to see real life come out of real death. That’s why he asks to see Jesus’ scars — he knows that in the midst of a world of death, what we need most of all is not a God of rumour or distant glory, but a God who has died and risen again in order to bring life to that place.
We also see how it is important to not skip over the week of agony that Thomas experienced in the midst of the celebrations of his friends. Giving voice to our questions and wrestling with our doubts is an essential part of faith. It’s so important that we allow those questions out, both to God and to one another, because unless we do that we haven’t formed the space for them to be answered. We haven’t created a context to receive comfort, to share with others, or to know hope.
The good news, the hope that Jesus offers, is that in the midst of the agony of faith, there is an assurance, there is a hope that changes everything. The assurance of faith is that Jesus hears and Jesus answers. Thomas raises four points in his statement of disbelief, and when Jesus answers him, he deals with each of those points in turn. The reason he does that though isn’t to score points, or make Thomas feel bad for his doubts, but so that he might know that he is heard and he is understood. We live in a world that is crying out for somebody to listen and understand, and Jesus shows Thomas that the deepest, darkest fear of his heart, the doubts and questions he would keep hidden from everyone if he could, have been heard and understood and answered supremely in Jesus himself.
But Jesus doesn’t just show that he’s heard Thomas, he shows that he can answer him, and he does it by showing him his scars. To show someone your scars, let alone to encourage them to touch them, is an incredibly intimate action. It’s a deeply personal, deeply relational action, because it tells a story of pain and a story of vulnerability. Jesus’ body still carries his scars, because he doesn’t see them as imperfections —they are the expression of the magnitude of what it cost him on the cross to bring us to himself. They show anyone and everyone that it is finished, that life has won, and that there is an invitation of faith open to all who will come.
Jesus looks over Thomas’s shoulder at this point, and he invites us in too. He wants us to know that even though we don’t get to physically see him and touch him right now, we’re aren’t a kind of second-class believer. We are blessed too. It’s a point John follows up in the next verses; that the purpose of his gospel is that we might be able to find Jesus, touch Jesus, know Jesus, through what he has written for us.
Jesus doesn’t want to shame us for our questions, he doesn’t want to beat us down for having questions, he wants to answer your questions with himself by inviting us into the pain and the beauty that he knows and sharing himself with is. Faith is simply the response that says, “I see Jesus, and I want Him”, and that’s the invitation he’s holding out to us right now.
- What aspect of Sunday’s talk particularly spoke to you?
- How does Jesus show grace to Thomas in how he answers him?
- Why does it matter that Jesus displays his scars on his resurrection body?
- How does this story help us to remove the threat of doubt, and turn it into an opportunity to encounter Jesus again?
- Are there any particular doubts that you’re struggling with at the moment? Are you carrying any scars which are leading to feelings of shame, fear, or isolation? Let’s stand with one another and pray into those.
About the World
- How can we invite others in to the life that Jesus brings? What does that look like in our home, at work, in our free time, and with our friends, family and neighbours?