Hi everyone. Rob here.
On Sunday we reflected on the story of Thomas and, in another group I belong to, we’re reflecting on the story of the raising of Lazarus. Both of these stories contain profound interaction between faith, doubt and desire.
In the story of Lazarus we see this dynamic particularly in Martha. Look at the following dialogue that shows it at work.
‘Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.
Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’
Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’
Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’
‘Yes, Lord,’ she replied, ‘I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.’
And then, a bit later on…
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. ‘Take away the stone,’ he said.
‘But, Lord,’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days.’
Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’
Martha believed in the concept of Jesus. She accepted who he was but struggled to trust him in the moment. She questions his decisions while at the same time believing that he was Israel’s saviour. Does that sound familiar? Isn’t that how we often live our lives? It is faith in the moment that so often eludes us. Martha’s pragmatism and tendencies to control her environment act as an obstacle to faith in this situation. She believed that Jesus could have saved her brother, that God will do whatever he asks even now, and yet, in the moment, the fear of a bad smell gets in the way. I love Jesus’ gentleness with her. He knows her heart of faith and reminds her of it. he lets her know that she can see the glory of God right now. Right now Martha; just believe. Let go of your plans and agendas and let God have his way right now.
It is a similar dynamic with Thomas. We see this in John 20.
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’
But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’
He’s called ‘Doubting Thomas’ but I think ‘searching Thomas’ is better. His reaction is one borne out of the drama and trauma of the last few days. He’s a passionate individual. In the Lazarus story we see him say…
‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’
Passion, right there. In the wake of what they have all just been through and in the fear they’re experiencing right now, Thomas will only give his heart away again if he can have a personal, tactile and embodied experience of the risen Jesus. Interestingly, he expected Jesus to have his scars. The scars would be a form of proof to Thomas that new life existed. Does that prompt you to think about your scars in a new way?
Again, Jesus is gentle but full of truth as he comes to Thomas.
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’
Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’
Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’
Thomas’ response to Jesus is beyond anything proclaimed about Jesus to this point – “My Lord and my God.” His faith is deep. It was the doubt that was superficial. Martha was the same. I believe it is the same for us. When we came to faith in Jesus as Lord he planted himself in our hearts. He is not easily dislodged form there. It’s just that we struggle often to get in touch with our new and true hearts. So…
Believe that you believe
Have faith that you have faith
Trust that you trust Jesus with your life and…
Know that Jesus himself has faith in your faith, belief in your beliefs and trust in your trust in him. he knows that you are made for him and so he gently, firmly, truthfully and beautifully keeps leading us back to him. He is our heart’s desire and our heart’s true home.
Grace and peace everyone.