Unless I See
-Amanda Gayle Reed
“24 Thomas, the one called Didymus, one of the Twelve, wasn’t with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples told him, “We’ve seen the Lord!”But he replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my finger in the wounds left by the nails, and put my hand into his side, I won’t believe.” -John 20:24-25, Common English Bible
Doubting Thomas doesn’t really get the attention he deserves in our churches. The story of Thomas is often reserved for the Sunday after Easter, a day we preachers associate with low attendance and falls victim to the post-Holy Week exhaustion of those called to proclaim the Word. But Thomas’ story is important; too important to shrug off as a Resurrection story afterthought.
Thomas wasn’t with his friends that particular day. They were still in hiding during the aftermath of the Crucifixion. Mary Magdalene had encountered the Risen Christ at the tomb, and at his request, had gone and told the disciples. What they thought of her response, we don’t know, not from the recording in the Gospel of John, anyhow. But it seems as if they didn’t believe her because the next thing we hear is that they are hiding in a locked room, afraid of the Jewish authorities when Jesus suddenly appears to them.
Thomas isn’t there. He doesn’t see the miracle. He isn’t a part of the holy moment, though his friends try to persuade him that it had really happened. Finally, Thomas gushes forth with a skepticism and doubt to which I’ve always related: “Unless I see the nail marks… unless I put my fingers in the wounds…”
My father is a retired science teacher. Growing up with a man of science a child learns pretty early to meet unlikely stories with a bit of skepticism. I was taught and encouraged to ask questions from an early age. We often debated philosophical, theological, and political issues at the dinner table. We wondered and we observed--and like any scientist, we looked for the objective proof.
That Thomas needed to see and experience this miracle for himself doesn’t strike me as evidence of a weak faith. On the contrary, it strikes me as one with a tremendous faith.
He had faith in a God who promised to be present, a God who said, “ask and you shall receive.” Thomas had faith in a God who would hear the question and would answer--this is not an easy thing to do in our world.
I, too, am someone who needs to see and experience the divine. I’ve spent my life seeking answers to questions. Usually those answers just lead me to deeper questions. On more than one occasion, when I’ve asked what seemed to me to be obvious questions, I was called a “Doubting Thomas.” But it is that doubt which has encouraged me to wrestle with faith so that my spirit grows stronger and stronger.
Doubt is not a weakness.
Doubt is a tool.
Doubt draws us out of the realm of blindly believing and into an experiential faith in which we encounter, in our lives, the Risen Christ.
About The Author
Rev. Amanda Gayle Reed is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. She is a member of the West Virginia Conference currently serving a congregation in Gooding Idaho. She is a graduate of West Virginia State University (Institute, WV) and the Iliff School of Theology (Denver, Co) and frequently writes at AppalachianPreacher.com.