In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.
Read John 20: 24-31
Tomorrow is the beginning of Holy Week. Even with all that will transpire there will be those among us who remain doubtful that all of this ever transpired in the first place. The historical record of Jesus, including the biblical accounts by eyewitnesses whose writing would be protected for thousands of years, won’t be enough for the doubters and the skeptics among us. In every generation, and sometimes even among our existing generation, there will always be doubters who raise objections to the Gospel.
This is nothing new. Thomas, one of Jesus’ original disciples, missed the first time Jesus appeared to the disciples as they gathered together behind locked doors, when he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord, and Jesus blessed them, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
So when the disciples tell Thomas about this encounter, he responds, “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 it.” A week later Jesus returns to be with them and standing among them says, “Peace be with you!” and immediately turns to Thomas. He invites him to put his finger into his nail scarred hand and his hand into his pierced side. Thomas replies, “My Lord and my God!” and believes.
Unflappable Jesus isn’t thrown off by Thomas’ doubts. In fact, with outstretched arms of love he invites Thomas’ doubts to be released by faith in the truth of his nail-scarred sacrifice in his behalf. Thomas’ doubts were welcomed by Jesus and addressed openly without any threat to his ultimate belief. By embracing Thomas and his doubts, Jesus speaks directly and forthrightly the Truth that sets him free.
What do you do with doubters who surround you or doubts that simmer within you? They are there with a purpose: to be proven real or wrong. Otherwise, they remain unattended and eat away the lining of the soul and like a cancer will keep fracturing our heart from our mind. By addressing doubts and exposing them, one can accompany each doubt with facts or affect, space or time, with mystery or faith. When a person’s uncertainty is embraced and dealt with one question at a time, each doubt is respected for what it truly has become. Doubt is not the opposite or the enemy of our faith. It takes holy and courageous boldness to face our doubts, whether or not they will ever be replaced with faith.
Behold Jesus initiating toward Thomas and his doubts; believe in the gospel amidst your ponderings; belong to those who ask hard and clarifying questions; become a believer who isn’t afraid to doubt nor is shattered to consider others who doubt. And now we proceed to the greatest story ever revealed…Holy Week: the road paved with faith to Calvary, the empty tomb, and beyond.