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Read John 20:24-29
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find Me.’” (Jeremiah 29:11-13, NLT)
Do you remember learning about the twelve disciples in Sunday school? To be honest, I don’t remember learning about the twelve disciples. I remember learning about the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Only two of them were were named after one of Jesus’ disciples. I remember learning about Peter and Andrew as well as John and James. They were the two pairs of fisherman in the group. There was Matthew (formerly known as Levi the tax collector) and Phillip (though I am not sure what he did prior to joining Jesus). And, of course, there was Judas Iscariot. Everyone knows Judas as he is the disciple who infamously betrayed Jesus with a Kiss.
The other disciples are largely skipped over and not taught about, in my experience, with the exception of one: Doubting Thomas. He was the guy who is infamously known for his doubt. Ironically, Thomas is only shown in one Gospel to portray that “doubt”, and only in one place. What’s more, that Gospel, John, was the last of the Gospel’s to be written and does not follow the same format or chronological timetable that the other three (Synoptic) Gospels follow. Thomas is seen in John 20:24-29 as not believing the other disciples when they tell him that Jesus had risen from the dead. Thomas says, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in His hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in His side.”
As a result, Thomas has forever gone down in history as the guy who DOUBTED the resurrection. Jesus chastises him following his sudden change of heart upon seeing the risen Christ: “You believe because you have seen Me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing Me” (John 20:29). Poor Thomas, upon seeing Christ, had let go of his doubt and chose to believe, only to receive a cold shoulder from “[his] Lord and [his] God” (John 20:28). It’s as if Christ is saying, to all believers everywhere, “Do NOT doubt. For if you doubt your faith, in the end, is worth less than those who believe in me without doubting.”
For many people, these words have been a stumbling block to faith. To be fair to the text, they were meant to encourage people who had not been eyewitnesses to the resurrection to continue believing even though they had not seen; however, since then, they have become words of admonishment for those who DARE question the veracity of the resurrection, let alone any other matter of faith. The clear message that is taught to children in Sunday school is, shut down your questions lest you be found to be like doubting Thomas. Unfortunately, that fearful message has hindered the growth of many people who have suppressed the urge to question.
Yet, people fail to realize where Thomas’ “doubt” led him. He may or may not have questioned the resurrection; however, he did, without question, find himself in India preaching the Good News of his resurrected Lord. It is there, thousands of miles away from home, that he was martyred for Jesus and it is there, in Mylapore India, that his body lays at rest. Thomas’ doubt led him to be grow into a great proclaimer of the hope, healing and wholeness of his risen Lord and Savior.
Don’t let fear stop you from questioning and, even, from doubting. Doubt is neither good nor bad. It exists whether we want it to or not. Even as a pastor, I doubt. It is not doubt that is bad, but what we do or don’t do with it. Embrace your doubt, ask the tough questions, and allow the risen Christ to appear to you. Then it will be come REAL for you and you will grow in leaps and bounds in your faith. Christ does not admonish you for your doubts; rather, he calls you to embrace them, rise above them, and grow beyond them!
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Modest doubt is called the beacon of the wise.” – William Shakespeare
Lord, teach me to not deny my doubts, but to rise up and grow as a result of, and in spite of, them. Amen.
Read Mark 1:21-28
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.” (Matthew 14:23)
A little over four years ago, I embarked on a cross-cultural trip to India. During my time there, I had zig-zagged across the large country starting in Bangalore, traveling to Kerala on the Western Coast, back to Madurai in Central Southern India, over to Chennai (aka Madras) in Tamil Nadu on the Eastern Coast of Southern India, and then finally up to New Delhi and Agra in Northern India. All of that packed with different cultural experiences, culture shocks, and all that packed in three weeks time.
It was both an exhausting and a rewarding trip. One of the most rewarding parts of the trip was that I got to see Jesus in a whole new light. Growing up America, I knew the Jesus of my childhood well. I knew the reverent, light-skinned, golden flowing hair, blue-eyed Jesus that taught us to love one another and died for our sins. I knew the resurrected Christ who promised would come again. Of course, the Jesus I grew up understanding was coming from my reading of Scripture through the lenses of Western art, film, church and cultural experiences.
And there is nothing wrong with those experiences, for they are very much a part of the foundation of my faith. With that said, in India I came across the meditating, guru Jesus. On the one hand the image was exotic, distinctly Indian, and seemingly foreign to me; however, as I began to look at that Jesus, sitting in the cross-legged position in a circle with his disciples, I began to realize that this, too, was the Jesus of Scripture. After all, to use the Indian term, Jesus was a guru, which simply means teacher (or Rabbi as it is called in Hebrew). Also, Jesus was very spiritually in tune with God and with himself, and he no doubt meditated on God, on the Scriptures and certainly prayed continually as a part of his spiritual discipline.
Some people might be pausing here and saying, “Hey, that sounds awfully like Eastern philosophy/religion to me! That can’t be Biblical!” But, with careful evaluation and study, one cannot help but notice that Judaism (and Jesus was a Jew), is a Middle-EASTERN religion…not originally a Western religion. The Scriptures are loaded with Middle-Eastern symbology, with an emphasis on meditation and communion with God, and with plenty of wise sages roaming the countryside with bands of followers. All of this truly corroborates the Indian image of Jesus that I saw in my travels through India.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying to abandon the way you have come to know Jesus. That would not be true to your relationship with him, nor would it be true to your personal faith experiences. What I am saying is that we should be willing to meet Jesus everywhere and anywhere we go, and we should be open to meeting him in the ways that others have gotten to know him too! After all Christianity is not about EAST or WEST, NORTH or SOUTH, HERE or THERE; rather, Christianity is about CHRIST!
Today’s challenge is for you to open yourself to Christ in ways you never thought possible. Can we ever know CHRIST fully enough? Is Christ as small as the limits of our own minds and theologies? Or is Christ transcendent of those limitations? I choose to believe the latter and, in my experience, I have not been disappointed in how, when, where and with who I meet my LORD and Savior! I pray the same becomes true for you as well!
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“I commune with my heart in the night; I meditate and search my spirit” – Asaph (Psalm 77:6)
Lord, open my heart and my mind to meet you everywhere, anywhere and anyway you reveal yourself to me. Amen.
Read Matthew 20
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12)
Every year around Spring and Fall, as the pollen starts to float ad nauseum in the air, I have been known to come down with killer sinus infections. These infections come on like the Flu, literally, and I am rendered useless until I go to the doctor and get it treated. Every time, I get hit with such a sinus infection, I begin to look up at the heavens and question, “Why me? I mean, why do I always end up with these blasted infections! It’s just not fair!”
There are definitely other scenarios that cause me to ask the same question, “Why me?” When I get stopped at the traffic light…”Why me?” When I get behind a slow car…”why me?” When I get served the wrong food or the service is too slow…”why me?!?!?” The truth is that I am certainly not alone in asking that question! I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that question asked and, of course, there are host of different reasons for people asking it.
If we are going to be honest, though, any “reason” we come up with for asking that question is superficial; rather, to be completely honest would be to recognize that such a question stems from a sense of entitlement, which stems from our own self-centeredness. It is because I am concerned with “me” and the way “I” feel that causes me to ask the question “Why me?” I guess, the real question we should be asking ourselves is, “why not me?”
Why shouldn’t I get sick? Why shouldn’t I get stuck at a traffic light or behind a slow car? Why should I get served by only the most perfect people and only the most timely of manners? What makes me so special that I should feel entitled to stuff that no one else in the entire world is entitled to? Do I live up to the perfection I expect out of others?
When I went to the Bay of Bengal in India, I walked among the fisher people who lived in houses that were smaller than my office; they were sharing that tiny space with their extended family. There are children who have to walk miles one way to get to a clean source of water. No matter what country you are from, there are people within your very communities that suffer from poverty, malnutrition, abuse, addiction, cancers,illnesses and any variety of things. Is it okay that they have to go through such things? Are we thinking of them when we begrudgingly cry out, “Why me?”
Entitlement didn’t sit right with Jesus, who taught us to look beyond ourselves and to put ourselves in the shoes of others. Jesus stood up in opposition of people who felt entitled, who felt that they were in a better place than others. Jesus stood in opposition to self-centeredness; rather, he called for people to deny themselves, to pick up their crosses, and to follow him (Matthew 16:24).
The truth is that we should all be asking ourselves, “why not me?” Why shouldn’t I be challenged by life in the same ways that others are challenged? Why shouldn’t I be in a position to learn more patience? Why I shouldn’t I be in a position to acquire more humility? Why shouldn’t I be in a position to compassionately put myself in someone else’s shoes before judging them? Why not me? If we pause for even a moment to ask ourselves that, perhaps we will not only recognize the real hurt others are in, but we will also step up to do something about it. Today’s challenge for us is to set aside any sense of entitlement and to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“When we feel impatient, we are agitated & unhappy in the moment. When this happens, ‘name’ it, breathe & release your sense of entitlement.” – Unknown
Lord, guide me to a place of contentment and use me in a way that brings blessings to those who are in need of them. Amen.