Hope, that feeling of something about to happen. That expectation. That anticipation. So why look at Thomas? The disciple that has been labelled ‘doubting Thomas’. Read his story in John 20 verse 19 – 29. Two encounters with Jesus. Almost identical encounters. A locked room. Disciples gathered together. Jesus appears and says ‘Peace to you!’ The difference? Thomas was not at the first one.
Have you ever been looking forward to something so much, that when it doesn’t happen your whole world just falls apart? That anticipation that grows and grows, only to be beaten down in one big blow? Crushing. Heavy. Hard work. You can’t get yourself together. You know you should. You know you need to get back to it. Like falling off a bike, but being encouraged to get back on it and ride again. That anticipation and disappointment all rolled into one – anticappointment. That was the ‘word’ used to introduce Thomas to us at the staff conference. It is such a good ‘word’. It tells you exactly how Thomas felt. He had been with Jesus throughout the ministry. Learning at His feet. Taking it all in. Jesus was going be the Messiah. The Saviour. But then He had been taken and crucified. The one person Thomas really thought was going to do the job, had been taken. And with it Thomas’s hope. The ‘anticappointment’ was great. Crushing. Life became hard work for Thomas.
When I have been down, really down, life has been hard work. You go around in a daze. In a fog. In treacle. You want to be on your own. On your own to think things through. On your own to process the facts, but also your reaction to them. You don’t want people telling you, we must go forward. Telling you to, come on, get with it! Some people can do that. Get with it. Some people only need a day. Some people need a bit longer.
Thomas was the only disciple not there that first meeting. Where he was we are not told. We are not told if he was feeling low. But they were all pretty stunned. All a bit frightened. They had gathered in the room and locked the door. So it seems possible that Thomas may have been hiding too. Thinking it all through. Feeling let down. Feeling inward looking. Not doubting. Just reflecting. Thomas believed in God. He believed in all that Jesus had done and said. He wanted to be there with Jesus. (John 11 v16 and John 14 v5) To go all the way. To follow. Your best friend has just been taken away from you. You are bound to be down. To be in shock. Perhaps it was Thomas’s personality, to be very down.
Everyone falls between a cup that is half empty to a cup that is half full. On a spectrum the slider can move up and down. We react to things differently at different times. I know I do. All the way through my depression I have never lost my faith in God. I have always believed Him to be there beside me. But each day has been different. My reactions to things have been different. The slider has moved up and down.
Here we see Thomas with a slider that goes up and down. It is down and his friends run up and say ‘We have seen Him. We have seen the LORD!’ The slider whizzes up at the slight hesitation it is true, but slumps when he remembers what happened. It couldn’t possibly be true. Thomas saw Him crucified. The slider is stuck. The glimmer of hope came because Thomas remembered the way Jesus had told them about the resurrection (John 14 v 1-7) But it went as he remembers what he saw and he says…
““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.”
Thomas does not give up. He tries hard. He carries on going about with the disciples. For eight days he goes through the motions with them. He perhaps wasn’t expecting to meet with God, but he goes anyway. He knows, he hopes. Oh he so hopes that what Jesus said, will happen for him. They meet in the room again. Together. And Jesus appears. He says ‘Peace to you!’ But He is there for one person. He is there just to reach out. He is there for Thomas.
“Put your finger here and observe My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Don’t be an unbeliever, but a believer.”
And Thomas’s response?
“My Lord and my God!”
He believes then because he has seen. We don’t know if he actually did put his hand into Jesus’s side. We are not told. But we are told he believed. He believed because he saw.
Our journey of faith is a journey of mystery. We don’t know what is about to happen. But it doesn’t stop our faith in God. We can look back and write down history. Look back and see where God has been with us. Look back at the slider and see how God made it rise not fall. That is our doing. Look back and say ‘Yes LORD, I believe!’ In trusting Him we overcome any glimpses of ‘maybe’.
God knows the future. He knows the future for each and every one of us. He knows the plan. And because He knows the plan we don’t need to. We carry our belief, in that He wants the very best for us, forward. Our belief that is built up by the things we know He did, and does, and will do. He doesn’t reveal the future, but He orders our steps. In trusting Him we can walk those steps with Him. We can move forward because we know God is GOOD!
Thomas had a very personal encounter with Jesus. He went to the room and met with Jesus. If he hadn’t gone he would have missed another opportunity. But he kept his hope alive and went. He had a meeting with Him because he looked up and hoped. He found that by looking up he had eye contact. An eye contact that was very special and very personal. In that seeing he confirmed his believing in a fresh way. He had a new and fresh meeting with God.
On that Friday, when I saw the title, “My Fears. My Hopes. My Dreams” I had a new and fresh meeting with God. In times gone past I have struggled with staff conferences. My fears have got in the way. But resting with my leg up, God has carefully and gently revealed Himself to me. I have turned round fully and lifted my eyes for that eye contact. A fresh contact for which I am grateful.
Don’t miss your fresh contact.
A big thank you to Peter Cavanna – our teacher.