We live in a world that likes facts, or is it that we live in a world that likes facts so long as they support what we already think? In the recent European Referendum people were heard complaining long and hard that they weren't being given the facts. Modern secular atheists often argue their case based on the fact that God cannot be factually proved. However, many scientists, some of them atheists are also highly critical of the misuse of science to answer what they regard as a non-scientific question.
'Doubting Thomas' often gets it in the neck for refusing to believe until he sees the hands, feet and wound of Jesus. But, is he so very different from many in our generation; all he wants is facts! He simply wants empirical evidence that Jesus has indeed risen, and he wants to see it for himself. He has heard the evidence of the other apostles, who lets remember have already seen Jesus, and he is simply not prepared to take their word for it. What he really wants is his own encounter and experience. What is so unreasonable about that? Nothing, for surely we want each and every person who enters our church, whether in private or through an act of worship, to encounter Christ, don't we? Wouldn't it be great if many, many people who entered into this building left having said Thomas' immortal words: 'My Lord and My God?'
If this is true the only real question remains how? How do we help others encounter Jesus, on their – not our - terms?
Let's go back to the text. One of the important points, and I think a point often missed, because of the focus on the encounter between Thomas and Jesus, is the importance of the other Apostles, who had already had their encounter with the risen Jesus. They very explicitly told Thomas so. We should never be ashamed of talking about our own Christian experience; even though we know that many folk will not be persuaded on the basis of personal experience alone.
They could have treated Thomas as a second class citizen, and outsider to their elite club. They could have dismissed his 'I will not believe' quips and used them against him, counting him unworthy to be part of their community because of his unorthodox beliefs.
But they didn't.
They basically took the view that Thomas remained one of them, that this 'unbeliever' remained a friend, that he was welcome to sit and dine with them. They didn't gloat about their superior knowledge and, they didn't dismiss Thomas' doubts. No, they demonstrated two of the most important characteristics of Christian community: hospitality and humility.
And, by the way they had faith.
They had faith. They had faith that if Thomas hung around long enough he would encounter Jesus. Jesus is perfectly capable of revealing Himself.
So the story of 'Doubting Thomas' leaves us with three challenges:
To be prepared to talk about our own experience of God – as the Apostles did
To welcome the modern day Thomas' a spirit of true hospitality and humility – as the Apostles did
To trust that Jesus will reveal himself through community – again just as the Apostles did.
Rev. Andrew Lightbown