• November 27, 2020

‘Doubting Thomas’ a universal example - Odessa American: Religion

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‘Doubting Thomas’ a universal example

Apostle’s failure of faith turned to dedication

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Posted: Saturday, November 21, 2020 3:30 am

Remembered as “Doubting Thomas” for his skepticism that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead, the Apostle Thomas ever since has encouraged Christians who waver in their faith.

The Revs. Jay Armstrong, Gian Carlo Villatoro and Darren Willis say that after Jesus appeared to Thomas and let him see the nail prints in his hands and feel the spear wound in his side, Thomas became one of the most dedicated apostles, ministering in India for 20 years and establishing seven churches in the southwestern state of Kerala.

“I think Thomas speaks for a lot of people who are skeptical,” said the Rev. Armstrong, pastor of the First United Methodist Church. “He had to see before he could believe, but then he committed himself. All the disciples knew it would be dangerous when Jesus decided to go up to Jerusalem and they tried to persuade him not to go.

“Then Thomas said, ‘OK, we’ll just go up and die ourselves.’ When he made his commitment, he went the whole way. He wasn’t a halfway guy.”

Armstrong said Thomas “was chosen by Jesus to ask the questions that you and I would ask.

“We see that it wasn’t just the Pollyannish following of Jesus, but there really were people asking those difficult questions,” he said. “The tradition is strong that Thomas went to India, where he was martyred, but the evidence is less strong that he went to China and Paraguay.

“The Bible doesn’t tell much about why he was chosen as a disciple. He was probably from the area of Galilee where Jesus gathered up most of his disciples. Thomas was a person who would be fearsome as an opponent. He wasn’t afraid to speak his mind or go against whatever somebody thought was the convention. He may have been disappointed at some time in his life, so he wasn’t going to give the wholeness of himself unless it was something true and real that could be depended on.

“Our life is the most valuable thing we have, so we should guard it as fiercely as Thomas did to make sure we’re not giving it away to the latest fad or spending it on something that is not true and real,” Armstrong said.

The Rev. Villatoro said the story of Thomas shows that Jesus “has mercy for anybody but especially for someone who doesn’t have enough faith.

“Thomas seems to have been an average guy who, because of the circumstances, wasn’t too optimistic,” said Villatoro, pastor of Victory Church. “Jesus showed up when Thomas wasn’t there so that Thomas would say what he said. The Lord is going to show mercy and show everyone that he is alive, that he is God, that there is hope here in America.

“We have so much abundance and still we don’t want to believe,” Villatoro said. “All of us go through the process of lack of faith or stupidity and eventually Jesus shows up and shows mercy and compassion.

He could say, ‘I’m going to embarrass you because you’re stupid, but he doesn’t do that. He says, ‘Come here and touch me. I am who I said I am.’”

The Rev. Willis, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, said Thomas “was a realist.

“He wasn’t going to claim a faith that he didn’t really have,” Willis said. “Romans 10:17 says, ‘Faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.’ But usually people have to see before they believe. That was the problem Thomas had. He had seen Jesus be crucified and die, so he just spoke a real statement by saying, ‘Unless I see the nail prints in his hands and put my hand into his side where they thrust the spear, I will not believe.’ You could say that all of us are doubting Thomases in some area of our Christian walk.”

Citing John 20:29, Willis said, “In that day of doubting in the cave with the closed door, Jesus said, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”

He said many of the disciples “went on to do great works after the time of their walk with Christ on earth.

“But when they were living with him, they were like a lot of us in the issues we face about our faith,” Willis said. “They walked with him physically and the difference is that we walk with him spiritually. We believe Jesus is a healer, but when we get sick is when we face our doubts. We should learn to be steadfast in our faith.

“Hebrews 11:6 says it is impossible to please God without faith, so when we go to God we must believe that he rewards those who diligently seek him.”

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