In yesterday’s sermon we took a closer look at the story of Jesus’ first encounter with his disciples after his resurrection. It’s easy to overlook the grace, peace, and mystery at work in this story and, instead, focus on the shorthand version we call “Doubting Thomas.” However, there is so much more here than a phrase usually muttered with tongue in cheek.
The first words out of Jesus’ mouth are “Peace be with you.” After their abandonment, betrayal running and hiding, Jesus blesses them with peace. For whatever reason, Thomas was not present for this encounter. He says he needs to see Jesus and poke around in his wounds and vows that he will not believe until does. Jesus appears again, and in another gesture of immeasurable love, he invites Thomas to touch the wounds and slip his doubt into his open side where it will be swallowed up by love and a peace that passes all understanding. It is here that Thomas confesses Jesus as Lord. Jesus does not chastise Thomas for doubting but looks for a way to relieve him of his doubts.
When we find ourselves mired in doubt, this story reminds us Jesus understands doubt. He doesn’t judge it he wants to gather us in, erasing the distance that doubt places between himself and us. It isn’t the doubting, it’s the distance. Jesus went to that cross and tomb to liberate us, not to judge us. He emerged to bring peace to our lives. That offer stands in times of doubt and faith. We can hold onto our doubt. Jesus will wait. We can discard his abiding love. Jesus will wait. What our doubting cannot do is chase Jesus away. When we decide to live with something more than doubt, Jesus will invite us to thrust into his open side where we can leave it behind and once again hear him say, “Peace be with you.”