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The gospel of John is one of four Biblical narratives telling the story of Jesus. Written in ancient Greek, it includes significant metaphor, poetry, and references to ancient Greek Philosophy. It’s because of this theological development that most scholars believe it was the last of the four gospel stories of the life of Jesus to be written down.
Today’s selection of two encounters with the resurrected Jesus is seemingly about faith and doubt. We tend to think that they’re the opposite of each other. But biblically speaking it seems more like certitude and self-sufficiency are the opposites of faith. Not doubt.
Webster’s dictionary defines “certitude” as “Freedom from doubt, especially in matters of faith.” This misunderstanding of faith often translates to the sentiment, “If I have faith, I will have no doubts and will have an answer to all of life’s questions, the problems I experience, and the issues in the world.” But anyone who has live and believed knows that’s impossible. Faith is about our relationship with God. The more we mature, the more we tend to realize that we know less than we thought we did, and the fewer things we become absolutely certain about even in the Christian life
The opposite of faith also seems not be doubt (wether you question Gods’ ability or existence entirely), but instead self-sufficiency … Although the Bible tells us that faith isn’t the result of hard work or diligence because it is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9), it also tells us that God rewards those who seek his ways (Hebrews 11:6), and both blesses and guides those who focus and listen to his Word (Matthew 7:24).
Looking closer at today’s story about doubting Thomas we see that it’s maybe less about Thomas than about all of us, and maybe less about doubt than the challenge to believe and trust without the certitude of seeing with your own eyes what the scriptures talk about. Thomas seems to be a dolt, and yet he’s actually just really human. We tend to believe that seeing is believing; yet these two encounters with Jesus imply that believing (or trusting) is about being a new creation, a process that leads to continual re-creation and growth, to expanded vision, understanding and self-awareness.
Questions for Reflection & Examen:
• What engaged you, enraged you, or surprised you in this story?
• What does it mean that the disciples could see and touch the wounds of Jesus?
• We often think of this story as being about the opposition between seeing and touching. But in fact the main contrast is between seeing and coming to faith. How does that speak to you?
• The word Believe (πιστεύω in the text) means “to believe, as in have confidence in…or be persuaded in… It also means to have faith in, and to put one’s trust in.” What relationship do you see between seeing – believing – and having new life?
• What invitation do you hear the Spirit of God speaking to you – or to us, as a church – to act, speak, be or change through this word of scripture?
Some of my writing comes from two blog posts at https://www.ctsnet.edu/the-opposite-of-faith-is-certitude & https://www.ourgodgivenmission.com/opposite-faith-not-doubt/