The Upper Room devotional reflection for Thursday, July 30th comes to us from Mike C. Bertoglio of Georgia.
John 20:24-31 NRSV 24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” 26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
Our new apartment in a different part of the country abuts a small wooden ravine. One day after work, my wife asked me if I had heard the owl that morning. “I don’t think owls live in this area,” I replied. “Are you sure it was an owl?” Although skeptical, I was willing to acknowledge that maybe owls sound different here. Two weeks later, early on a Saturday morning while sitting at the breakfast table, I heard the familiar hoot of an owl. And then a week later my wife reported seeing an owl fly about two feet from the windshield of her car. This time I believed her. She had seen the owl face-to-face, and I had heard it. I became an owl believer.
For many years I was an agnostic. I wanted more proof. I wanted to hear Jesus’ voice, see him face-to-face, or, like Thomas, to put my hand into his side. Yet after seeing the love of others who called themselves Christians and hearing the voice of the Savior through scripture, I became a believer. In this age, we walk by faith, without physical proof. Yet we do have the promise that if we will seek, we will find. (See Deuteronomy 4:29, Matthew 7:7 and Luke 11:9.) And someday – some glorious day – we will see Jesus Christ face-to-face.
Prayer: Dear God, help us to be lights to show others how to see and hear the truth of our Savior. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
– Mike C. Bertoglio
Our scripture for today is a familiar passage, as it recounts Jesus’ appearing to the disciples while they’re locked in a room. One of the disciples, Thomas, is not with them when Jesus appears. Upon returning, the other disciples excitedly tell Thomas that the Lord had appeared to them. Thomas has his doubts and states: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” Thomas has forever been known as doubting Thomas, due to his hesitation and desire for proof. Yet, instead of casting a skeptical and judging eye upon Thomas, let’s take a moment to understand his reservations.
Thomas has been with the other disciples, hiding in this locked room for fear of what the authorities might do to them. Thomas is sent out to secure essential supplies but imagine the tone of the room and conversations before he left. I imagine the tone of the room was somber, racked with fear and desperation. The conversations were not optimistic encouraging exhortations laced with faithful expressions. On the contrary, they were panic laced laments. Thomas left a gathering of people filled with doubts and fears, then returns to a room filled with joy. Wouldn’t you have your doubts about what they told you? Haven’t you had doubts about the sincerity and authenticity of someone’s espoused transformation based on your experience with them? It may be a friend, co-worker or family member who always use to provide the dark cloud for a room. Yet, the next time we saw them, they were different. Indeed, we had our doubts about what caused their change of disposition. Much like Thomas, we wanted to experience/investigate the source of their exuberance to determine its authenticity.
Jesus again appears to the disciples and invites Thomas to place his fingers in the marks left by the nails and spear. Jesus then states: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Naturally, we think this an accusation against Thomas. Yet, I would remind you that disciples didn’t believe until they’d seen Jesus for themselves. Jesus’ statement convicts all the disciples, Thomas included, and offers us a humbling challenge we often glance over. Thomas’ doubts were built upon his interactions with his fellow disciples. Imagine, if Thomas had left a room filled with faithful, faith filled followers or Christ who were encouraging one another? Imagine if Thomas left that room being edified and not terrified about his relationship with Christ? I imagine that when he returned he would have believed the witness of the other disciples, without needing to see Christ himself.
Which begs the question: When people interact with us do they experience an encouraging, engaging and edifying spirit of joy? When the hear us speaking, are our words redemptive and healing? In our moments of struggle, can they still see that we’re remaining steadfast and hopeful? How do people leave our presence, are they encouraged to seek relationship with Christ or resolved to find another way based on our example? We’ve endured some challenging days and I’m not suggesting that followers of Christ must always be cheerful. What I am suggesting is that we must always be faithful and faith-filled, especially when we struggle, standing firm upon our relationship with God who can change any situation. In so doing, we offer others an authentic, genuine and encouraging example of how to live as a person of faith.