Do we experience fear and doubt? Everyone does from time to time. How can we experience peace rather than fear and doubt?
Let us understand that such peace only comes from heaven.
We will look at fear, doubt and peace.
Peace from God
What changed the Apostles from a fearful band of fleeing cowards to men of faith and action? Certainly, the coming of the Holy Spirit caused dramatic changes at Pentecost, but the changes in the Apostles began seven weeks before that after the resurrection of Jesus. The Holy Spirit gives power, but only to those who are prepared. Three times in John 20:19-31 Jesus proclaimed peace to his disciples. Could peace with us be a necessary preparation for the Holy Spirit? First came the resurrection, then blessings of peace and a commissioning followed weeks later with the power of the Holy Spirit. Because of their cowardice we can imagine that the disciples had no peace. Yet, Jesus blessed them with peace. Could it be that an answer to fear and lack of faith is the peace that passes all understanding.
My Lord and My God
At the cross all the disciples of Jesus abandoned him. However, after his resurrection Jesus appeared to them and offered his peace. After seeing the scars Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:19-31). This was a very personal expression of faith. He did not say OUR Lord or even THE Lord, but MY Lord AND MY God. This is what is meant when people speak of a personal relationship with God. Jesus then went on to bless those of us who would believe even though we, unlike Thomas, have not seen, at least not with our physical eyes. There is a seeing that is not with the eyes. When we see Jesus with that insight, then we like they will believe. And as Jesus revealed himself to those disciples, so he reveals himself to each of us.
Thomas doubted the resurrection (John 20:19-31) and some Christians doubt Easter. Does the Friday-Sunday tradition equal three days? In the ancient world three days and three nights was colloquial for sometimes parts of three days and not a scientific expression for exactly 72 hours. They also counted differently than we do. To them if today was Friday, it was day 1 and Sunday day 3. If today was Friday, we could count Saturday as day 1 and Monday as day 3. It’s called inclusive versus exclusive counting. Is the word Easter pagan? Most languages still call Easter Passover. Whether or not the English word is of pagan origin is irrelevant. Historians and theologians are well aware of counter Easter theories, but reject them as ignoring all the facts. The overwhelming majority honestly agree that Friday-Sunday makes the most sense.
What can a Doubter Accomplish
The thing that most of us remember about the Apostle Thomas is the epithet “doubting Thomas” from his initial doubt at Jesus’ resurrection (John 20:19-31). Was he then a failure? After that Thomas went on to southwest India and established several great churches. Though severely persecuted by overzealous Portuguese Catholics in the 1500’s, these descendants of early Jewish Christians still exist as various churches today. Despite the shameful persecution by those who claim to be successors of Peter and Paul some of these Thomas Christians still observe elements of their Jewish heritage. Today, various groups of them either adhere to the younger western Catholic Church or are attached to the older eastern Orthodox Church. Historians consider these to be the oldest Christian churches after the Assyrian Church. So, what can a doubter accomplish in Jesus? — a great legacy.
Are we like Thomas
In the gospel account of Jesus’ meeting with his disciples after his resurrection (John 20:19-31), we are perhaps surprised to see that Thomas doubts. Yet his weak faith is not unique. It is rather the sometime condition of all of Christ’s disciples, including us. What is more remarkable is the incredible authority that Jesus entrusts to such faulty disciples, the power to forgive sins or not. This is not a contradiction to Jesus’ instructions after giving the Lord’s prayer regarding forgiveness. It relates directly to the gospel message. It is a message of forgiveness of sin to those who accept it. It also contains the message that those who refuse it will not be forgiven. Those who do not accept the message of Jesus, delivered by ordinary people, cannot be forgiven until they do. We have that authority today.
If we have fear and doubt, let us ask God for the peace that passes all understanding.