When I was a teenager I was attending an event at our denomination’s Camp. Representatives from many of the sister churches were there. Being a teenager I only was interested in other teenagers and being a boy I was mostly interested in girls but I was way too shy to just introduce myself to girls I didn’t know. Fortunately I have an older brother and older siblings can be helpful for breaking new social ground. I saw a pretty girl who was a friend of my brother’s. Her name was ‘Alice’ (name changed to protect the innocent). For some strange reason I thought that since this girl knew my brother it was okay for me to approach her and strike up a conversation. After a pleasant talk Alice began to excuse herself and she said ‘have you seen my sister Alice? She looks like me. If you see her tell her …’ I thought I was talking to Alice. I later found out to whom I had been talking and Alice was not her twin but to people who do not know them well the sisters look very alike.
I thought of this incident when our preacher was re-telling the story of ‘doubting’ Thomas. I have always thought of ‘doubting’ Thomas as being the lesser member of the unholy trinity that included ‘betraying’ Judas and ‘denying’ Peter. As with so many things, I am much less judgmental of Thomas than I used to be. You see Thomas means Twin in Aramaic and Thomas’ other name Didymus means Twin in Greek. I imagine that the ‘di’ in Didymus means two the same as it does in other Greek loanwords. I believe that the disciple who was a twin thought it was very reasonable to ask to see the nail holes in Jesus’ hands. Just think of the last movie that you saw that used the doppelganger plot device. Didn’t the writers use some version of the ‘cut himself shaving that morning’ to allow the audience to sort out the doubles? The disciple who was a twin just wanted to make sure that the disciples had seen the Jesus who had actually been crucified. Maybe that is why God left the holes when he healed everything else?
This story is not in the Bible to make Thomas look bad and it is not about criticizing Doubting Thomases today. Many of us have doubts that are based on our unique circumstances. Thomas’ doubts were the sort of doubts that someone familiar with mistaken identity might have. My doubts are the sort of doubts that someone familiar with my life might have and your doubts are the sort that you might have. They are legitimate doubts and God will help us through them. Another story, I was talking to a guy one day and he said he didn’t believe in God because he believed that God would have given Man a predator. When I said, ‘but he did, that’s what diseases are’ he didn’t fall on his knees and say “my Lord and my God”. His doubt was not really legitimate. It was just something to say.
Jesus is willing to come through locked doors if necessary to help each person who wants to believe. I also believe that he knows when someone is just not interested and them he leaves alone. Nothing can be done and it would be unkind to keep making them uncomfortable.