Faith and Doubt
Second Sunday of Easter, April 19, 2020,
On Oct. 26, 1964, the Minnesota Vikings were playing the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers had the ball on the Vikings 34 yard line, beginning their progress down the field. The ball was fumbled, and the Vikings defensive end, Jim Marshall, recovered the ball and ran for the goal line. He poured on all his speed, so that glancing over his shoulder he could tell if there was anyone near him. He dashed the 66 yards for a touchdown…or at least what he thought was a touchdown.
As it turns out, in all the confusion, Marshall picked up the ball and made his dramatic run…the wrong way! He ran 66 yards, not to a touchdown but for a safety, which means his Vikings didn’t get 6 points, but the 49ers got two. From that day on, many people referred to Jim Marshall as “Wrong way Jim”.
Unfortunately, although he had a great career, Jim Marshall is remembered as the guy who recovered that ball and ran the wrong way. Marshall played for the Vikings from 1961 to 1979. He not only played more seasons for a single team that anyone in history, he also played more games for a single team. In 1975 he set the NFL record for the most fumble recoveries. He played in the Pro-Bowl both in 1969 and 1970.
But he is still remembered as “Wong way Jim.”
The same thing happened to Thomas the Apostle. He was a great apostle, he was an outspoken apostle. He was not shy. In the gospel today Thomas is not with the other apostles when the Lord appeared to them. When they told him about the appearance, Thomas said he would not believe unless he himself could see and touch Jesus. And so he became known as the “doubting Thomas”.
But let us look at other passages about Thomas. In John 11:16, Lazarus had just died and Jesus wanted to return to Judea. The apostles all resisted because that is where the Jews tried to stone Jesus before. It was only Thomas who says bravely: “Let us go, that we might die with him.”
It was Thomas who spoke at the last supper. Jesus is predicting his own death and resurrection and he assures his disciples that where he is going they know the way. It was Thomas who said, “Lord we don’t know where you are going, how can we know the way?” To which Jesus replied those beautiful words: “I am the way, the truth and the life. Anyone who believes in me and dies will live, and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” Thank you Thomas. Thanks for eliciting that beautiful response from Jesus, we needed to hear that!
Furthermore, Thomas was the only Apostle who went outside of the Roman Empire to preach the Gospel. He is also believed to have crossed the largest area, which includes the Persian Empire and India.
But yet he is still known as the “Doubting Thomas”.
When Jesus told Thomas to touch him, Thomas never did, instead he just proclaimed “My Lord and my God”. On this account he should be known as the “Believing Thomas”.
But no, he is still remembered for his doubt. It seems that no matter how much success a person achieves, we like to emphasize the faults. The mistake we humans make is the logical thinking that faith and doubt cannot co-exist. One either believes or not. One is either certain or uncertain. But in the fabric of human nature, more than logic is at work. In reality faith and doubt can and do co-exist.
The lesson we can learn from our gospel today is that we should not be afraid to acknowledge our fears, not hesitate to admit our hesitancies, not be troubled about our troubles, and not be dubious about our doubts. The best way to deal with doubt is to admit it, using the strategy of Thomas. Admit it, and then perhaps we can sincerely reply with Thomas, “My Lord and my God”.
In conclusion, today let us prayer in a very special way, for the people in our own lives named Thomas. Amen.
Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles
1 Peter 1:3–9
You may have to suffer through various trials, so...the genuineness of your faith...may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
These [signs] are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah,...and that through this belief you may have life in his name.