April 22nd, 2001
Wesley, Doncaster East
Let me begin at the beginning.
The church in India was founded not long after the death of our Lord by the apostle Thomas. We believe that our Saviour chose Thomas to be the one to bring the Gospel to India. In the West Thomas is viewed as not a good example, but as one who doubted while the other apostles believed. But you must realise that the other disciples in that room had already experienced the presence of our Lord. Thomas was simply asking for the privilege of seeing what his fearful brothers had already seen. He was not doubting Jesus, you see. He was doubting the testimony of his cowardly brothers.
For us Saint Thomas was the only one among the disciples not so filled with fear that he couldn’t leave their hiding place. He hadn’t been hiding with them, when Jesus had appeared before. Perhaps, that same courage enabled him to leave his home and travel here to India to bring the Word of Life to our ancestors. From our point of view it would be better to call him Fearless Thomas than Doubting Thomas.
For us Saint Thomas is the one disciple honest enough to express his doubts to his brothers and his faith to his Lord. We believe that Jesus rewarded such honesty by showing Thomas his hands, feet, and side. He even offered them to Thomas to touch – though the Bible does not say that Thomas did touch his Lord. His reward was the simple offering by Jesus of his wounds. Isn’t that greater proof than signs, miracles, or teachings that Jesus is, indeed, the chosen one of God? Our Lord offers the evidence of his wounds suffered for Thomas in his doubt, suffered for the other disciples in their fear, and suffered for us who live in doubt and fear so much of the time.
So, when the Lord called Thomas to go to a country foreign to him and to preach the good news to people who spoke another language and lived in a very different way from his own, Thomas was able to go before kings and fearlessly tell them of an even greater king to whom they must learn to be servants.
He spoke to outcasts and told them of an outcast named Jesus, who died so they might know they are children of a great king. He told them of a great spiritual teacher, who washed his disciples’ feet – something they couldn’t begin to imagine. Such a teacher had never been known among them before. In your part of the world, are there such teachers?
So, you see, for us Thomas is truly a saint, a man of faith who planted a seed of holiness in our hearts. Could a doubter, such as you believe Thomas to be, do that? Perhaps doubt, such as Thomas expressed, is part of the fabric of our faith. Without some measure of holy doubt we might fall victim to unscrupulous people who want to take advantage of our gullibility for their profit. I hear there have been many such on television. Perhaps such fearless, honest, doubting faith is the weft that adds colour and interesting patterns to the theology that provides the warp of our faith.
Thomas’ story puts us on trial, my friends, not him. The apostle’s fearlessness and honesty raise the question, “Could I say, ‘My Lord and my God’ when I see Christ’s wounds wherever they appear in my world?”