There was a day when hope collapsed. The doctors said, “We’re very sorry, but there’s nothing more medically we can do for you.” Then, extraordinarily, the very next day, the consultant phoned back to say that permission had just been given for a new unlicensed drug to be used in this case. The conflict of emotions was overwhelming - one day, no hope; the next day, a glimmer of totally unexpected hope.
The emotional journey for the disciples that first Easter must have been similarly overwhelming. The crucifixion shattered all hope. At that desperately low point, suddenly a new hope began to dawn.
A week after the supposed resurrection of Jesus, Thomas, one of his close disciples, was still at the totally hopeless stage, unconvinced by stories that Jesus was alive. He needed proof. All very well for some of his friends to say they had seen Jesus alive again. Anyway, some of them clearly needed some convincing themselves (see Matthew 28, verse 17 and Luke 24, verse 41), but no way would he believe it unless he saw the evidence with his own eyes.
Doubt is not the same as lack of faith, it is not the opposite of faith. It is a testing of faith in the cold light of day. Doubt can be a healthy antidote to simply taking someone’s word for it. Exploring doubt can be a way to find the truth. Thomas did right.
That next Sunday, he got the evidence. Jesus presented himself to a small gathering of disciples, as he had the week before. This time Thomas was there too. He saw Jesus with his own eyes and was utterly convinced.
It was a turning point, a total transformation of understanding. Hopelessness was replaced not only by hope, but by conviction. Death had been turned into life.
Resurrection is ‘a big thing’. It is not surprising it raises doubts in our minds just as it did in the minds of those first disciples. Thomas looks like the biggest doubter, so gets called “Doubting Thomas”. But probably all the disciples struggled. They might have all been called “Doubting Disciples”.
But it is their realism and their questioning doubts, and their facing the reality of death transformed, even in the cold light of day, that is our assurance that they are believable. They saw, as we now cannot see, and their witness is crucial as the foundation of our faith that the Lord is risen.
It is out of that extraordinary, transforming event that the Christian message grew and that the Gospels were written and the church came into being. As one theologian has put it - “The Gospels do not explain the Resurrection; the Resurrection explains the Gospels. Belief in the Resurrection is not an appendage to the Christian faith; it is the Christian faith.”
We can be thankful that Thomas was prepared to face the truth in the cold light of day, and in so doing found the truth of Jesus alive.