Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Thomas: Disciple and Skeptic

Dictionary.com defines "Skeptic" like this:
"A person who questions the validity or authenticity of something purporting to be factual."

It also lists a bit of etymology on that word:

Origin:  1565–75: 
  Late Latin "scepticus" = thoughtful, inquiring
  Greek "skeptikós",  equivalent to "sképt" ( "esthai" ) = to consider, examine
     -- akin to "skopeîn" =  to look; to see ( "-scope" ) + ( "-ikos" ) or ( "-ic" )

Despite the "doubting Thomas" nickname he is so often known by, Thomas is, I think, the most inspiring figure of the 12 disciples of Jesus.  Consider these thoughts about "Didymus" ("the Twin", probably of Mathew):

-- He doesn't say much in the Gospels, perhaps because he is constantly and deeply pondering what is being said and done around him; perhaps he is waiting to see what develops further...

-- He is not the one impulsively jumping out of boats, or brashly declaring love for and loyalty to Jesus (only to deny Him later), or grabbing swords and swinging them around...

-- He is that "quiet one in the shadows"...  Knowing what he was thinking, I can imagine Jesus many times glancing over at Thomas and smiling to Himself...

-- Immediately after the Resurrection, he wasn't among the others who cowered in a private room "for fear of the Jews", perhaps because, in solitude, he needed to "process" (perhaps in great turmoil of mind and soul) what had just happened...

-- His 3 primary speeches in the Gospels are these:

    -- A quiet exhortation to "go and die" with Jesus in Judea (where they knew the Jews
        were anxious to capture and kill Jesus) -- John 11:16

    -- An honest inquiry into what "way" Jesus was talking about and how, then,
        to go "with" Him on that "way" -- John 14:5

    -- An insistence that the Resurrection claim be supported by thoroughly
        convincing evidence, and his reaction when a loving and compassionate
        risen Christ gives him that evidence -- John 20:25

It's clear that Thomas was someone who questioned things and examined the reasons behind them, but that did not make him a "doubter"; keep in mind, he was purposely and specifically hand-selected by Jesus Himself to be one of the 12!  Jesus, of course, knew Thomas' mind and heart and personality type completely and yet added him as a chosen Disciple. 

It can be assumed, then, that his inclusion in that intimate, inner circle was for some perfectly good reason.  I do not believe it was so that "doubters can see that their doubting is okay", but so that the Church can see and understand that Faith is never "blind".

More specifically, I believe Thomas "stuck to it" throughout the process, following Jesus and being known as one of His disciples, because it was Jesus HIMSELF that Thomas found so profoundly compelling, so irresistable, so Real.

In Jesus, Thomas saw more than a "movement", even more than just a Face and a Name, a Body and a Voice; I think Thomas was wise enough, and perhaps the first, to see GOD in Jesus, and he followed willingly to understand the mystery of what he was witnessing.  Following, but not foolishly.

Thomas was not a "doubter"; he was a thinker, a questioner, a Skeptic.
And, in the end, a Believer.

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