The Apostle Thomas was a cynical person. If there was one person you wanted to be present when Jesus revealed himself after the resurrection to the disciples it would be Thomas. Where was he? Maybe he was disillusioned by the events of the past few days and had gone away to think it through. We are not told where Thomas was, but my guess is that he should have been with the disciples. They were probably wondering where he was.
By not being with the disciples, Thomas misses an incredible blessing. It’s a principle – when we are disconnected from the body of Christ we miss blessings.
Of course Jesus was not surprised that Thomas was absent when he revealed himself to the disciples. I would even suggest to you that Jesus appeared to the disciples DELIBERATELY without Thomas present. I think Jesus wanted to teach Thomas something. I think he wanted to show Thomas how dangerous his cynicism had become.
The dangerous side of Thomas’ cynicism is shown when he does reconnect with the other disciples. He hears the story of Jesus’ appearance, not by one, two, five but 10 of his closest and most trusted friends. And even from these close friends Thomas is not impressed by their account of Jesus’ appearance. The words on the page probably do not convey the excitement with which Thomas was probably bombarded with when he arrived back with the Disciples. Jesus does not reappear for 8 days and it is not a stretch to think that for 8 days Thomas is subjected to the story of Jesus’ appearance again and again. Effectively he calls his closest friends liars – or men who are delusional.
Thomas then sets his own criteria for what it would take for him to believe. It is always dangerous to say to God “This is my criteria before I will believe in you.” Notice what Thomas says – he is not satisfied just to SEE the print of the nails; in other words what was good enough for his friends would not be acceptable proof for him – no, for Thomas to believe, he would have to put – the greek is more aggressive – thrust; unless he thrusts his finger in the mark of the nails, unless he does THAT, he is emphatic – “I WILL NOT BELIEVE.”
This from a trusted disciple of Jesus! Thomas had seen Jesus’ miracles. He had watched the blind see, the crippled walk, the ill healed. He had been there when Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. He was sent out by Jesus, two by two, and performed great healings and miracles. He had seen with his own eyes the power of the Holy Spirit. He had spent three years with Jesus, learning and being taught. He had been there when Peter confessed Jesus as the Christ.
But now Thomas was struggling to believe, EVEN in the face his closest friends testimonies.
The disillusionment of the cross, the shattering of the dreams, hope and expectation of the future with the Messiah was all but gone and it was leading Thomas towards cynicism and a loss of faith. We know his faith was at risk by Jesus’ own words when he confronts Thomas – he literally says Stop BECOMING faithless but become a believer. Notice that – Thomas was becoming faithless.
Have you ever experienced disillusionment with the Church? Have you experienced disillusionment with your faith? Have you ever struggled to believe? Are there aspects of the Christian faith that you do not really accept or believe to be true? Maybe you have never expressed your doubts to anyone else. Do your doubts and disillusionments threaten to overwhelm you?
Cynicism is a problem in the body of Christ.
One theologian has said that a Christian Cynic is one who criticizes everything while maintaining a degree of allegiance to Jesus but whose favorite verses are those where Jesus attacks and denounces the Pharisees and religious leaders for their failings.
The reason why cynicism is so problematic in the church is that christian cynics have allowed their disillusionment, whether with the world, the church, the church leadership, to take hold of them and it has become the driving force of their natures. Nothing is ever good enough. Everything is always a failure. The leadership can never get it right. The Church does not do enough, etc, etc.
Cynicism almost always begins with disillusionment.
Now disillusionment is not always a bad thing. Disillusionment can bring us to the place of reality – seeing the situation as it really is; that things are not going well; that we are struggling; that the future is uncertain. Disillusionment can be the wake up call. In fact the aim of evangelism is to lead someone who does not believe in God to a point of disillusionment with a world that has no hope of God. The Apostle Paul, during the three days he was blind in the house on Straight Street was probably disillusioned; disillusioned that all that he thought he was doing was in fact wrong.
The danger comes when disillusionment is left unchecked, because unchecked it will develop into cynicism. Ideally, disillusionment should lead us to take stock, re-evaluate and make new decisions. That is why with the atheist we do not stop having lead him to his disillusionment of the world, but we show him the hope – the reality of what God has done.
So what is it that stops disillusionment from becoming cynicism for a Christian? Why does Paul does not end up a cynic? What should we turn to when we are feeling disillusioned with our faith?
Someone has written that we need to foster and teach a Biblical spirituality that embraces the grim reality of our ex-eden life along with the joyful reality that God is making all things new.
In other words, we do not avoid cynicism by ignoring reality, or ignoring that life can be tough, that we fail, that we can have difficult, sad and even tragic times, that things go wrong.
We need to accept reality. We are not to ignore our sin, but we are to be honest and confess our sins. But we do so in the reality and light of the truth of the resurrection. The darkness and pain of this world and of our sins can only be dealt with if Christ rose from the dead!
Remove the resurrection of Christ from the Christian faith and ALL that is left for a Christian is deep and hopeless cynicism.
Paul himself tells us in 1 Corinthians 15; if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Therefore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone.
If we are struggling with disillusionment and cynicism as believers then we have lost sight of the truth of the resurrection and what it accomplished for us and the world. We need to get the truth of the resurrection back into the center of our hearts and our lives and our faith. If we do not have the real joy of the resurrection then we will not have peace or joy in our lives.
This is why we must believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Without the bodily resurrection of Christ we have disillusionment without hope and therefore we will become cynical and eventually lose our faith.
The resurrection is more than just ‘Jesus rose from the dead’. It is the undeniable FACT that Jesus’ defeat of death means we have begun, right now, to live in the sure hope of eternal life – that this world will be renewed – wars will end, famine will end, disease will be conquered – that disillusionment will be wiped away for ever when Christ returns. It allows us to live today in the reality of this world knowing the joy of the world to come.
It is the Resurrection that allows us to experience the peace Jesus gives his disciples and enables us to fulfill the calling he has given us – Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me even so I send you. And remember what Peace – Shalom means – destroying the authority that causes chaos! Satan, the prince of chaos, has been defeated. Therefore we go into the world in peace.
When Jesus comes to the one disillusioned in mercy that is when everything changes.
That is exactly what happened to Thomas – Jesus appears to the one disillusioned and everything changes. Jesus invites Thomas to put his hands in the nail marks. He challenges Thomas to fulfill his declaration that ONLY by doing THAT he would believe. But Thomas doesn’t. His emphatic, self declared criteria of what it would take for him to believe disappears. And, I would hasten to suggest, at this moment, Thomas was no longer a cynic.
His immediate response is amazing – he exclaims the truth “My Lord and God.” Why such a response? The scriptures, and the languages that God chose that the scriptures should be written in are so amazing. I would like to suggest a reason why Thomas falls to his knees and declares Jesus to be his Lord and God. In Hebrew, God’s name was Yahweh. Those of you who have done the Jewish roots class with me know that Yahweh in Hebrew is spelt – yod, hey, vav, hey. In the hebrew every letter means something and in Hebrew picture language Yod means hand, hey means window, vav means nail and hey means window. So literally Yahweh means the hand revealed, the nail revealed. And I think Thomas got that when Jesus offered his hand where the nails had been – hence his response! Amazing!
The resurrection changes everything for those who follow Jesus. Despite what we see or what we experience, despite the sadness, the cruelty and the violence of the world, the resurrection gives us hope.
We must not allow our disillusionments and hurts with the world and the church to turn into cynicism. That is what the enemy would love to happen. The world and the church will hurt us – it will cause us to be disillusioned at times – of course it will. Sinful human beings hurt each other in words and actions. But let us ALWAYS remember the truth and the reality of resurrection because when we do cynicism will never have a hold on us because we will be a people of Hope – of true, eternal and sure hope.
Our disillusionments and hurts, do not compare to the fact that Jesus died and rose again for our sins so that we might have eternal life and that he will return to make all things right and new.
Christ has risen – And for all who trust in him, everything will be OK.