Is there a doubting Thomas in all of us?

doubting_thomas1Post-Easter Sunday is time we look at the post-resurrection Jesus.  A reading we sometimes get to hear in church is one on doubting Thomas (John 20:24-29).  We often give Thomas a bad rap as the doubter because of what he said: “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will not believe.

Is there a “doubting Thomas” in all of us?  Many people in the world today are not much different from Thomas. The doubtfulness in Thomas represents what’s in most people in my generation. We are a generation that values being authentic.  To be an authentic believer, we need some proof and not just talk.  But even if you’re not a big doubter, there might be a small degree of doubt that exists in you. It’s natural for us to have some doubt about something.

But God already knows that many of us need an experience with God. This is why God comes down to us and pours out his love and gives us faith to believe the impossible. Without faith given to us from God, none of us would have any hope. If left to myself as a human being, I would probably have no faith at all…especially those of us who grew up in this post-modern age who are critical of everything. We question everything.

Yes, I’m a Thomas and I’m thankful that God loves his “Thomases” too.  God’s Spirit wants to work in the lives of people who need assurance of what we are taught to believe.  Although Jesus said in v. 29, blessed are those who have not seen but still believe, what this is, is faith… not blind-belief.  It’s God who gives us faith as we read God’s word, pray, and ask the Holy Spirit to fill us with himself because in his presence is fullness of joy.

The Out-From-Amongst Resurrected Jesus

In Philippians 3:10-11, Paul said something profound and he connects it to the resurrection. He said, “I want to know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead”.

It seems like Paul is only hoping to attain the resurrection from the dead. It sounds like he is not sure, but that’s not the case. What he is talking about is not just the resurrection from the dead. Paul is talk about a second resurrection (not the first resurrection.

In Jewish Pharisaical belief, they don’t think of the resurrection as most Christians do. They believe there is the first resurrection and a second resurrection. In the first resurrection, all the dead will rise again to be judged. Both those who died in Christ, and those who die outside of Christ… both the sheep and the goats… both the wheat and the tares… will all rise again. This is a general resurrection in which all people will be resurrected. But there is also the second resurrection is one where a person is called out from, to stand out from.

The most common Greek word for resurrection is anastasia (“standing up again”, or “to rise again”). This is the general resurrection of all. But In Philippians 3:11, Paul did not use this word. Paul used a special word that’s only noticeable in the original Greek and is ignored in all English translations. Paul used the word, “ex-anastasis”. The “ex” means “out among”. This expression means “out-up- standing of the out-of-dead-ones.” Paul wanted to stand up again from among the dead. In other words, Paul saw a resurrection in which only some will stand up; others will remain dead. He’s not talking about the general resurrection.

Paul had looked forward to “arrive at” or to attain to a very special goal. Attain (Gk: katantao) means “to arrive at.” In other words, Paul’s goal was to one day arrive at the resurrection (“ex-anastasis”) from the dead, the same resurrection that his Lord had attained. In desiring to die as his Lord died, Paul was seeking to rise from among the dead just as the Lord rose as the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Corinthians 15:20).

If we read further in Phil. 3:14, Paul says, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” This goal to win the prize that God has called him to is the “ex-anastasis” type of resurrection.

The Post-Resurrected Jesus: raised in a physical body

It’s the first Sunday of Easter.  Doubters of the resurrection may prefer to say that Jesus was only a spirit-being (like Casper the Friendly Ghost). By refusing to believe that Jesus was not raised from death in a physical body, one may conveniently avoid having to deal with a God who intervenes in human affairs.  However, we Christians do believe in that Jesus was raised with an imperishable physical body .  The onus is not on us to prove this; the onus is on doubters to disprove this.

In the New Testament, the word used for “spirit” is pneuma; however, Paul in First Corinthians 15:44 used the words: soma pneuma (“σωμα πνευματικον”) which means “spiritual body”. This is the type of body that we, as believers in Jesus, will also be raised with.  A week after Jesus had resurrected, Scripture says he was still around for at least one week before his ascension (John 20:26). The resurrected Jesus walked around, made himself known to many people, and he showed himself in a resurrected spiritual-physical body to over 500 people. He was definitely not in hiding.  The bible is clear about the form of Jesus’ resurrected body.  The onus is on doubters to disprove that Jesus resurrected in a physical-spiritual body.

Bible passages on the post-resurrected Jesus:

John 20:19-23  Enters locked room
John 20:24-29  Doubting Thomas
John 21:1-14  Another big catch
Luke 24:13-35  Road to Emmaus
Matthew 28; Mark 16:9  Women witnesses
1 Cor. 15:6  Five hundred witnesses/followers
1 Cor. 15:8   Apostle Paul