Are you a skeptic?
Most of us would deny that we are or hope that would be the case. After all, the dictionary defines a skeptic as “a person inclined to question or doubt all accepted opinions.” In that broad sense of the meaning, perhaps our denial would be right. That little word “all” in the definition makes all the difference.
And yet, most of us might admit that we doubt or are a skeptic about some things or some people. Sometimes we are just fickle in the moment about something we say we believe until the belief is challenged.
Thomas (You remember him probably.) reminds us of that tendency we might also have. He was a disciple and walked with Jesus everywhere during his earthly ministry. He had heard Jesus as a part of that select group who got to see behind the scenes and learn the truths behind the parables Jesus told. He heard Jesus talk about dying at that last supper he attended in the upper room, heard Him say they all knew the way and where He was going.
But John 14:5 (ESV) shows Thomas doubts (long before Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead). John records it this way:
“Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
After the crucifixion Thomas has no doubt that Jesus is dead. He’d seen the whole ugly scene with his own eyes. Then he misses a gathering of the other disciples and hears from them that Jesus appeared to them and has risen as He said.
Each disciple must have told the story of Christ’s sudden appearance and how it confirmed prophecy and yet Thomas needs proof. He says he needs to see and touch Jesus and suspects the other disciples saw a ghost.
We might chuckle at the scene eight days later when Jesus unexpectedly shows up again with Thomas present. Jesus is well aware of the doubts and skepticism in Thomas. He tells him to put his hand in His side where the spear had pierced Him, to look at His nail-scarred hands and feet. Now Thomas believes.
But if we are honest, we might see skepticism in our own heart as well. It wasn’t common for people to come back from the dead even when Jesus walked the earth, despite Thomas seeing it happen with Lazarus.
This need for proof in humankind runs through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. From Eden onward doubt has been a companion as well as an enemy.
In the New American Commentary on Exodus, Douglas K. Stuart gives us one example from the Old Testament. God tells Moses He will free the enslaved children of Israel from Egypt who had been toiling there in ever-worsening conditions for 400 years.
Now Moses arrives on the scene to tell these enslaved Israelites what God told him and that he is the one that is to lead them out. It’s not surprising that might raise eyebrows, cause heads to shake, and tongues to wag. Here is Stuart’s description of the problem:
“Trust me that I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. What is the proof? I won’t give you any yet, but when you are out of Egypt and at the place where I will take you as my own people (which any reader understands to be Sinai since Moses wrote Exodus after Sinai), you will be able to look back on what has happened and see that I accomplished everything that I promised you.”
They would look in the rearview mirror and see the truth of the Promise Maker and Keeper.
Here was God speaking to and through Moses offering them exactly what the children of Israel most needed and wanted, but they wanted proof. They had suffered for a long time in Egypt. It isn’t hard to imagine how that affected how they thought and what they believed. They were likely pessimistic at best after the pain they experienced day-after-day for so many centuries.
It hits closer to home when we need to be rescued from illness, job loss, infertility, divorce, loneliness, abuse, and more. If any of these things go on for a long time despite our prayers, we wonder if God is out there somewhere, if He’s really good, and if He will show up before it’s too late.
Doubt and skepticism are the antithesis of faith. Tough times and tough situations that linger can erode our faith and we too, want proof that He cares and will meet us.
Jesus has promised He will return for those who receive Him. He’s given the list of things that will point to the nearness of that unannounced hour. Prophets have told us as well, but it’s been a long time now, more centuries than the children of Israel suffered in Egypt.
Have we begun to doubt and want proof He will keep that promise?
We’ve been told to keep watch and look for Him when those signs He outlined start to happen.
Are we paying attention?
Do we want proof?
God is the ultimate promise keeper. Reading through the Bible confirms that over and over again.
What other proof do we need?