Thomas the Risk Taker

John 20:19-31

The moniker, "Doubting Thomas" might generally evoke a negative response. Thomas was the man who doubted that Jesus arose from the dead. If someone compared you to him, you might consider it an insult. But as we consider this Gospel, if we examine his life a little more broadly, we may gain an appreciation for his strong faith, and his willingness to risk everything out of his love for Jesus.  He, in truth, is an example for us to follow.

 

It’s really only in John's Gospel that we get any kind of story line on Thomas, and in fact, in John, he is only mentioned three times.  In addition to today's story, we find Thomas at the Last Supper, where he says, "Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?"- there we may refer to him as the "inquiring Thomas".   

 

But the only other time we hear him speak is when we first meet him - in the story of Lazarus. At that time, if you recall, Jesus tells the disciples that he was going to Judea and to see his friend Lazarus, who had just died.  They became incensed and said, "Lord, don’t you remember the last time you were in Judea?  The Jews tried to kill you!  They wanted to stone you!  If you go back, they may very well succeed." The disciples tried to stop him, fearing for his life, and of course, their own.

 

It is important for us to notice here, that at no time did Jesus force (or even ask) the disciples to go with him.  At any point along the way the disciples could have spoken up and have refused to go.  They could have said, “Hey, this man has a death wish” and could have left him.

 

It was precisely at that moment that we meet Thomas.  Fully realizing the danger of returning to Judea, it was Thomas who spoke up and said to the other disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."  

 

What an affirmation of faith that was!  It was clearly an expression of love for Jesus. In essence, he was saying, "If the people take up stones and kill Jesus, let us die with him.  If he is cast into prison, let us go to prison also." These are powerful words; words that should cause us to remember something that Jesus said on another occasion: "Greater love has no man than this - that a man lay down his life for a friend."

 

This statement showed the great love that Thomas had for Jesus and showed his great courage, risking everything.  Instead of calling Thomas the Doubter, we should really call him Thomas the Risk Taker.

If we love Jesus, we too are called to be risk takers.  Think about it... there is risk involved in committing ourselves to our faith.  We may alienate ourselves from family members that we care about by spending so much time in church and engaged in church activities.   There is risk in being faithful stewards, giving away our financial resources.  And there is reputational risk in telling a colleague or friend about Jesus amidst a culture that increasingly hostile toward “religious zealots.”

 

The titans of our faith were risk takers. We celebrate Moses. He was a risk taker.  He stood up before the greatest military force in the world and led the Israelites out of Egypt.  We celebrate David, a young shepherd boy, who took a risk and faced the mighty warrior Goliath on the battlefield with nothing but a sling and a faith in God.  We celebrate

Mother Teresa, who faced risk as she devoted her life to leper colonies.

 

Faith always means risk, but come think of it, everything in life is a risk.  In Ecclesiastes we hear, “When you work in a quarry, stones might fall and crush you! When you chop wood, there is danger with each stroke of your ax! Such are the risks of life”. There’s nothing we can do that doesn’t have some element of risk in it.

 

But the greatest risk of all is how we relate to other people and how we relate to God, and the risk to do something about those relationships. In Mark’s Gospel it says, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength”. We take a risk when we love with all your heart. Is it worth the risk? Absolutely. Jesus reminded us that one of the greatest mistakes we can make is to play it safe with our lives. He said, “If you try to keep your life for yourself, you’ll lose it.”

 

We might remember the part in the third Indiana Jones movie where Indiana Jones came to the edge of a cliff. He was challenged to step out over the cliff even though he couldn't see a bridge beforehand. That's a pretty good picture of genuine faith. Faith is stepping out and doing what God has asked us to do when we can't see what will happen in the end. We don't know exactly what God's going to do in the end, but we know he’s asking us to step out in faith.

 

Many times we’ll come to the edge of faith in our own lives. We’re not sure where things are headed. Maybe it is a decision to start a real relationship with Jesus for the first time. Maybe we need to trust him with a business decision or something related to a relationship.

 

On April 28, the landscape of the Diocese will change because of On Mission. It might be scary to think about what church life life look like on the other side of the change. What will be our response?  Will we live in denial, grudgingly altering our Mass routine when the time comes, or will we step out in faith, committing to be a part of the solution that has as its hope a more vibrant parish with more effective ministries?

 

There is a risk in stepping out in faith. Are we willing to trust God enough to let him guide us to decisions that abandon the safe road?

 

Pastor Rick Warren (of Purpose Driven Life fame) applied the 80/20 rule to faith. He says, “If you'll do the 80 percent of God's will that's clear in the scriptures, he'll show you the 20 percent that's not clear. In other words, love your neighbor. Spend time in God's Word. Spend time with God in prayer. Spend time with God's people. Love your family. Love your kids. Protect the way that you speak to and about people. Be kind in your relationships. Be patient. Do the 80 percent that’s clear, and God will show you the rest”, through his mercy and grace.

 

It is evident that Thomas had not yet figured out every thing Jesus was talking about. He spent time inquiring and discerning before taking the leap of faith. But one thing was for sure: Thomas loved Jesus and he wanted to know more about him – not a bad model for us to follow!

 

Was Thomas a failure?  We suppose it would be easy for us to scold Thomas for his doubt, for his uncertainty, but when we do so, we must also chastise ourselves. Each of us have had those moments of doubt.  Instead of calling Thomas a doubter perhaps we should look at him as an example to follow - seeking the truth at all times, and when called upon, be willing to take a leap of faith.  If we have a love like Thomas that is so deep and sincere, we'll be more willing risk takers. 

 

So, let us pray today that we, like Thomas, will grow in curiosity - to have an inquiring mind to know more about Jesus.  Whatever courage we have, and risks we take, none of it can compare to the courage Jesus had and the risk that he took for us.  Regardless of our moments of doubt and insecurity, let us give witness to the fact that Jesus is our Lord and God, by our willingness to boldly say "yes Lord, I am willing to take the next step forward in my faith journey and follow wherever you lead me."

 

Amen!

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