Thomas’s Doubt, a Biblical Drama for the Sunday after Easter — Gobledales, UK

Second Sunday of Easter (Sunday after Easter), Year C

John 20:19-31

Acts 5: 27-32

*Bible quotations are from ‘The Inclusive Bible,’ Rowman & Littlefield publishers 2007 www.rowmanlittlefield.com

Certainties & Doubts: a Biblical drama

The worship leader interviews ‘Doubting Thomas’ discussing doubt, faith and our world today.  The script includes an introduction and conclusion and an opening and closing prayer.  These and the examples from current world events may need to be changed to fit the local congregation and environment.

Interviewer:         Cynics say there are only two certainties in life, death and …taxes.

But I think there are some other certainties that many, if not all of us, live by.  Try these on for size:

  • I am certain tomorrow the sun will…
  • I am certain if I push this book off the edge it will…
  • Even in spite of the bizarre weather this past winter, I was always certain that following winter would come…

Enter Thomas.

Thomas:     ‘I’ll never believe it without putting my finger in the nail marks and my hand into the spear wound.’  (Thomas folds his arms and freezes.)

Interviewer:         Who do you think that is?  Yes, Doubting …Thomas.  When Jesus finally appears to Thomas, a week after the resurrection, Jesus grants Thomas’s demand.  Jesus says, “Take your finger and examine my hands. Put your hand into my side. Don’t persist in your unbelief…’  (Said slowly),  Do… not…doubt.

(Speaking to Thomas)  Thomas, you receive a lot of bad press down through the years.

Thomas:     I do.   At least one theologian writes, and I quote, “the stupidity of Thomas is astonishing, monstrous… Thomas is not only obstinate, but also proud and contemptuous in his treatment of Christ.”

Interviewer:         Ooh, that’s harsh.  Yet, even today, we warn each other not to be a doubting… Thomas.

Thomas:     Indeed.  But there is more to me than that.

Interviewer:         So it seems.  John does write in his gospel that you are the disciple who asks Jesus to show you the way to our Creator.  And, you are the one who boldly says to your fellow disciples, “Let us go, that we may die with him, with Jesus.”   You may be doubtful, but you seem to truly follow Jesus.   Why does John write these good things of you in his Gospel even as he shares this unfavourable story of your, well, your terrible doubt?

Thomas:     John does not oppose doubt.  Actually, he thinks a healthy amount of doubt will help strengthen and mature one’s faith.  And he writes to assure the church of my day, and the church of your day, that doubt is okay.

Interviewer:         Doubt is okay?  My Google search says that doubt is the opposite of faith, that…doubt, distrust, disbelief all oppose faith.  What do you mean, doubt is okay?

Thomas:     What I mean is, doubt is a part of faith, and not necessarily the enemy of faith, or the opposite of faith, as your Google search claims.  If you picture faith as a gem, like a diamond, doubt is one of the facets, one of the faces of faith.   One could even say it adds value to the diamond, to faith, rather than mar it.

Interviewer:         I like that image of faith being like a precious stone with different facets.

Thomas:     I overheard you earlier, talking to the congregation about certainties.  Certainty, like doubt, is a facet of faith, a facet on the face of the diamond.   A healthy amount of certainty is definitely good for us!  A reasonable dose of certainty is a good thing, something we can live by.  For example, it is good to know that, if you step off the ledge of a high cliff it is certain you will…fall.

Interviewer:         (Slowly)… Right, but are you suggesting that a person can have too much certainty?  That certainty can be a bad thing?

Thomas:     Absolutely.

Interviewer:         You seem quite certain about that!

Thomas:     As certain as I can be!

Interviewer:         What are some examples?  I am not quite following you.

Thomas:     Here’s one.  In 1900 at a meeting of American Methodist Bishops, one Bishop stands up and boldly proclaims with great certainty that if People were intended to fly, God would have given them…wings.

Interviewer:   Ah, right.  And in 1903, only three years later, the Wright brothers successfully fly their first…aeroplane.  Okay.  But what about something more recent?

Thomas:     Here is an example of over-zealous-certainty from South Africa.  As late as 1990 some conservatives in South Africa proclaimed with certainty that Blacks would never have the right to…vote.

Interviewer:  And that certainty was consigned to the rubbish bins of history on April 26th 1994, with South Africa’s first free and fair elections, when everyone—Black, White, Asian, and so-called Coloureds—everyone, cast their votes.

Thomas:     People wept at the views on the telly news.  So many had faith that it would happen, and yet they could not believe until they saw it for themselves.

Interviewer:    So you are saying that both “certainties” and doubts, if we hold on to them too tightly, can leave us stuck and static?   Unmoving in the face of change?

Thomas:     Yes, look around.  Things have changed.  Things are changing!  The unimaginable has happened and is happening!  The once “certain” has become history, and doubting “Thomases” like me, have been convinced.  Peace between North Ireland and Ireland.  Civil Rights for people in South Africa and the United States.  Legalisation of same-sex marriages in many nations.  Women rising to leadership in business, medicine, education, politics, even the church—women bishops!  Next the Pope!  Okay, maybe not this year.

Interviewer:         And men being the primary carers for children and aging parents.  The world is a changing place.

Thomas:     In spite of our doubts, or our certainties, the Word of God will continue to renew our world, and set people free to be the people that God has created them to be.  Who is next?  (Replace with current responses from the news, if helpful.)

  • Our children and youth speaking up about impending climate change?
  • Pope Francis on bended knee kissing the feet of the President of South Sudan, and the possible end of conflict in South Sudan?
  • People who live in the fear of nuclear attack?
  • The so-called lower and sub-classes of our own society?

You all can think of examples where it is hard to believe that good things can happen.

Interviewer:         I begin to see how a dose of doubt can actually free us from bondage to old truths.  Then the certainties of the past can give way to new ideas, and new truths.  It reminds me of that hymn, Once to every heart and nation, comes the moment to decide, in the strife of truth with falsehood for the good or evil side…

Thomas:     Yes, as that hymn goes on to say, time makes ancient truths uncouth, time makes ancient truths old and worn out.  That’s what happened to me with Jesus.

Interviewer:         You mean your doubt in the resurrected Jesus?

Thomas:     I just could not reconcile the truth I held in my head of God’s perfection, with the fact that Jesus had been wounded and killed.  Betrayed, abandoned, whipped and hung on a cross to die, how could such things happen to God’s own beloved child, God’s special chosen one?

Interviewer:         Reports of Jesus’ resurrection left you filled with distrust, disbelief…

Thomas:     Oh, go ahead and say it, I was left filled with…

Interviewer:         Doubt?

Thomas:     Yes, filled with doubt.  My absolutes, my certainties were put into question.

But then when the risen Jesus appeared and showed me wounded hands, feet and sides, I could only cry out and confess, “My Saviour and my…God.”

Now my faith was even stronger!

Interviewer:         What a testimonial.  Certainty led to doubt.  And doubt led to greater faith!  Thank you, Thomas, for sharing with us this morning.   Pray with me.

God, as we travel through life’s valleys, in the places of darkness, and despair, we know that you are with us.

Even when life’s doubts assail us, we know that you still abide with us, watching over us.

Strengthen our faith.

Help us remember that you never give us more than we can handle.

Embolden us to share our doubts, to question our absolute truths, our certainties, and to grow ever closer to you.

In your love, hear our pray.  Amen.