When in Doubt

New LifeIf dead people don’t stay dead, what can you believe? I think that is exactly what Jesus’ close followers were thinking every time he appeared in their midst after his death. Seriously. Wouldn’t you?

Go back and read the stories. While each of the stories about the resurrection have variations, there is one thing they all have in common. No one, absolutely no one, believes the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. No one believes it, and that includes Jesus’ closest friends. The same friends who gave up their careers to follow him! In fact, doubt and disbelief start with his followers.

We’ve been making the rounds of the resurrection stories this Easter season. We looked at Mark’s version on Easter and John’s version next. Today is Luke’s version. Luke tells us the men dismissed the women’s of the empty tomb as an idle tale, and they did not believe them. No doubt that’s exactly what you would expect from women.

But when Peter came back with the same news of the empty tomb and, while the two who encountered while walking on the road to Emmaus are recounting their story, Jesus just shows up! Out of nowhere. Jesus invites them to touch him to dispel their doubts, and yet they are still not quite sure. Luke describes it like this:  While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering. 

I love this. Even after all this, they still don’t believe. What’s even more marvelous is that they have both joy and doubt at the same time. Doubt is not the opposite of faith. In fact, I believe doubt is very much a part of faith. Faith is not just belief or just knowledge. Faith is much more dynamic. Faith is trusting even when all the evidence isn’t in or all the facts known. Faith is acting as if something is true even if there is no proof.

That’s why the disciples had joy even when still in doubt. That’s the kind of faith that will sustain when there is also doubt about how. That’s the kind of faith that will bring peace when there is chaos. That’s the kind of faith the will comfort in the midst of great pain and sorrow.

Alan Jones, former dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco said, “The opposite of faith is not doubt, the opposite of faith is certainty.” If we’re really honest with ourselves, with all the death and trauma and disappointments and tragedy that touches every human life, and you’re not having some difficulty believing Jesus was brought back from death, much less believing God grants second chances through grace and forgiveness for everyone, anyone … then you aren’t paying attention.

Jesus’ faithful followers continued to gather in all their joy and doubt. And somewhere along the way, they went out as if all that Jesus had taught them was true. If it’s true that God will renew all creation and grant all a new life … If it’s true that nothing or anything can ever separate us from God’s all-encompassing love … It it’s true that God will not turn God’s back on any of us, but always be reaching for us with forgiveness and grace … If any of it’s true, much less all of it’s true, how might I now live my life differently? How might this living, trusting, courageous faith change me?

 

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