FROM TORMENT TO TRANQUILITY
By Thomas Cosmades
In outer space of which man has touched its fringes, there are ongoing storms of ferocious velocity. Likewise, man’s inner world is the scene of unimaginable storms and counter-storms. Christ's disciples were not exempt from a variety of troubling onslaughts emanating from various directions. Physical storms are fashioned by contrasting elements. So it is with the fluctuating conflicts which regulate our actions or reactions.
St. Thomas was a disciple of Jesus Christ whose life and ministry carry great weight to the Christians in India, some of whom belong to the Martoma Church. In the Church calendar, the Sunday following Easter is celebrated as St. Thomas' Day. The emotional turmoil observed in the conduct of this renowned apostle exposes the span of conflicts surfacing within my soul and yours. Incidents affecting our overall behavior can be readily traced to battles that troubled this reputable disciple's life. It is of benefit for every believer to examine the pros and cons in Thomas' stormy behavior, which mirror our own ups and downs.
The noteworthy list below can direct our thoughts to an unbiased inventory of our individual stance in relation to the principle of consistency:
· Is the reality of the risen Christ governing my own existence and deportment?
· Is my assessment of existence geared to the supernatural, or to ordinary logic?
· Is my faith-life always inspired by the reality of the risen and ascended Christ?
Thomas (‘teoma’) in Aramaic, which means ‘twin') appears three times in John's Gospel in events very close to each other time-wise. The storms encountered by the apostle are reflections of our personal conflicts.
I. The Perplexity of Vacillating Dedication (John 11:7-16)
The necessity of passing from the safety of Trans-Jordan (cf. 10:40-42) to the animosity in Judea came into view. The disciples earnestly tried to dissuade their Lord from crossing the Jordan and exposing Himself to possible stoning (11:8). It is obvious that they were ruled by apprehension. Christ calmed their storm-tossed hearts by demonstrating that fear did not have any part in His mien and ministry. His use of the analogies walking and stumbling, light and night (9, 10), remind us that the steps of the God-appointed life move within the sphere of His sovereign designation. External forces are always subject to His supreme design.
Obviously, Thomas was apprehensive along with the others. However, he dared to put forward audacious support to His Master's courageous plan: "Let us also go, that we may die with Him" (16). Being certain that his Lord would not return from Jerusalem alive, he was gripped by religious melancholy − an uncalled-for tendency in a believer who should have been confident of the Lord's sovereignty. William James (1842-1910) said, "If religion is not an acute fever, it is a dull habit." Don't we all fall at times into the category of pursuing a dull habit, as Thomas was caught doing? Such behavior disregards even the impending possibility of death. Death becomes a convenient escape, a way out of a quandary. This attitude dragged the melancholic apostle to the inference of a senseless death. Daily we are surrounded by a stream of repulsive scenes of preventable loss of life:
We Christians often have a ready reply for injudicious options of death. We flash the answer, “Christ can save your life, making it worth living.” No convinced Christian entertains any doubt about this. Thomas had first-hand experience with his Master, but had yet to comprehend the whole weight of dedicated discipleship. Commitment to Christ is not a blind alley. It is a firm step of well-studied faith which is verified by Him who said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega.” Lamentably, sometimes we all fall into Thomas’ dilemma. Many lessons can be learned from his vacillation.
· How do we handle our inner crises?
· Do we have ample faith to guide us through the stormy and thorny paths of life?
Christ does not leave His follower to face his/her emergencies alone. Right at this moment, there are millions of Christians everywhere being fortified by their victorious Lord while enduring the ravages of a cruel life. Their course may even carry them to meaningful martyrdom. Thomas' dilemma cries out. Is our conduct like his in times of crisis? Here we are reminded of the resoluteness of our calm Redeemer, who beckons us to disown routine and superficial commitment. Thomas' perfunctory dedication opens the way to one of Christ's supreme declarations as He was about to bring His friend Lazarus back from death: "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live" (11:25).
II. The Liability of Quivering Projection (14:4-6)
Following Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem, there were three full days of extraordinary activity. Finally, we come to Thursday − a long day spent with the disciples, the parable of the vine, promise of the Holy Spirit, Passover meal, the inception of the Lord's Table, the traitor, washing the feet, intercessory prayer, arrest in the garden. Somewhere along this loaded day, Jesus disclosed to His disciples, "In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also" (2, 3). This authoritative statement ought to put the mind of any troubled believer at ease. A quick glance backward would have reminded the disciples of the power and splendor of the One extending this assurance. But all the certitude of the past could not rescue Thomas from his quandary. Immediately Thomas posed a natural question reflecting the thoughts of his disquieted spirit: "Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" (5).
Every mind is convinced about its own evaluations. These can be classified as unconditionally settled. A person may fight for his appraisals, considering them final. He may wish others to follow him. Thomas did this. He asked the question, supposedly representing them all. However, he shouldn’t have been so sure about the others’ wavering. It is not difficult to carry those near us to our own doubts and anxieties. Thomas did not display any caution about shifting his friends to the same slippery ground he was treading. His evaluation was logical to himself. His own projection of what lay ahead bore the marks of misgiving. Instead of keeping it to himself and see what the outcome would be, he put into words his shaky evaluation. Do you have some lack of conviction about your faith? Don’t make it public. Wrestle before God with your personal doubts; seek his guidance through His inspired Word and then supplication. Share them with someone who is stronger in his/her faith, and the Lord will direct your thoughts into His captivity.
Rejection of the essentials of the faith resulting from personal evaluations opens the road to possible heresy. Spreading doubts around recklessly leads to the perturbation of weak lives. Thomas’ quivering projection was checked by Christ’s commanding intervention: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me" (6). Christ is ever ready to dispel our biased queries. He is available to suppress every segment of darkness from our minds, illuminating them with his eternal light. Thomas was talking to the pre-resurrection Christ. At that moment Christ dissipated the doubts of Thomas’ natural mind. Thomas had yet to see the power of the resurrected Christ. We now face the post-resurrection Christ, glorified in the heavens. Through his Holy Spirit, Christ puts our wavering minds in order, making them channels of constructive thoughts (cf. Philippians 4:8). Christ can remove every kind of despair which makes for an unhealthy mind. Christ's encouraging words don't seem to have fully satisfied Thomas' anxiety. What about you and me? Is our persuasion about the Christ fully satisfactory to Him and to us? To those with whom we fellowship? Or is it irresolute at times? Our belief based on Christ's statement ought to be at the heart of all convictions. Without Christ, there is no going, no knowing, no living.
III. The Reliability of Satisfying Consecration (20:24-29)
When the verification of the four women who found the tomb empty reached the disciples, "these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them" (Luke 24:11). The resurrection was such a superlative climax to Christ’s passion that the disciples, and particularly Thomas, were sorrowfully skeptical about it. Thomas, whose name became synonymous with doubting, almost bade farewell to the most basic exercise, known as 'faith in Christ.’ The nature of this superlative miracle was so incomprehensible that he almost chose the path of unbelief. His overwhelming sorrow stripped him of the delight that can only be realized by uncompromising faith in the resurrected Christ.
He did not find it necessary to join the disciples that evening when the risen Christ appeared in His resurrected body, thereby missing an unforgettable experience. When the disciples informed him of having seen the risen Lord, his natural feelings got the best of him, just as happens to some of us at times. Not being a deliberate rejecter, he was in the company of the disciples at the reappearance of the Lord a week later. There Thomas met the risen Christ. At that moment, all doubts evaporated, and without putting his finger in the Lord’s side, he pronounced one of the most triumphant confessions of consecration: 'My Lord and my God!' (20:28). This convinced testimony has been the anthem of hundreds of millions throughout the ages who found their rest from a distress-tossed life in the arms of the resurrected Savior. Thomas' unreserved commitment brought out another absolute declaration from Christ: '…blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe' (29b).
Going back to his conflicting statements we can deduce that Thomas was not a rationalist or a determined unbeliever. Rationalists will to disbelieve. Thomas was cast into unbelief by distress. This state often comes upon believers encountering crises in their lives. Someone has observed three categories of unbelief besetting people everywhere:
· Scientific skepticism -- test tube religion
· Deliberate rejection (cf. Acts 28:24)
· "I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:23,24; Luke 17:5,6)
When the ten disciples brought the glad tidings to Thomas that they had met the risen Lord, his despondency and gloom did not immediately give way to jubilation, but to a stubborn expression of the heart. It is a known conflict in many people's life of faith: "I shall not believe, if …” (20:25).
A child of God must approach all areas of life by faith, thereby learning concrete lessons for spiritual progress. As God's Word states, belief in Christ's resurrection is a prerequisite for salvation (cf. Rom. 10:9, 10). While he was wrestling with his distressing trials, Job raised a spirited question, "If a man die, shall he live again?" (14:14).This is answered by a man who actually met the risen Christ: "But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep" (I Cor. 15:20).
Thomas' experiences with the living Savior should fortify everyone on their pilgrimage of faith. Christ's authoritative declarations can cheer your heart and uplift your soul, just as they did in the case of the disciple who turned from being chief doubter to chief defender of the resurrection.