Do you sometimes have doubts? Wondering, questioning your faith and then feeling guilty about it, those kinds of doubts?
You’re not alone.
“Doubting Thomas” is a familiar Bible character. One of Jesus’s original apostles, he had seen all the miracles. He’d even participated in some of them!
And yet, “tch, tch, tch,” he declared he would have to see and feel Jesus alive again for himself, in order to believe he’d really been resurrected.
What a disappointment Thomas must have been. Jesus commented, “Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)
Did you know Thomas wasn’t the only one? Hundreds of people saw Jesus back from the dead, alive and well just as he had promised. “After that He appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep.” (1Cor 15:6)
And yet some of the apostles doubted! When they saw Jesus, “they worshiped him… but some doubted.” (Matthew 28:17) Amazing.
But doubting wasn’t a new sensation for them. Jesus had explained more than once that he would be killed — he had to be killed to fulfill prophecy — but don’t worry, he would rise again! And they just didn’t quite believe it.
He’d done many miracles along the way. Multiplied food, healed sick people, cleansed lepers, cast out demons, raised dead folks. The twelve hadn’t just seen it, they had done it too! So how could they doubt?
Well, the word doubt in Matthew 28 is “distazo,” meaning to waver; to believe two opposing things. “Yes, it’s true. No, it’s not true.”
Jesus spoke that word to Peter. Jesus said, “Come,” so Peter did, he left the boat to walk on the water like Jesus, but soon began to sink.
“Why did you doubt?” Jesus asked him. (Matthew 14:28-31) “Come” surely meant that Yes, Peter could do it, he could walk on the water too! And so he climbed out of the boat. But as his senses saw, heard and felt the storm, his resolve wavered. No, he couldn’t, all his senses said. Jesus could, but Peter couldn’t.
Chiding him, Jesus pointed out the problem: Peter’s wavering between belief and doubt; resulting in little faith. Peter called out for help, “Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ (Mat 14:31 ESV)
One other thought: Jesus’s Why question means Peter could choose between two options: “Yes, I can do this,” or “No, I can’t do this.” He chose the right one first, but then switched to the wrong one.
After Jesus rose from the dead, his followers (men and women) still had problems with doubt. Maybe his promise wasn’t of a physical resurrection, they probably wondered; maybe it was only spiritual. But the tomb is empty — where is his body?
Jesus’s voice convinced Mary but she couldn’t convince the others. They all had to see him in person, hear his voice. Thankfully Jesus was understanding, and fulfilled their desire. (Mark 16:9-11)
Wavering is still a problem with Christians.
“But he must ask in faith without any doubting (wavering), for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that person ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (Jas 1:6-8 NASB20)
Doubt / waver here is the Greek word “diakrino,” meaning to examine all the facts in order to determine the truth, but never coming to a final decision. Yes, it’s true! No, it’s not true! Faith-nullifying wavering and doubting.
Paul also addressed this problem. “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” (1Cor 16:13 NASB20)
Do you have doubts sometimes? You’re not alone. So did the apostles! Just don’t stay there. Choose the right option.