Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Jesus Had a Twin: Coupling Faith and Doubt During Holy Week

Jesus had a twin.

His name: Thomas.

Syrian believers knew the name alone connotated this disciple as one who was not the only one to take up residence in his mother's womb.

Greek speakers knew him by another name, "Didymus," for the same reason.

Thomas or Didymus, both mean twin.

We are not certain of the identity of Thomas' gestational roommate, but the early Gnostics had a theory. Thomas was Jesus' twin whose birth-story went untold. That's right, while innkeepers may not have been able to squeeze the Holy Family into their shelter, Mary's womb apparently had room for one more.

I guess being betrothed to a virgin carrying the Messiah was not enough of a shocker for Joseph.

It's also a minor element of the incarnation the angel left out of his Advent declaration.

Details.

I am not sure if Jesus and Thomas really were womb-mates (sorry for the parent of twins joke). Actually, as much as it would make for a great story and build on the Jacob and Esau motif within the Jewish narrative, I doubt this was Thomas' identity.

Pun intended.

Regardless of the legend, Jesus did have a twin within his cast of followers who was doubly perplexed and coupled both extradordinary faith and raw skepticism.

We are more than familiar with Thomas' hesistancy to believe in Jesus' resurrection, demanding to see evidence before trusting the Messianic mission for even one more day.

"Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails, and my hand in his side, I will not believe." (John 20: 25)

We are not as familiar with Thomas' zeal and willingness to actually die with his beloved Teacher, who was about to return to hostile territory in efforts to resurrect his friend, Lazarus. You can say that before "Doubting" Thomas, there was Didymus, the purest proclamant of unfading and radical obedience.

"Let us also go; that we may die with him." (John 11:16)

This sort of bold declaration is not recorded anywhere else by any other disciple. Yet no other disciple is labeled as a doubter.

So, which is it?

Skepticism or trust?

Fear or obedience?

Doubt or faith?

Maybe they are meant to be paired together.

Maybe our spiritual gestation couples both within the womb of discipleship.

Maybe Thomas is us. Maybe we are Thomas' twin. Doubly willing and yet doubly perplexed.

As Holy Week begins, may we both confront and embrace our dual identity as believers and doubters. May we trust God's ability to work through our darkest doubts. May we give thanks for how the Spirit propels us towards faithful obedience.

May we hold on hope and believe just enough that God will once and for all reveal to us not only the resurrected Christ, but also a world made new and right.

Thomas did. That's why he went to India.

But you have to look that up for yourself.

"We often think that if we have doubt, we don’t have faith. In reality, they are inextricably tied to each other in the human experience, each one helping make the other more real. The presence of doubt doesn’t mean we’ve lost our faith. It creates the space to actually find it...Doubt and faith need each other; any faith that can't hold up to doubt isn't faith at all."

Kathy Escobar, Down We Go, pp. 138-139

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**Here is an intriguing excerpt from Bart Ehrman's, Lost Christianities. I say intriguing, but I am not sold :)

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