The Doubting Jesus? (#TBT)

In Exploring Faith by Laura Buffington

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Laura Buffington

Laura Buffington

People can have pretty good reasons not to be people of any particular faith. Logical, emotional, relational, maybe even spiritual reasons. I have mine too. I have reasons I want to run away from what I believe or run away from the person I am because of my faith.

My reasons include losses from which I can’t seem to recover. Broken trusts I can’t seem to forget. Deep down suspicions that Chance might be the only thing that hears our prayers. But in the end—most days—I choose faith. In particular, an association with Jesus. I choose this because of the Thursday night before Easter.

The cross story on Friday has its good points. Suffering love. An innocent man submitting to the farthest reach of a broken justice system. The possibility that Jesus’ death on a cross translates to forgiveness for me and my friends and my enemies.

Easter has its finer points too. The hope of life after death tests well in nearly all the markets. The even wider truth that death of one thing could lead to a greater life for another thing. Easter sells. I’d like to think I’d buy it even if I hadn’t been raised to from infancy.

But it’s Thursday that gets me. It’s the image of a man—maybe even a God in disguise—choosing love with pain over life without pain. For all my good reasons to drop this yoke and run free, I stay because Jesus wonders.

This night shows a vulnerability in Jesus that can disturb those who love certainty. Is it possible he could have walked away? Could he have called an audible and wrecked all the odds of the gambling prophets?

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.”

The moment reveals some disconnect between Jesus and the God he often calls “Father” (and at least once, “Mother”). The giant “If” is especially telling. It sounds like he doesn’t know something. He doesn’t know if there’s some chance for another way. But Jesus hardly ever says comfortable things. He says true things. The truth of this moment is that he hesitates. He has doubts.

Don’t we all? Don’t we have moments where we have to move forward without seeing where we’re going? Don’t we wonder what God knows, what God can change, whether all these plans are as airtight as the confident people claim? Because Jesus does. To follow him could mean that he leads us in faith-filled uncertainty.

More importantly, what does Jesus hear in Gethsemane that gets him off his knees and onto the cross? We can only speculate. As an exercise in pure imagination, I wonder if Jesus hears suffering. Not his own, but ours. I wonder if he hears the lonely nights and the wailing widows and the grieving parents and the hungry bellies and the warring cities and the tired earth. And absorbing the power of your pain and mine, he carries it to his death. Maybe it even drives him out of the grave.

“That can’t be the way the story ends,” the universe says. God says. Life says. Hope says.

Blood, sweat and tears are a necessary storyline. But they are not the end. The end is the morning. Breakfast on the beach with friends. Death clothes neatly folded. That’s the end.

But for the love of God and the love of doubt, let’s not forget that Sunday only happens because Jesus plays though pain.

Photo (Flickr CC) by Thomas Berg

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Laura Buffington

Laura Buffington

Featured Storyteller
Laura Buffington is the Spiritual Formation Pastor at SouthBrook Christian Church near Dayton, Ohio and an adjunct professor at Cincinnati Christian University. She grew up in Columbus, Ohio but spent some good years in Tennessee at Milligan College and Emmanuel Christian Seminary. In 2013, Christian Standard named Laura one of the “Top 40 Under 40 Leaders.” While "Christian" shows up a lot in her life story and résumé, she wrestles a lot with faith and loves good conversations with people who see the world differently.