I’m linking up with Jen and our Soli Deo Gloria sisters!
“You’re such a Doubting Thomas!” When I hear someone say this, it’s usually meant as an insult, as if Thomas were not much better than Judas the betrayer. But I suspect we have been misjudging the guy. Let’s look at his doubt.
In Chapter 20 of his gospel, John, the best friend of Jesus, tells what happened on the first evening after Jesus rose from the dead. His closest disciples were hiding out in a locked room for fear of the Jewish officials. But then Jesus himself “came and stood among them,” John doesn’t say how. He showed them the nail scars in his hands and the spear gash in his side. They were overjoyed to have him alive again.
Thomas was absent that evening, so he didn’t see Jesus. Of course, his friends took the first chance to tell Thomas the good news. “We have seen the Lord!” That’s when Thomas gave the reply that sealed his reputation:
But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
Was Thomas saying that he didn’t want to believe Jesus had been resurrected? After all, Jesus had repeatedly criticized members of the religious establishment for their unbelief. Even though they had the prophets’ writings and saw Jesus fulfilling prophecy after prophecy, they refused to believe in him. But the Gospels make it clear that they were motivated by pride and ambition. What about Thomas?
Okay, fast-forward about a week. The disciples had hunkered down in a locked room again. This time all eleven, including Thomas, were together. Again, Jesus appeared in the room and told them all, “Peace be with you.”
And then he turned to Thomas. “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” He didn’t criticize Thomas, but simply offered him the very proof he had asked for. And did Thomas take him up on that invitation?
Well… not exactly. He didn’t need to, as it turned out. Instead of barging up to the Lord to touch the scars for himself, Thomas immediately responded, “My Lord and my God!” He was convinced.
As near as I can figure, Thomas was not unwilling to believe. He just wanted to make sure he believed the truth. And that isn’t a bad thing. A little healthy skepticism keeps you from chasing every random wind of doctrine you hear about. Thomas just wanted some evidence, and the truth can always stand up to the evidence.
I’ve heard that in one attempt to discredit the truth of the resurrection, someone advanced the theory that the disciples saw Jesus alive just because they wanted it so badly. A wishful-thinking-induced hallucination, or some such. It seems unlikely that a bunch of terrified fishermen could or would delude themselves like that, not to mention the hundreds of other people who saw Jesus after he rose from the dead.
But even if a person could see a miracle just from wanting to, Thomas’s demand for hard evidence left no room for wishful thinking. Quite the opposite. His very skepticism gives his eventual belief all the more authority.
Jesus had one more comment for Thomas. “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” I can’t help thinking that Thomas unknowingly helped provide part of that blessing through his care in making sure of the facts. The truth of the resurrection has already stood the test of a contemporary skeptic, so we who have not seen can believe.
May we all follow Thomas, then, in calling Jesus “My Lord and my God!”
Happy Easter. Really.
Thanks for reading,
PS: Thomas wasn’t the only skeptic. Check out chapter 16 of Mark’s gospel. Jesus appeared first to a couple of women followers. When they told the guys, none of them believed the news either, until they saw Jesus. So let’s all get off Thomas’s case.
PPS: If you’re wondering why Jesus died in the first place, see Romans 3:21-26.
PPPS: All Scripture quoted is from the English Standard Version.