He might have been called Thomas the realist, or skeptical Thomas. But Jesus Himself gave Thomas the title he would be known by down through the centuries — doubting Thomas. The apostle refused to believe that the resurrected Jesus, whom he had seen crucified, had appeared to the ten other apostles. Until he could see and feel the wounds received by Jesus on the cross, he could not accept their story. Thomas was present when Jesus appeared to them again. Jesus personally addressed the pessimistic apostle, showing him His wounds and saying, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (John 20:27 NIV)
I find myself relating to Thomas. My belief sometimes wavers in the face of hardship, prayers unanswered the way I would want, the pull of worldly thinking. Even after many years as a Christian, the question, what if? still niggles at times. What if this is all a story made up by men? What if there is no heaven? What if I’ve put my faith in a dream? The enemy of my soul loves to stick that question into my head to confuse me. I refuse to entertain it.
Thomas was a questioner. He needed physical proof to believe the outlandish story his fellow apostles were telling him. Even though he had lived with these men for three years, trusted them with his life, he still could not accept what they claimed to see. This is where I wish there were more details to the story. How could Thomas doubt when he had witnessed Jesus performing miracles and raising the dead? How can we deny the sincere witness of someone with a changed life, a healed heart, a peaceful spirit, because of Christ living within them? But often we do. We look for every possible alternative instead of believing Christ has changed them from the inside out.
When Jesus appeared again to the disciples in a locked room, He deliberately sought out Thomas. He didn’t rebuke him for his doubt, but instead compassionately offered him proof of His resurrection. Jesus lovingly met him at the point of his weakness. Just like He does with us. In our constant battle to maintain our faith, He is committed to help us in our unbelief. We may not have His physical body for proof but we have the true, inspired Word of God containing eyewitness accounts of His resurrection. We have the witness of the Holy Spirit alive within us, burning in our hearts with the truth of a living Savior. We experience our own lives changed, and evidence of Christ’s spirit at work in the lives of other believers.
Thomas began as a doubter, but ended up a believer. Once he saw the proof of the wounds in Jesus’ resurrected body, He exclaimed to Him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28), declaring his faith in the deity of Jesus, the Messiah and Son of God. Jesus told Thomas, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29) Thomas believed because he saw actual evidence which convinced him. We are given the choice to either hold out for physical proof or believe in the resurrected, ascended Christ even when we do not see Him. This takes hard, stretching faith. Faith in the face of doubts and questions. Jesus knew we would not have Thomas’ advantage so He promised us a special blessing, that “by believing we may have life in His name.” (John 20:31) Doubt dissipates in the reality of such a life with such a Savior.
(I have included this song in another recent post, however it musically expresses the theme of this post as well. SD)