The Apostle Thomas – Part 4 – From Despair to Declaration

by Stephen Rodgers

Part 4 of 4: John 20:26-28

We’ve seen that Thomas doubted that Jesus rose from the dead.  But was his doubt so bad?  Did that really distinguish him from the rest of the disciples?  Not at all!  Scripture tells us that the other disciples didn’t believe that Jesus had risen until He appeared to them as well.  The women tried to tell them, but they wouldn’t listen to them either.
Matthew 28:16-17 tells us that “some doubted.”  Mark 16:9-11 tells us that when “they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.”  And Luke 24:8-11 states that “their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them.”
It’s almost comical.  The disciples who were so recently sharing in Thomas’ skepticism are now attempting to convert him to their perspective, but they can’t.  One can almost imagine Mary Magdelene in the background shaking her head…”Now you know what it feels like to have the greatest news in the history of the world…and be unable to find an audience.  Good job guys.  Good job.”  Welcome to the role-reversal.
Until finally Christ himself appears to Thomas.  Again, you can almost picture Thomas…he wants to believe so badly.  This is what he wants more than anything else.  He can’t cry anymore, he’s cried until he has no more tears.  He can’t decide whether his friends are preying on his fears or simply have snapped.  He’s probably replayed the events of the past week hundreds of times in his mind…”If only we never went to the garden…if only we’d tossed Judas overboard on the Sea of Galilee…if only we’d defended Him from the mob, at least we could have died with Him!…If only we…If only I…”
Maybe he’s blinking.  Maybe he’s rubbing his eyes.  He probably walking towards Jesus, terrified that when he gets there it will all have been a hallucination or a trick of the light.  And Jesus turns to him.  He looks into the eyes of his teacher, who he never thought to see again.  And then Jesus speaks to him.  He hears the voice of his master, who he never thought to hear again!
Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
Jesus’ words are not mocking.  They don’t repudiate Thomas; they reassure Him.  Thomas had seen his Lord cast out demons, walk on water, heal the sick, give sight to the blind, give speech to the lame, run semantic circles around the intellectual elite of his day, and forgive sins…so a little omniscience is par for the course.  Jesus is reminding Thomas that He knows him; He understands his doubt, which stems not from a hardened heart…but from an utterly broken one.
And so Thomas does the appropriate thing.  He understands.  And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” What a statement!  Even Simon Peter needed divine revelation from God to say those words.  And yet Thomas utters them spontaneously, of his own initiative, out of a belief that comes from love.
“Doubting Thomas” indeed.  I wish I was more like him.
That’s the last time Scripture explicitly mentions Thomas.  Church tradition says that he carried the gospel to India where he was martyred.  The book or Revelation mentions him implicitly when it says that the names of the twelve are written on the gates of Heaven.  But we don’t know anything else about Thomas, which is pretty much the point.  This isn’t his story; he’s just an illustration to show us a greater truth.   That when God gets ahold of the heart of a depressed, pessimistic skeptic and his friends, He can utterly change the world.

We’ve seen that Thomas doubted that Jesus rose from the dead.  But was his doubt so bad?  Did that really distinguish him from the rest of the disciples?  Not at all!  Scripture tells us that the other disciples didn’t believe that Jesus had risen until He appeared to them as well.  The women tried to tell them, but they wouldn’t listen to them either.

Matthew 28:16-17 tells us that “some doubted.”  Mark 16:9-11 tells us that when “they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.”  And Luke 24:8-11 states that “their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them.”

It’s almost comical.  The disciples who were so recently sharing in Thomas’ skepticism are now attempting to convert him to their perspective, but they can’t.  One can almost imagine Mary Magdelene in the background shaking her head…”Now you know what it feels like to have the greatest news in the history of the world…and be unable to find an audience.  Good job guys.  Good job.”  Welcome to the role-reversal.

Until finally Christ himself appears to Thomas.  Again, you can almost picture Thomas…he wants to believe so badly.  This is what he wants more than anything else.  He can’t cry anymore, he’s cried until he has no more tears.  He can’t decide whether his friends are preying on his fears or simply have snapped.  He’s probably replayed the events of the past week hundreds of times in his mind…”If only we never went to the garden…if only we’d tossed Judas overboard on the Sea of Galilee…if only we’d defended Him from the mob, at least we could have died with Him!…If only we…If only I…”

Maybe he’s blinking.  Maybe he’s rubbing his eyes.  He probably walking towards Jesus, terrified that when he gets there it will all have been a hallucination or a trick of the light.  And Jesus turns to him.  He looks into the eyes of his teacher, who he never thought to see again.  And then Jesus speaks to him.  He hears the voice of his master, who he never thought to hear again!

Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

Jesus’ words are not mocking.  They don’t repudiate Thomas; they reassure Him.  Thomas had seen his Lord cast out demons, walk on water, heal the sick, give sight to the blind, give speech to the lame, run semantic circles around the intellectual elite of his day, and forgive sins…so a little omniscience is par for the course.  Jesus is reminding Thomas that He knows him; He understands his doubt, which stems not from a hardened heart…but from an utterly broken one.

And so Thomas does the appropriate thing.  He understands.  And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” What a statement!  Even Simon Peter needed divine revelation from God to say those words.  And yet Thomas utters them spontaneously, of his own initiative, out of a belief that comes from love.

“Doubting Thomas” indeed.  I wish I was more like him.

That’s the last time Scripture explicitly mentions Thomas.  Church tradition says that he carried the gospel to India where he was martyred.  The book or Revelation mentions him implicitly when it says that the names of the twelve are written on the gates of Heaven.  But we don’t know anything else about Thomas, which is pretty much the point.  This isn’t his story; he’s just an illustration to show us a greater truth.   That when God gets ahold of the heart of a depressed, pessimistic skeptic and his friends, He can utterly change the world.

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The Beacon is the monthly newsletter for Lighthouse Bible Church in San Diego, California. It covers a variety of subjects including LBC events, church history, current events from a Christan perspective, ministry profiles, and messages from our pastors and elders. To join the Beacon ministry, please contact Stephen Rodgers.

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