The other disciples were saying to him (Thomas), “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I shall see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
What a way to be remembered! Yet, isn’t it true that he demonstrated a basic honesty in his attitude, preferring to verify the fact of the resurrection for himself rather than relying on what others told him? It’s important to understand what Thomas said in context. Thomas, like the other disciples, had come to believe that Jesus was the promised and long-awaited Messiah who had come for the salvation of Israel. Finally, they thought, here was the one person who had been sent by God to set Israel free from the cruelties and oppression of their Roman rulers.
Then, two days after Jesus had been placed in the tomb, some women went to be near where He was buried and found that the tomb was empty. Not only that, they had actually seen Him alive, and rushed to report it to the disciples. Probably at that moment Thomas thought that the whole thing was nonsense, and that the women had been the victims of a hallucination. That evening, whilst Thomas was absent from the group, Jesus appeared to the other disciples. After this, as soon as they saw Thomas they excitedly told him the news that they seen and heard Jesus, yet Thomas found it hard to accept and expressed his doubts.
Yet is it not true that Thomas’ statement was more of an honest statement than anything else? In the light of all that he felt in terms of defeat and disillusionment, was it not far more honest of him to say that he would only believe what he could see with his own eyes, rather than to accept what others wanted him to believe? In fact, can you really blame him at all for his attitude?
I’m sure that many people can relate to Thomas. Sometimes it’s hard to believe, especially when things seem to be going wrong in your life. You do your best to live a good Christian life, doing the right things by others as you believe that God wants and expects of you, and then suddenly, WHAM! It’s as though someone’s hit you right between the eyes! Misfortune suddenly becomes your bedfellow and your life falls apart. It may be the loss of a job, or problems with debt, or problems with a relationship, or perhaps some devastating illness such as cancer, but the result is the same – you question how God could let it happen to you when you’ve been living a good life. All sorts of questions relating to your faith flood in at such times. How easy it is to identify with Thomas at such moments!
Scripture tells us that Jesus appeared again to the disciples after eight days, and this time Thomas was with the others and is addressed directly by Jesus, who tells him to place his fingers in the nail imprints and his hand in His side. Jesus is inviting Thomas to touch Him and believe. Whether Thomas did do this is not recorded, although it’s almost certain that he didn’t. Confronted by Jesus all Thomas can do is to exclaim, “My Lord and my God!” It’s important to note that Thomas recognises Jesus as God, as well as proclaiming Him his Lord.
I’m sure that many people are really like Thomas – full of honest doubts, yet many hide their doubts as well. Yet doubt is all part of the Christian’s journey of faith, for it’s when you doubt and question that you reason and seek out truth, and that’s when you grow in your faith. The best way to deal doubt is through prayer, and the best way to do this is to pray with someone who can trust enough to share your doubts with. Their faith will help to strengthen your faith at such times, helping to see you safely through the dark valley of doubt.
The response that Thomas got from Jesus is a comfort to every Christian: "You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who haven't seen me and believe anyway." This applies to all of us. We have not had the joy of seeing Jesus face to face, yet we believe in Him, and believe that He is the Son of God and we acknowledge Him to be our Living Lord. What a great blessing this is to us, to know that God is pouring out His goodness upon us! What a wonderful response to our showing faith in Jesus.
Yes, Thomas doubted, but he was honest in his doubting, and Christ met him at his point of need, resulting in a great strengthening of his faith. When we are honest enough to share our doubts and fears with God through the medium of prayer then we will find that Christ will meet us at our point of need too, and we will discover that through that meeting, our faith is strengthened as well.
There’s a little bit of Thomas in all of us, I suspect, but when considered honestly it can be a good thing.