It’s Easter, which means at some point we will focus on poor old Thomas. Doubting Thomas as you probably know him. Thomas has been taught to most christians as the guy that had no faith. That he doubted everything. And so we’ve kinda latched on to him as the pin-up boy for those who doubt and require evidence before believing. Which is most of us at one point or another.
Well, I think we have misread Thomas and connected some doubting dots that don’t really exist. Let me explain.
Thomas is only mentioned a few times in Scripture, which seems a little odd for one of the disciples. Apart from when he was called to follow Jesus, he only appears on three occasions. I want to focus on two of them.
The first comes in John 14:5-9. Here’s how the conversation rolls:
Thomas: Lord, we don’t know where You are going, so how can we know the path?
Jesus: I am the path, the truth, and the energy of life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you know Me, you know the Father. Rest assured now; you know Him and have seen Him.
Thomas asks a very specific and direct question to Jesus. He had the audacity to ask, and Jesus clearly honours his question with a simple and profound response. Thomas bypasses everyone else, even the other disciples and experts around him. He wants to talk with Jesus for the real answer.
Remember, because Thomas is a disciple he’d be following Jesus all day and night. For whatever reason he isn’t mentioned more, which makes this dialogue even more important.
And then good ‘ol Philip chimes in with a question of clarification:
Philip: Lord, all I am asking is that You show us the Father.
Jesus (to Philip): I have lived with you all this time, and you still don’t know who I am? If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father. How can you keep asking to see the Father?
Philip, who we can safely assume is in on the conversation with Jesus and Thomas, asks for further confirmation. Maybe we see the emergence of doubting Philip? I’d be banking on Philip to be the doubting one at this point, not Thomas.
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The second mention for Thommo comes in John 20:24-28 after the resurrection. It goes like this:
All of the eleven were present with the exception of Thomas. Thomas heard the accounts of each brother’s interaction with the Lord.
The absence of Thomas stands out here. Why isn’t he with his friends mourning the death of their close friend? We don’t really know, but he probably needs some space to digest it. Or maybe it’s some of Thomas’ personality coming out. Introvert tendencies maybe?
The Other Disciples: We have seen the Lord!
Just quietly, that’s a pretty compelling statement right there from Thomas’ friends. Or it’s a really nasty prank, playing on the sadness Thomas is surely feeling after the death of Jesus. Nevertheless, Thomas isn’t swayed. Read his response to his mates:
Thomas: Until I see His hands, feel the wounds of the nails, and put my hand to His side, I won’t believe what you are saying.
Eight days later, they gathered again behind locked doors; and Jesus reappeared. This time Thomas was with them.
Jesus: May each one of you be at peace.
Then He drew close to Thomas.
These five words reveal the extent of the relationship Jesus and Thomas shared. Intimacy between them abounds in this tender exchange of words.
Jesus: Reach out and touch Me. See the punctures in My hands; reach out your hand, and put it to My side; leave behind your faithlessness, and believe.
Thomas (filled with emotion): You are the one True God and Lord of my life.
The direct words of Jesus confirm what he hoped to be true. Jesus confronts Thomas’ faithlessness and honors their relationship and Thomas’ desire to know beyond all doubt that he is in fact alive. This new-found knowledge for Thomas is not based on a friends testimony and experience, but the very revelation of God himself. A truth that will stay with him forever.
* * * * *
These two examples show Thomas is anything but doubting. I’d rather say he is incredibly discerning. It’s not Jesus he is doubting, but his friends. Thomas shows he has more confidence in the words of Jesus than Philip! That’s profound.
Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t leave us hanging when we have moments of faithlessness. When our friends tell us something of God, it can often seem too good to be true. But when we’re not sure, Jesus gently leads us deeper into himself, opens up his wounds and proves he is alive. With direct revelation like that, who wouldn’t be moved to worship and obedience? Thomas certainly was.
So this easter, don’t rely on the words of other people for a revelation of Jesus. Don’t put all your faith and hope in the words of mere mortals and the second-hand experience of your friends, pastor or bible expert. Instead, open your ears and your heart to the words of life that really matter, the words of Jesus himself.
Let go of the latest gossip, research or theory about Jesus and search out a one-to-one encounter. Be like Thomas and desire a response direct from the man himself.
And when you do, you too will join Thomas and declare “You are the one True God and Lord of my life!”