A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe" (John 20:24-29, NRSV).
When Jesus came the first time, John says, Thomas wasn’t there.
He may have had a reason, but John doesn’t seem to care.
John simply states that Thomas wasn’t there when Jesus came.
So Thomas went on doubting, and because of that the name
of Thomas probably will be what it has always been:
a synonym for doubters, as if doubting were a sin.
But Jesus didn’t reprimand him, when he next appeared,
or criticize him for his doubt, as Thomas might have feared.
For Jesus knew that Thomas really wanted to believe,
and Thomas was a thinking person, not at all naive.
From Mark, and Luke, and Matthew we know nothing of the man,
except that he was one of the disciples. But we can
get some idea of the kind of person Thomas was
from incidents they don’t include, which the Fourth Gospel does.
For John has quoted this disciple in four diff’rent scenes,
and each of them should be examined as to what it means.
The first occurs when Jesus hears that Lazarus, his friend,
is deathly ill in Bethany and very near the end.
So Jesus tells the twelve that he is going there. They then
reply, “They want to stone you! Are you going there again?”
When Thomas sees that Jesus is determined he must go,
he says, “Let us go, too, that we may die with him also!”
These words reflect the courage of a man, who clearly knew
that going with his Master could well mean his own death, too.
Some think that Thomas’ words were not sincere at all, that he
was only voicing his frustration quite sarcastic’ly.
But Thomas never would have spoken to his Lord Like that,
especially at such a time. They’re talking through their hat!
There is no logical deduction from this first scene, save
that Thomas is, if nothing else, a loyal friend and brave.
The next scene in which Thomas speaks is in the upper room.
What Jesus has been telling them has filled their hearts with gloom,
about his going where they would not see him any more.
He tells them that they know the way, but Thomas isn’t sure:
“We don’t know where you’re going, Lord. How can we know the way?”
This is the doubter speaking, and he’s too honest to say
he understands when he does not what Jesus has in mind.
Some people would pretend to know, but he is not that kind.
Remember: Thomas loves Jesus enough to die for him,
but he is not the kind who blindly climbs out on a limb.
His mind will not just swallow what to him does not make sense.
His is the faith of one who uses his intelligence.
A faith like that deserves not condemnation, but our praise.
The proof of that is how Jesus responds to him. He pays
his questioning disciple, in a sense, a compliment,
responding with a saying that is most magnificent:
“I am the way, the truth, the life; no one can ever come
to God the Father but by me.” That word has bothered some,
who think it is an arrogant and too exclusive claim.
But those who have accepted Christ and trusted in his name
can understand what Jesus meant, for those who come to God
as he has been revealed in Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
have heard the gospel message of salvation, and have been
by grace delivered from the fear of death and from their sin.
So Thomas’ question does evoke a most important word
from Jesus. Thomas later would remember what he heard,
and some day he would understand what Jesus’ saying meant.
For now it’s doubtful if he comprehends its full intent.
The third scene is the one which has already been discussed,
where Thomas says that to believe Jesus appeared he must
see for himself the nail prints and the wound in Jesus’ side.
But Thomas has no difficulty swallowing his pride,
for when his Lord appears again, this time Thomas is there.
The joy of seeing Jesus is as much as he can bear.
When Jesus holds his hands out and says, “Put your finger here,
and touch my side,” does Thomas do so? It is very clear
that Thomas doesn’t need to see the wounds, for he is awed
and overwhelmed with joy, and so exclaims, “My Lord, my God!”
These aren’t the words of one who has considered evidence
and made a careful judgment based on pure intelligence.
These words flow not from Thomas’ mind but from his yearning heart,
for now he knows that it is true, as he’d hoped from the start.
What irony that one whose name is always linked with doubt
should be the first disciple in this manner to sing out
with such enthusiasm the divinity of Christ!
This incident alone across the ages has sufficed
to call Thomas’ confession the magnificent climax
of John’s whole Gospel. And when one considers all the facts,
Thomas the Twin should not be called “The Doubter” after all.
It seems unfair on such a man that sobriquet should fall.
For his was not the doubt of Rome, superior and bored,
nor of those who knew Joseph’s son could never be the Lord,
nor of the priests, demanding signs that they might scoff at them,
nor of the Pharisees, who questioned him just to condemn.
No, Thomas had a seeker’s doubt, inquiring but sincere.
He yearned to be convinced, as John has made completely clear.
When such a mind has been convinced, it’s wonderful to see,
for such a faith in Jesus Christ unshakable will be.
And what is most encouraging for us, as it turns out:
Thomas was not rejected on the basis of his doubt.
Christ never minds a question when the asker is sincere,
and that’s a message many seeking persons need to hear.