The Day Thomas Quit Doubting
by Jonathan S Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
Denomination: Southern Baptist
Text: John 20:24-31
The day he quit doubting
Thomas isn’t mentioned often in Scripture, but there are examples for each one of us in each instance. Just like us, he had his share of unsettling experiences, as in John 11. Like him, we’ve probably had questions over some of the things, perhaps concerning new revelation or knowledge, which Jesus had shared with them, as in John 14. Let’s take a look at the final episode, the time when Thomas saw Jesus after the resurrection.
Thomas refused to believe
The text comes from John 20:24-31, the NASB version:
John 20:24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples were saying to him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe." 26 After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you." 27 Then He said to Thomas, "Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing." 28 Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" 29 Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed." 30 Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
Some of us, myself included, have wondered and still wonder why Thomas wasn’t with the Eleven apostles at this time. Where could he have gone? Even though he may not have been “marked” as a follower of Jesus, he couldn’t hide forever if that’s what he was doing. At any rate, he was missing when the Ten apostles, as a group, saw Jesus after the Reusrrection.
When did Thomas make contact with the other apostles? We’re not told when. It could have been later in the day. According to the first verses of John 20, Peter and John had already gone to the tomb and found it empty. Mary Magdalene had stayed at the tomb, apparently, for some time (compare Mark 15:47 and 16:1 with John 20:11-18) and had told the apostles of what she had seen. Luke records the visit to the tomb, and back, made by a group of women who saw the empty tomb and returned to the apostles (Luke 24:1-10). In spite of all this, we read that Thomas refused to believe that Jesus rose from the dead!
Thomas even told the others what proof or evidence he would need to believe. It’s tragic, that in so many cases, people demand proof of something that cannot be replicated. Nobody can “prove” Napoleon existed, for example, because there are no people alive today who can take one to Napoleon and say, “There he is!” or something similar. Sometimes a demand for proof is simply an excuse for not wanting to believe the written records of just about any event.
And it’s even worse for Thomas because he had surely heard Jesus tell three different groups of people who demanded a “sign” that they weren’t going to get one! Jesus had said the only sign they would get was the sign of Jonah. He, Jonah, had spent three days and nights in the fish’s belly and Jesus said He would spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (see Matthew 12:30-40). Now, Thomas was demanding a sign, even more precise than anybody else had requested!
This is unbelievable, that a disciple—a follower—who had preached and done who knows how many things, even to the point of saying, “Let’s die with Jesus (see John 11)”, would fall so far and so fast from his faith.
But the story, thank God, doesn’t end in unbelief!
Thomas refused to doubt
Between verses 25 and 26, we see an entire week has gone by. We don’t read of anything happening, no visits from the Lord, no visits to the Tomb, nothing at all. The doors were still shut, no doubt in fear of the Jews as was the case in verse 19. Still, we can rejoice that Thomas was there on this eighth day after the Resurrection with the other apostles.
Suddenly, Jesus Himself appeared to them! The other disciples had seen Jesus on Resurrection Day and knew He wasn’t a ghost or spirit—and He had told them so! Remember, Thomas wasn’t there on the first day of the week-Resurrection Day-and hadn’t seen Jesus or heard Him say, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have. (Luke 24:38-39)”. He even missed out on watching Jesus eat a piece of broiled fish!
Now, Thomas both sees and hears Jesus, for the first time since the crucifixion. Can you imagine, Jesus tells Thomas to examine for himself the wounds in His body? What kind of thoughts went through Thomas’ mind? He had demanded proof—and it’s here! Pilate had shouted to the crowd, “Behold, the Man!”, and now Thomas beholds the Son of God! Jesus didn’t chide Thomas, or make fun of his doubts—He gave Thomas a chance to examine facts for themselves. It’s as though Jesus had said, “You make the call—stop unbelieving, and begin to believe” and there was no other choice given.
There was, and is, no other choice to give.
Thomas refused to delay
Thomas, as we’ve seen, was an either all or nothing type of disciple. If he had doubts, he expressed them. If he didn’t understand a question, he asked for an explanation. Surely the Lord is pleased when disciples want to make things clear and make things sure. Those who doubt, James would later say, are double minded people, driven and tossed like a wave of the sea (James 1:6, paraphrase mine).
What, then, did Thomas do with the information he saw, literally standing in front of him? He, I think immediately, cried out, “My Lord and my God!” If he had any doubts now, they were gone! And Thomas, doubter that he was, had no doubt about it this time. Jesus was, and is, alive!
What will you do with your doubts?
The worst mistake anyone can make is to do nothing when a choice must be made. Thomas had doubts, and expressed them, but refused to doubt any longer when he saw Jesus. Demands for proof? Gone—not needed! Specific views of wounds in Jesus Christ’s body? Don’t need to look or touch them—I believe! Thomas could have still said, “No, I don’t believe it” but he didn’t. He took a look at the evidence and believed it. Anyone can do the same thing. We have evidence in the Word of God, about the Son of God, and if we follow up on it, we too can say like Thomas, “My Lord and my God!”
Won’t you do this right now?
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. http://www.lockman.org