"Doubting Thomas." It is
a common expression even in our modern English. It
refers to one of the disciples of Jesus who is often
associated with one word: doubting. He is seen as a
natural pessimist, a man very liable to take the
despondent hopeless view of the future and see the
darker side of everything. He has eyes for the gloom
of death. "Lord we don't know where you are going
and how can we know the way?" We have no doubt
that he loved Jesus even enough to be willing to go
to Jerusalem and die with him. Upon hearing that
Lazarus was sick Jesus told his disciples they were
going to Judea. Thomas said, "Let us also go, that
we may die with him." If he were that gloomy before
the death of Jesus by crucifixion, what would he be
like upon Christ's death? After the
crucifixion of Jesus Thomas was a brokenhearted man
who wanted to be left alone to suffer alone. Perhaps
he can rightly be described as "belligerent in his
pessimism." Every time we see Thomas it is a day of
appalling gloom. We have no picture of Thomas, or
account of anything he did or said in the day of
sunshine. Perhaps this helps us to understand
his responses to Jesus and what is happening about
him. He has a lot of kinfolk in our day. But we will
observe the method Jesus used with Thomas is not
unusual in his dealings with us. His understanding
of Thomas was perfect and he patiently brought him
to a mature faith.
Thomas helps us to
understand what Jesus was teaching His disciples
during his post-resurrection appearances. Those who
loved him on the earth had to learn to live without
the physical appearance of Christ, the actual
seeing, touching, and hearing him. There would be no
more sitting at the table with him and filling the
mind with his words, but now they would learn to
walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, he would walk with
them, sit with them, eat with them, but in a more
profound manner not limited by space and time. Here
is a tremendous lesson for us to learn.
Jesus carefully chose his
disciples to come and learn from him. Thomas, a
twin, was one of those chosen men.
JESUS CHOSE THOMAS AS
All four of the Gospels
have Thomas in the list of the apostles of Jesus.
Matthew and Mark mention him only once (Matt. 10:3;
Mk. 3:18). Luke lists him once in his Gospel and in
Acts (Lk. 6:15; Acts 1:13). John gives us eight
references to Thomas as a disciple of Jesus.
He was chosen and appointed by the Lord Jesus to be
one of His followers. Jesus said, "No longer do I
call you servants . . . but I have called you
Thomas was with
Jesus when he raised Lazarus from the dead (John
After Jesus healed the
blind man in the Temple the Pharisees and Sanhedrin
sought to kill both of them (John 9). Jesus left
Jerusalem and word reached him that his friend
Lazarus of Bethany, a suburb of Jerusalem, was near
death (John 11).
Thomas was with the
disciples when Jesus told them that Lazarus was
already dead (11:13-15). Upon hearing the news that
Jesus will go to Bethany Thomas responded to his
fellow disciples, "Let us go too, so that we may die
with him" (v. 16 NET).
Thomas was concerned
about dying for Jesus. He knew perfectly well the
attitude of the religious leaders at this time.
There was every possibility that they would arrest
Jesus and put him to death.
However, Jesus was
concerned that Thomas will "believe" in him (v. 15).
Thomas would no doubt have heard the encounter with
Martha in vv. 23-27 regarding his resurrection.
Thomas was standing there
when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (vv.
38-45). Men removed the stone from the mouth of the
grave at the command of Jesus. Jesus prayed to the
Father and when he had finished he cried out with a
loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth." John tells
us, "The one who had died came out, his feet and
hands tied up with strips of cloth, and a cloth
wrapped around his face. Jesus said to them, 'Unwrap
him and let him go'" (John 11:44 NET). Jesus would
later be buried in this similar manner.
Thomas came to Jerusalem
to die with Jesus and he witnessed the Master of
death call the dead man back to life. Thomas was
just as prepared as the other disciples to believe
in the resurrection, but along with the others he
never grasped that prediction of the resurrection of
Jesus prepared His
disciples for His own death
Thomas was with Jesus as
he sought to prepare them for his crucifixion. From
the time Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead the
religious leaders sought an opportunity to kill him
They celebrated the
Passover meal together, and Jesus spent time
preparing them for his death the very next day. That
night in the upper room Thomas listened to the
encouraging words of Jesus about heaven (14:1-3).
Indeed, Thomas' response
to these words is vivid. Thomas said, "Lord, we
don't know where you are going. How can we know the
way?" (14:5 NET). Jesus replied, "I am the way, and
the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father
except through me. If you have known me, you will
know my Father too. And from now on you do know him
and have seen him" (vv. 6-7 NET).
Before the end of the day
Jesus will be crucified, and three days later will
be raised from the dead.
THOMAS AND THE
RESURRECTION OF JESUS (JOHN 20:24).
Jesus appeared to
We are not given the
reason for Thomas not being with the disciples when
Jesus first appeared to them on the day of His
resurrection from the dead (John 20:24). But he was
to blame for refusing to accept the testimony of his
friends when they assured him they had seen the
risen Jesus. We do have Thomas' reaction to the
testimony of the other disciples. "Now Thomas
(called Didymus), one of the twelve, was not with
them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him,
'We have seen the Lord!' But he replied, 'Unless I
see the wounds from the nails in his hands, and put
my finger into the wounds from the nails, and put my
hand into his side, I will never believe it!'" (vv.
24-25 NET). His words ring with a little obstinate
tone in his unbelief.
Imagine the excitement
when the other disciples met him (v. 25). I don't
think they were calmly trying to persuade Thomas
that Christ was alive. They were excited and full of
assurance. They wanted their friend to experience
that same sense of emotional relief and peace
knowing that his Savior was alive. Thomas was not
impressed with their excitement, not convinced by
their testimony. He would not be taken in, even by
Perhaps it was Thomas'
emotional reaction to the outcome of his appalling
agony and disappointment. Death was real to Thomas.
No doubt he had stood where you have at the
graveside and said his last good by to friends and
He had been filled with
the horror at the sight of the bleeding wounds of
Jesus. Thomas declared he would not believe any
rumors until those very wounds demonstrated the
identity of Jesus.
King George V said, "If I
have to suffer, let me go and suffer alone." That
was the attitude of Thomas.
How tragic when in our
unbelief we take pride in demanding more evidence
than that given by a group of credible veracious
These witnesses believed
what they had seen with their eyes and heard with
their ears. They had touched him with their own
hands. How could his five senses be more trusted
than the combined testimony of ten men who all saw
him at the same time? How could he reject the
testimony of ten witnesses thinking their senses had
deceived them or that his five senses could be
better trusted than theirs?
The ultimate test for
Thomas was the very same evidence that he
predetermined to be untrustworthy and insufficient
in the experience of others. How arrogant can you
On the other hand, there
is the unbeliever who thrives on doubt; he likes it,
enjoys it, sports it, and lives by it. He enjoys
going about telling others his morbid preoccupation
with his agnostic views. Therefore, we need to
distinguish between the honest doubter and "the evil
heart of unbelief."
The dishonest doubter has
a deep reluctance to be convinced by the objective
truth. He is more than irritated when he is forced
to face some pet theory of unbelief.
Do your read one side of
the question, courting difficulties, eagerly seizing
or new objections? Are you provoked instead for
thankful when any doubt is removed?
A true skeptic will
openly, honestly seek the truth regardless of the
outcome. An honest doubt is one thing, but a
stubborn heart of unbelief is another.
Jesus method was to let
Thomas reflect on what the disciples had testified
to him for eight days. I seriously doubt if he
could get away from those haunting words of
I greatly enjoy the
creative and stimulating writings of C. S. Lewis.
When you examine his life you find there were two
converging roads that led that brilliant British
scholar back to the faith he had so happily
renounced earlier in his life. One was the working
of his mind; particularly as he tried to make sense
of the odd fact that mankind seems, with minor
cultural variations, to have a sense of a universal,
objective moral law, while frantically disobeying
the demands of that law. The other road was the way
of "Romance" or "Joy," the experience of a yearning
whose object was unknown and his finely honed reason
were incapable of explaining. By the age of
thirty he glumly felt God closing in on him as
Christian scholars of equal distinction and
abilities surrounded him. The "Hound of heaven," the
Holy Spirit, would not let up.
You must picture me alone
in that room in Magdalen, night after night,
feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second
from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of
Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet.
That which I greatly feared had at last come upon
me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and
admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed:
perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant
convert in all England (C. S. Lewis, A Grief
For a few months more,
Lewis was undecided about the role of Christ.
He wrestled with the New Testament, haunted by its
central figure, and finally found himself fully
convinced that one time and one time only God
descended to earth in the person of Jesus Christ.
The Jesus so sharply outlined in the New Testament
was one with the God who had captured a reluctant
convert during Trinity Term. The particular
route he traveled, from mild faith to atheism and on
to strong faith, also helped make him sympathetic to
nonbelievers, since he knew their problems
Thomas met the
So far as we can tell it
was solely to remove Thomas' doubts that our Lord
appeared to the assembled disciples the following
Sunday. The apostle John brings his Gospel to a
climax with what happens next. "Eight days later the
disciples were again together in the house, and
Thomas was with them. Although the doors were
locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said,
'Peace be with you!'" (v. 26)
We don't know if the
disciples expected a fresh appearance of their Lord
on this day. But it is not without significance that
after an uneventful week that Jesus appeared the
next Sunday. The situation before us is an exact
duplicate of the one sketched in verse 19. Silently
and suddenly as before, without warning, without
opening of doors, Jesus appears exactly as he did a
week ago. He is suddenly standing in the midst of
his disciples and he greets them exactly the same,
"Peace to you!"
unutterable surprise! Then sudden shame as Thomas
unexpectedly realized his Lord had heard his
obstinate ultimatum and sullen unbelief. Jesus
simply repeated almost in the same words the hard,
rude, bare, crude test Thomas had proposed to the
Jesus turned to Thomas,
who is the last of the disciples to believe that
Christ had risen from the dead. Jesus did not scold
him. His words breathe forgiveness and encouragement
to Thomas' faith. He brings Thomas to assurance,
just as He did the other disciples. Thomas' faith is
deepened with the appearance of his risen Lord.
Thomas you wanted
evidence, proof; look, see for yourself! "Eight days
later the disciples were again together in the
house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors
were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and
said, 'Peace be with you!' Then he said to Thomas,
'Put your finger here, and examine my hands. Extend
your hand and put it into my side. Do not continue
in your unbelief, but believe.' Thomas replied to
him, 'My Lord and my God!' Jesus said to him, 'Have
you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are
the people who have not seen and yet have believed'"
Jesus agreed exactly to
Thomas' demands for evidence. Jesus answered Thomas
as though he himself had been listening to every
word Thomas had uttered when making his demands to
the disciples in verse 25! Jesus hasn't been seen
for a week. I never read this verse without asking
myself, who told Jesus what Thomas had said? The
fact is Jesus was there all the time! Jesus has
heard every word Thomas had uttered when making his
demands. Jesus met every one of the outrageous
demands of this disciple to the letter. He let
Thomas set up the demands and Jesus knocked them
Jesus held his hands out
for Thomas' inspection. Then with shame, humble and
joyful confession, he declared, "My Lord and my
God." Thomas is satisfied with precisely the same
proof as the other disciples. Thomas is carried
entirely out of preoccupation with himself and sees
nothing but his Lord. His soul rests in the person
before him. Christ captures him.
This is a powerful and
clear confession by Thomas. Moreover, our Lord
accepted the declaration of his deity as the true
expression of faith.
The beautiful thing about
the method of Jesus with Thomas is he is offering to
all eleven of the disciples "many infallible proofs"
or "demonstrative evidence" of his resurrection.
Acts 1:3 reads, "To the same apostles also, after
his suffering, he presented himself alive with many
convincing proofs. He was seen by them over a
forty-day period and spoke about matters concerning
the kingdom of God" (NET).
Jesus not only answered
Thomas' doubt, but every Thomas in the future. All
eleven disciples were "witnesses" of his
resurrection (Acts 2:32; 3:15). Their testimony
would stand as being unassailable in all future
ages. Fifty years after the resurrection of Jesus
the apostle John wrote: "This is what we proclaim to
you: what was from the beginning, what we have
heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have
looked at and our hands have touched (concerning the
word of life – and the life was revealed, and we
have seen and testify and announce to you the
eternal life that was with the Father and was
revealed to us). What we have seen and heard we
announce to you too, so that you may have fellowship
with us (and indeed our fellowship is with the
Father and with his Son Jesus Christ)" (1 John 1:1-3
NET). Thomas saw and experienced the same
"demonstrative evidence" as each of the other
apostles. The early church has not just two or three
authentic witnesses, but a multitude who saw the
risen Lord alive. Thomas was one of the twelve. His
faith had been tested and it was pure.
Jesus has given a
decisive blow to all doubt and unbelief in his
resurrection. There would be many more Thomases down
through history who would wrestle with the same
question of the resurrection. Jesus answered
satisfactorily every doubter by the way he answered
Thomas' doubt. We should be thankful that Thomas
expressed his doubt about the resurrection of Jesus
because in answering his questions Jesus answered
ours, too. If one of the twelve had remained a
doubter it would have cast disbelief on the
integrity of the others and the ripple effect would
have passed down through history.
My Lord and my God!
Thomas gave Jesus Christ
"full acceptance of His deity and of the fact of His
resurrection." Remember these words are those of a
Jewish man. The two possessives "my" makes the two
affirmations stand out independently. This is the
strong climax to the whole gospel of John.
"My Lord" includes the
full deity as fully as "my God." This is an emphatic
declaration of Thomas' conviction as to who Jesus
Christ is. It is a natural expression of his faith
in Christ. The word "Lord" (kurios), is used
by the Greek translators of the Old Testament to
translate Yahweh, the LORD God of the Jews. Jesus is
both "LORD" (Yahweh) and God (Elohim).
What is just as important
is the response of Jesus to Thomas' faith. Jesus
accepted the exclamation of him as Lord and God.
Only God can do that. This fact cannot be
overemphasized. Jesus acknowledged and accepted the
faith of Thomas. Jesus accepted the worship of this
man. Jesus does not modify or demean this
acclamation of faith and worship. He accepts it from
Thomas. He does not add to it or take away from it.
This is a full grand confession of Jesus as God.
"Jesus said to him, 'Have you believed because you
have seen me? Blessed are the people who have not
seen and yet have believed'" (v. 29 NET).
How strange that Thomas
rejected the testimony of others who saw the same
evidence in the same manner as he did. He demanded
even more that would set him apart from the others.
When Jesus offered his hands, his feet and his side,
Thomas conceded to the same evidence as the others.
And so it is with us, too.
Jesus speaks of us when
he says, "Blessed are they who did not see and did
believe." Whoever at any time, past, present,
or future, believes without seeing is pronounced,
"blessed." We walk by faith and not by sight, but
our faith has solid credible historical evidence of
a risen Savior.
The apostle Peter was
writing to persecuted believers when he said, "This
brings you great joy, although you may have to
suffer for a short time in various trials. Such
trials show the proven character of your faith,
which is much more valuable than gold – gold that is
tested by fire, even though it is passing away – and
will bring praise and glory and honor when Jesus
Christ is revealed. You have not seen him, but you
love him. You do not see him now but you believe in
him, and so you rejoice with an indescribable and
glorious joy, because you are attaining the goal of
your faith – the salvation of your souls" (1 Peter
The last scenes of Thomas
in the New Testament were on the shore of Tiberias
as a silent listener to Jesus as He dealt with Peter
(John 21). Then he passes off the pages of the N. T.
at Pentecost where he is with all the apostles
worshipping Christ Jesus in the upper room (Acts
PRINCIPLES FOR TODAY
Eyewitnesses saw Jesus
alive after his resurrection. What more evidence do
we need? That will hold up in any court of law.
Thomas lost an
Thomas' big mistake was
he withdrew from Christian fellowship. In his
isolation he missed the sight of Christ. He wanted
to be by himself in his suffering. Alexander
Maclaren noted, "Thomas did the very worst thing
that a melancholy man can do, went away to brood in
a corner by himself, and so to exaggerate all his
idiosyncrasies, to distort the proportion of truth,
to hug his despair, by separating himself from his
fellows. Therefore he lost what they got, the sight
of the Lord. He was not with them when Jesus came."
He would have been far better off in the upper room
with the rest of the mourners than alone turning
over in his gloomy mind the dissolution of the fair
company. He was alone by himself hugging and
nurturing his unbelief. As G. Campbell Morgan said,
"The only justifiable criticism of Thomas is that he
was not there on that first occasion." Yes, he ought
to have been there with the other disciples, but he
wasn't and he missed the blessing.
As a loyal disciple he
was willing to die with Jesus. His intentions were
good. However, we also know that when Jesus
was crucified Thomas fled with the rest. He was
probably ridden with guilt and remorse.
How many of us have tried
to go it alone when God has provided others who have
made the same difficult journey through hurts, grief
and suffering? That is the very time when we should
be in the company of fellow believers. Thomas would
have been better off spiritually if he had been in
the company of the other disciples.
Thomas was a
practical, pragmatic disciple of Jesus.
He had calculated the
situation carefully, and he was not going to pretend
to understand that which to him was fraught with
mystery. There are a lot of things in your spiritual
walk that you must ponder and think through for
yourself. Jesus patiently waits and guides us at our
spiritual level. Jesus patiently worked with Thomas
and strengthened him at the point of his weakness.
I am thankful that he has
come to me again and again and picked me up where I
failed or doubted or went in my own stubborn way. He
is the way, the truth and the life.
Thomas was an
intellectually honest man.
He was willing to face
the facts. He looked carefully into things,
determined to inquire as to their deepest meaning.
He refused to say he understood something when he
did not. He refused to say he believed something he
really didn't. A faith like Thomas is better than a
profession without possession. Thomas was willing to
count the cost and when Thomas was sure he went the
whole way. He declared, "My Lord and my God!" and he
meant every word of it. When a man fights his way
through his doubts to the conviction that Jesus
Christ is Lord, and God, his one consuming passion
is to glorify God and serve him.
Thomas was a man of
courage and vision.
When he was faced with
the facts he declared, "My Lord and my God." And he
worshipped the resurrected Jesus. Moreover, Jesus
accepted that worship.
Thomas has come to be
known as "doubting Thomas," but he was not really
any more doubting than the others. If had he
been with them on the Sunday evening when Christ
rose from the dead, his doubts would have been
removed at the same time as theirs. Because he was
not present, he had to wait a full week. When he saw
Jesus his resolute skepticism vanished. There was no
need for probing fingers. "You are my Lord and my
God" rings with absolute conviction because it is
true. The apostle John began his Gospel by writing,
"the Word was God." He brings it to a close by
quoting Thomas' absolute conviction, "You are my
Lord and my God." Just as in the case of
Thomas, Jesus makes us sit it out when we treat him
the same way.
Verse 29 Jesus said to
Thomas, "Have you believed because you have seen me?
Blessed are the people who have not seen and yet
have believed" (NET). That verse includes you and
me! Faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God.
Thomas saw Him and worshipped Him. Jesus says to you
and me, "Blessed is he who has not seen me with
physical eyes, but indeed has seen me and believed."
Every individual who puts
his or her faith in Jesus Christ today is assured of
this great blessing of Christ. All believers today
have believed without seeing. To us, faith comes not
by seeing but "from what is heard, and what is heard
comes by the preaching of Christ" (Rom. 10:7). There
can be no permanent faith in Jesus except faith in
Him as the risen Lord who still bears the scars of
His atoning death.
Believing is Seeing
Believing is directing
the heart's attention to Jesus. It is lifting the
mind to behold Him as "my Lord and my God," and
never ceasing to behold Him for the rest of our
lives. For Thomas and for us, this is one great
volitional act which establishes the heart's
intention to gaze forever upon Jesus. God knows that
we have set the direction of our heart toward Jesus.
Thomas got his eyes off
himself and upon Jesus. Unbelief puts self where God
should be. Faith looks out instead of in and the
whole life organizes around Him. When we lift our
eyes and they focus upon Jesus we worship Him alone.
Faith is the gaze of the heart at God. This gaze is
but the raising of the inward eyes of the soul to
meet the all-seeing eyes of God. This gazing is of
the heart, but it involves the whole person. We can
do it anytime and anywhere. You can gaze upon Him
from anywhere if your mind is set to love, obey and
Get into the habit of
inwardly gazing upon Christ and you will know that
something inside your heart sees God. "Blessed are
the pure in heart," said Jesus, "they shall see God"
(Matt. 8:8). There is a secret communion always
going on even when the believer is compelled to
withdraw his conscious attention in order to engage
in the affairs of everyday life. Let that attention
be released for a moment and it will flee back to
God. A new set of spiritual eyes will develop within
us enabling us to be looking at God while our
outward eyes are seeing this passing world.
That steady gaze becomes
easier as we look steadily at his wondrous Person,
quietly and without strain (2 Cor. 3:18). We are
often distracted by the world, but once the heart is
committed to him, after each brief interruption away
from him the attention will return again and again
to rest upon him and we worship him as "my Lord and
my God." The habit of the soul after a while becomes
a spiritual reflex. Our minds and hearts become
attached to the steady gaze into the face of Jesus
and we scarcely notice it. Faith is the least
self-regarding of the Christian virtues. It is
scarcely conscious of its own existence.
True faith is occupied,
not with itself, but with Christ Jesus. It pays no
attention to itself. We cannot see ourselves while
we are looking at Jesus.
It was a great moment of
repentance when Thomas saw the risen Christ and
declared, "my Lord and my God."
The apostle Paul prayed,
"that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith"
(Eph. 3:17 NET). Jesus said, "If anyone loves me, he
will obey my word, and my Father will love him, and
we will come to him and take up residence with him"
(John 14:23 NET). Jesus is speaking of the
individual believer. The Greek translation note in
the NET Bible reads, "we will come to him and will
make our dwelling place with him."
The Holy Spirit enables
us by faith to set our inward spiritual graze upon
Christ and we grow to new levels of spiritual life
in keeping with these promises. The Triune God will
be our dwelling place moment by moment. "He has
raised us up with him and seated us with him in the
heavenly realms in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:6 NET). May
the Holy Spirit cleanse and cause us to set our eyes
by faith upon the risen Lord Jesus. Oh that we with
unveiled eyes may look upon him in the beauty of his
holiness and be prepared to see him in the full
splendor when he comes in glory.
20:24-31 Thomas: A Man of Mature Faith
Series: Life of