Thomas

Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him,  “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them,  “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe it.”  John 20:24, 25.

What happened to Thomas to make him doubt the other disciples’ word?  Were they constantly playing tricks on him or what?  No way to tell.  I only know that he doubted their testimony to the point of telling them unless he got physical evidence to the contrary, he considered them either lying to him or collectively insane.

A lot has been made of Thomas’ doubt, so much so that down the through the years calling someone a “Doubting Thomas” is part of our English way of saying it’s hard to convince a person of the truth.  But ask yourself this:  Why wouldn’t he take the other disciples’ word for it?  Something happened in between the lines that we aren’t privy to because when a guy doubts the word of 10 other men on any subject, something’s either up or wrong with him.  May be he’s not quite so crazy though.  In his day and age superstitions ruled to the point people in general accepted all sorts of outrageous “truths” that couldn’t be verified witnesses.  Thomas may just have been one of the sane ones who watched the trends with a growing sense of healthy skepticism and avoided rumors.

Anyone who’s been to church for more than 10 years has heard at least one sermon on Thomas, it’s standard fare with preachers who want to promote faith.  Yet I don’t know that I blame him for his doubt.  Jesus’ resurrection was impossible by any standards we know exist.  No one I know has done it, though I’ve heard rumors and met a couple of people were clinically dead and resuscitated, but that’s not the same as being dead 3 days and coming back to life.

No, Thomas gets a bit of a bad rap for being skeptical, and may be it’s well deserved.  At the same time just look at the situation a little more.  Here are ten (eleven if you count Thomas) who loved their Teacher with a passion.  His death hit them all pretty hard, leaving a great big hole in their hearts where confusion and panic lay just under the surface at all times.  No matter what anyone wants to say about it these guys were ripe for a big hoax because this is the prime time when things like this happen.

A week after the initial meetings with Jesus Thomas comes to hang out.  Again Jesus enters without knocking or requiring the lock to be opened.  Just as with the first time He surprised the disciples by just appearing and gives the hippy greeting,  “Peace!”  But this time it’s specifically Thomas He’s come to meet, for the others were already convinced.

Then He said to Thomas,  “Put your finger here; see my hands.  Reach out your hand and put it into my side.  Stop doubting and believe.”

It’s usually the last sentence which people interpret as a rebuke.  I’m not so sure anymore that it was—and if it was, Jesus wasn’t being impatient with Thomas’ doubt but giving him a way to believe.  In other words, if it was a rebuke, the tone was gentle.  Yet Jesus came to give the last of His disciples the evidence he needed to believe, that has to say something more than just rebuke.  It shows something more than a mere effort to dispel the doubts of one man.

Jesus loved Thomas, evidenced by His efforts to replicate the upper room experience for him.  Teachers abound who condemn doubt, skepticism and reluctance to commit to anything of which we’re unsure, but wholesale willingness to believe is just as dangerous.  I see people buying into this trend or that and I have to wonder why.  Humans are desperate for the miraculous or, in our terms, magical.  We separated ourselves from the source of all that is miraculous in Eden, then spent the next several thousand years looking for something—anything—which will give us the power to work outside the natural law.  The only problem?  Humanity looks for the supernatural in anything in an effort to circumnavigate God, which won’t work since He’s the source anyway.

The church of Jesus does it in a more sneaky way.  Instead of horoscopes or incantations, they find passages in the Bible that appear to guarantee wealth, healthy and smooth sailing if they speak this certain way or perform these specific actions.  Unfortunately, those who teach this type of nonsense ignore the other Scriptures which tell us those who follow Jesus will possibly experience loss, persecution and sometimes death for the kingdom of God.  God will take care of us as a testimony to the world of His presence in our lives, but in this age (I’m assuming the next age will be after Jesus comes) at least we will suffer to a greater or lesser degree, depending on where our individual paths lead us.

According to John, Thomas’ immediate reaction was to say,  “My Lord and my God!” This speaks loudly to the man’s willingness to believe as well as a certain amount of humility when confronted by the truth.  No one should ever call Thomas mule-headed because he wasn’t being stubborn necessarily just cautious.  Or, from the context that’s what it seems to me to the best explanation.  Jesus’ willingness to give him the evidence he needed to believe, however, demonstrates God’s heart pretty clearly.

Do you see the heart of God towards us in this story?  We have a person reluctant to believe anything he hasn’t seen with his own eyes, heard with his own ears or touched with his hands, and God meets him where he is to give him what is needed to believe.  Jesus told Philip,  “Have I been with you such a long time and you don’t know me, Philip?  If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” Jesus embodies the heart of God in human flesh, performing the will of God and therefore demonstrating the heart of God.  If He was willing to reach out to Thomas in order to convince him, what should our hearts be towards those who struggle with faith?  He is our example, the first born of the dead and our Master, whom we are to imitate.

No, our method of choice should always lean to the side of grace rather than judgment.  In fact, if we are going to make a mistake, let it be on the side of grace rather than condemnation.  I pray always for a good balance when it comes to wisdom in the judgment/grace arena, but many times I’m just too absorbed by the rabbit trails or blind to the spiritual reality to make a good judgment.  It would be better for us to leave all judgment to God except what He has commanded us to meet out in the church to keep it from falling into spiritual lethargy.  A church besieged by un-confessed sin and continuing in a state of un-repentance is a church turned tepid.

I guess what I’m trying to say is:  When in doubt err on the side of grace rather than judgment; for the measure of mercy we use will be what is given to us at the Bema seat, pressed down and shaken together.  If God went out of His way for everyone by sending Jesus to live among us, perform miracles, die and rise again, the least we could do is be more anxious to save than to condemn.

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3 Responses to “Thomas”

  1. Jesus Carries Me Says:

    Your posts shows great insight into the things of God, Jonny and I love to read them. You mention some very important fundamentals for a follower of Christ in this post.

    God doesn’t mind our questions. He does not feel threatened by them. Reason being -He is speaking the truth. And more than that -He is the Truth. For this reason Paul wrote to the Thessalonians saying that they should test everything that is being said. The Bereans were called “noble” because they searched the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was indeed the truth. Jesus invited those who listened to Him to go and find out if what He says is true (John 7). You’re right on the mark with this post and I love the way you’ve written it. Thank you

  2. jonnysoundsketch2 Says:

    Thank-you. I appreciate your input.

  3. tlc4women Says:

    Great post! There are times when I have questioned, “Was that really you and if so, I need some confirmation.” We all have doubts from time to time that we’ve heard or read correctly. I love that the Lord is gracious and sends a word to set us at ease!

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