William J. Stewart | Faces Surrounding Calvary
Thomas, a man called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, has through the ages received a bad name among those who believe in Christ. He is remembered, not for his sincere faith, nor for his overwhelming courage, but rather for his times of weakness and doubt. He has been unfairly dubbed, “doubting Thomas”.
No one will deny that Thomas had times of doubt, but we must ponder the man as a whole. He was a sincere disciple of Christ, who loved the right and abhorred the wrong. He was a man of courage. At the time of Lazarus’ death, a dear friend of Jesus, and brother of Mary and Martha, Jesus desired to go down to Jerusalem. The disciples reminded Jesus that the Jews in Jerusalem sought to stone Him, and that it would be unwise to go. Jesus was unmoved by their feeble concerns, and Thomas, confident in his Lord, though pessimistic in outlook, stated, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” Pessimistic, yes, but lined with love and loyalty. Such was the nature of Thomas.
Thomas is remembered for two particular occasions of doubt. The first we have recorded in John 14:1-6. John writes, “Let not your heart be troubled, you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”
As we see the doubt arise in Thomas’ question, we might investigate the situation which he found himself in. Jesus, a man whom Thomas had come to love, and whom he esteemed as Lord was telling him and the other disciples that He was to depart from them. Jesus spoke of spiritual things to a group who were still at many times thinking physical. Thus, as Jesus tells them that they know where He goes, and the way there, Thomas is confused. He is bewildered. He is not likely the only confused disciple, but he is the one who speaks up. Jesus clarifies His statement for Thomas and the others, saying, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Thomas is best known for the events which are recorded in John 20. All the other apostles had seen the risen Christ, but Thomas had not. Thus he remarked, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” We must understand Thomas’ circumstance here. Not very long before this, he was likely witness to the death of his Lord. It is likely that Thomas, from a safe distance, helplessly watched as they drove spikes through the hands of Jesus. He saw the soldier spear Jesus’ side. He witnessed the limp and lifeless body of Jesus as He died on the tree. Thomas did not say he didn’t want to believe, surely he did. He said that he could not believe, unless he had proof.
Thomas felt deep pain over the loss of his Lord. He did not want to get his hopes high, only to be let down. I wouldn’t call his statement one of doubt so much as I would call it one of caution. He wanted to believe that Jesus was alive, that He was not bound by the chains of death, but he required proof. Peter and John were not so different. When the ladies came reporting that Jesus had risen, they did not only take their word, but rushed to the tomb to confirm that it was true. That is all Thomas desired, confirmation that it was true.
You may call it doubt, skepticism, caution, or whatever else you desire to call it, but look for the purpose and benefit in it. Augustine commented on Thomas, saying, “He doubted that we might not doubt.” How true. Thomas required proof. He received it first hand, giving us not only confidence in the resurrection of Christ, but absolute surety of it.
Eight days after Thomas declared his need for proof, Jesus showed Himself unto Thomas. The disciples were gathered together, Thomas with them, and Jesus came and stood in their midst. “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Jesus gave Thomas that which he, and all mankind after him needed, evidence of a risen Saviour. Thus, he declared, “My Lord and My God.”
Jesus answered him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Do you believe?