A “Doubting Thomas” is a skeptic. He’s someone who refuses to believe unless he can see it. Touch it. And experience it.
It is forever the nickname of the apostle, Thomas, who was not present when Jesus first appeared to the other disciples following His resurrection.
“We have seen the Lord,” they exclaimed to Thomas.
“Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails,,” Thomas countered, “and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
“The Challenge to Believe” is our final lesson today at the Wellandport VBS. It is a fitting conclusion to our study. Like Thomas, we are all challenged to make a decision about our faith. About Jesus. Who will we follow? And what we will believe.
Honestly, I’m somewhat conflicted about Thomas. I have questions. Why was he absent from the first meeting? What was he doing? Shouldn’t he have been with his fellow apostles?
I wonder if Thomas was a cynic? A pessimist? A fatalist? When the disciples tried to discourage Thomas from going to Bethany to raise Lazarus because of the Jews threat to stone Him, Thomas said to them, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him” (John 11:16).
Furthermore, Thomas questioned Jesus in John 14 when he asked, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” To which Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Yet, for all his loyalty, bravery and devotion, Thomas is disillusioned. Doubting. Dismayed. And afraid to believe.
Eight days later when Thomas is there, Jesus appeared again. To Thomas, he challenges, “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 actually didn’t use the word “doubt.” The word for “believing” is “pistos” the word for faith. In contrast, He uses the word “apistos” for “unbelieving,” which literally means “no faith.”
“Apistos” is found 23 times in the New Testament and speaks of those Jesus called “a faithless and perverse generation.” Paul used it in 1 Cor 7 about a non-Christian, unbelieving spouse. And it is translated “infidel” in 1 Tim. 5:8 regarding one who had denied the faith.
Had Thomas reached the point of no faith? After all the other disciples doubted. They, too, had to see in order to believe.
Maybe we’ve spent too much time talking about “Doubting Thomas” and forget he became “Believing Thomas.” It seems John is including this account not to highlight his weakness, but to focus on his powerful confession.
“My Lord and my God!” is his ardent acknowledgment.
Thomas is confessing that Jesus is the Messiah. The Christ. The Ruler. And He is Divine. Deity. God in the flesh.
Jesus’ response is not only Good News for Thomas, but for all of us. “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Thomas testifies to us today who have had our hopes dashed, our dreams destroyed, and who teeter on the precipice of doubt while the mountain of faith looms large.
The journey of Thomas is often our journey. Highs and lows. Doubts and fears. Questions seeking answers. Inquiry desiring evidence. Can we really know for certain that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life?”
The eye witness accounts offer assurance. The testimony of the apostles creates confidence. The overwhelming evidence of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection dispels the cloud of doubt. And the amazing transformation of Thomas and the other apostle from sadness and fear to joy and courage, compel us to follow their faith.
It’s that blessed assurance which offers hope of a brighter day, a happier tomorrow and an eternal home in Heaven with our Lord.
John says, “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”
With Thomas, we confidently confess, “My Lord and my God!”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman