That You May Believe
Read John 20:24-31 (ESV)
Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, 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 see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and My God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed?” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
How can Thomas’ doubt actually increase our confidence in the Gospels?
Thomas has kind of received a bad rap throughout church history as the disciple that doubted. He has been nicknamed “Doubting Thomas.” John 20:29 often gets quoted to encourage “blind faith.” Well-meaning people interpret it as “Don’t be like Thomas who only believed because he had evidence. Just believe and never doubt.” But is that what Jesus meant when He said that to Thomas?
Personally, I can relate to Thomas. He wasn’t with them the first time Jesus appeared to them so was he supposed to take them at their word that a dead man rose and came through the walls to appear to them? Given his logic and past life experiences, Thomas wasn’t willing to accept a resurrection story unless he had solid evidence. He knew that Jesus had been put to death. He knew Jesus had been secured in a tomb with a stone rolled over it, guarded by Roman soldiers.
Now, Thomas witnessed Jesus raising other people from the dead. Given that, maybe he should have had more faith that Jesus, being God, could raise Himself from the dead. Even so, I actually find the Gospels more believable because of Thomas’ doubt.
Let me explain what I mean. One objection to Christianity that I often hear is that Christians are just gullible. They believe in a myth. They believe blindly without any evidence. But is that true? No! We believe in Jesus’ resurrection because of eye-witness testimony! And personally, my belief is bolstered by the fact that Thomas did not accept a resurrection without proof. He wanted evidence. This proves that the disciples were not gullible simpletons who blindly accepted a fake. The disciples believed because they had overwhelming evidence. They believed because their own doubts were overcome with proof.
Notice that Jesus readily gave Thomas the evidence that he asked for. Thomas had said that he wouldn’t believe unless he saw and touched Jesus’ nail-pierced hands and the place where the spear pierced his side. Thomas wanted to make sure that whoever was appearing to them was, in fact, Jesus. Checking His hands and sides would prove that the person claiming to be Jesus was not an imposter. When Jesus appeared to them again, this time with Thomas in attendance, He specifically asked Thomas to touch his hands and his side. He graciously gave Thomas the proof that he needed.
Once Thomas experienced Jesus in the flesh, he proclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” He didn’t doubt a moment longer. Then, Jesus acknowledged that Thomas believed only because he had seen but He gave a special blessing on everyone else who would have to believe without seeing. Jesus knew that generations of Christians after His resurrection and ascension would have to believe without seeing Jesus in the flesh. In fact, in verse 31, John says that was his purpose in writing these things down—so that those of us who have not seen might believe those who did see and that in believing that He is the Christ and the Son of God, we may have eternal life in His name.
Friends, we are not called to believe without evidence. We are not called to gullibly place our faith in a story that has no proof. Rather, we are called to believe the eye-witness testimony of men who sought evidence on our behalf. Men who, once they were convinced of what they saw, never recanted. In fact, they were willing to die excruciating deaths defending the truth of His resurrection and proclaiming His deity to the rest of the world. All so that we may believe.
Jesus, thank You for graciously providing proof of Your resurrection. Thank You for meeting us in our doubts and giving us the evidence that we need to strengthen our faith. Thank You for the men who have gone before, courageously proclaiming the truth so that I too can believe and have life. You are My Lord and My God! Amen.