Doubting Thomas

by Ed Urzi

It may sound strange but one of the most recognized disciples among Jesus’ original twelve followers is also one of the least well known in the Bible. That disciple is Thomas, one of the first twelve men that Jesus called to be His students and followers.

Who was Thomas? Well, it’s a little hard to say. You see, Thomas is mentioned only eleven times in the entire New Testament and in four of those instances, his name is simply included in a list along with the other disciples. There are two other occasions where the Bible records something that Thomas said but those two instances only amount to a grand total of two sentences (see John 11:16 and 14:5).

So unlike some of the other disciples (like Peter or John for instance), it’s clear that Thomas doesn’t get very much coverage in the Bible. Yet despite being mostly anonymous in the Scriptures, Thomas has come to be famously known to us today as “Doubting Thomas” because of one incident that occurred shortly after Jesus’ death and resurrection…

“That evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors, in fear of the Jewish leaders, when suddenly Jesus was standing there among them! After greeting them, he showed them his hands and side. And how wonderful was their joy as they saw their Lord… 

One of the disciples, Thomas, “The Twin,” was not there at the time with the others. When they kept telling him, ‘We have seen the Lord,’ he replied, ‘I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands-and put my fingers into them-and place my hand into his side'” (John 20:19-20, 24-25). 

The Scriptures tell us that Thomas was also called Didymus (pronounced “Did-ee-muss”), a name that means “Twin.” This probably means that Thomas had a twin brother or sister, although some people believe that Thomas carried this nickname because he looked like Jesus.

Anyway, after seeing Jesus alive following His crucifixion, the other disciples went to Thomas and told him, “Hey, we’ve seen Jesus- alive!” However we’re also told that Thomas didn’t automatically accept what the others said to him about Jesus. It seems that Thomas had no doubt that his friends thought they saw Jesus but he wasn’t convinced that they actually saw what they said they did.

Now Thomas has gotten an awful lot of bad publicity for failing to believe this report from the other disciples but The Doctor believes that Thomas actually did a very smart thing. You see, Thomas was unwilling to let other people tell him what he should believe about Jesus- he wanted to see it for himself. People today can follow this same good example by checking out what others say about Jesus by reading about Him in the Scriptures and finding out what Jesus really said and did for themselves.

In any event, Thomas wanted to check out the facts about Jesus before automatically believing something that someone else said about Him and in this respect, Thomas provides us with a good example to follow. Thomas also did another really smart thing that we’ll look at in a moment but for now, let’s continue with the story…

“Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them and greeting them. Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger into my hands. Put your hand into my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!'” (John 20:26-27).

When Jesus told Thomas to “Put your hand into my side” He was referring to the wound that occurred when a soldier threw a spear into the side of Jesus’ body following His death on the cross (see John 19:16-37 for the whole story). The fact that this spear wound was large enough to fit a man’s hand means that it must have been a really bad wound. It also means that it probably would have been enough to kill Jesus by itself if not for the fact that He was already dead.

But beyond this, Jesus’ meeting with Thomas is important for us today for some other reasons. First, did you notice how Jesus was totally aware of Thomas’ doubts about His resurrection even though Thomas only mentioned them privately to the other disciples? In other words, Jesus knew all about Thomas’ doubts despite the fact that He didn’t appear to be around when Thomas spoke about them. This serves as a reminder that we can feel free to be completely honest in our prayers -even in those areas where we may have doubts- because Jesus is fully aware of the way that we really feel anyway.

Thomas’ example is also important because it means that Jesus is serious about making Himself known to those who are serious about Him. Jesus’ actions with Thomas demonstrate the extent that He is willing to go to help His followers erase any doubts that they may have about Him.

Now this doesn’t mean that everyone should expect a personal appearance from Jesus and it also doesn’t mean that Jesus will respond with an immediate answer for every doubt that someone may have. However, The Doctor believes that Jesus is willing to provide the evidence necessary to satisfy those who are honest and sincere in their desire to follow Him but still feel a little skeptical or uncertain.

So what was Thomas’ reaction to Jesus’ invitation? Well, here’s the second smart thing that Thomas did…

“‘My Lord and my God!'” Thomas said” (John 20:28).

The important thing here is that Thomas acted on the evidence that Jesus showed him. Remember that Thomas told the other disciples that he wanted to see Jesus for himself following His death on the cross and confirm that it really was Jesus by personally checking out His crucifixion wounds. When Jesus gave Thomas the confirmation that he asked for, Thomas acted on it by acknowledging Jesus as his Lord and God. So unlike those who refuse to believe in Jesus despite the evidence, Thomas was willing to change his attitude once he was presented with the truth about Jesus.

Thomas’ response then prompted Jesus to say this…

“Then Jesus told him, ‘You believe because you have seen me. But blessed are those who haven’t seen me and believe anyway'” (John 20:29).

So Thomas saw Jesus with his own eyes and believed in Him based on what He saw. But Jesus says that the people who are really blessed are the ones who believe in Him without having the benefit of seeing Him face to face. This brings to mind something that the Apostle Peter (who certainly saw Jesus a lot during His time on earth) once said…

“You love him even though you have never seen him; though not seeing him, you trust him; and even now you are happy with the inexpressible joy that comes from heaven itself.  And your further reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9).