Give “Doubting Thomas” a Break!

Why do we give Thomas, also called Didymus, such a hard time?  In fact we have attached an alias to him – “Doubting Thomas”, to say the least, which is misleading. Of course he doubted, and Jesus Himself encouraged him to stop doubting and start believing. But what’s all the big deal about? Thomas was not the only one who doubted, until they had proof that was acceptable to them. And then, to make matters worse, we hang on to the words of Jesus in John 20:29, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” And it is almost as if some of us conclude that Jesus meant that because Thomas did not believe until he saw, he was not blessed.   Now for the facts of the matter. Perhaps it was to the Hebrew 11 “Hall of Faithers” and others like them that Jesus referred. Perhaps it is to us who Jesus referred. For we have not seen, and yet, we believe!

In Luke 24:9-11, we read these words – “When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others.  It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.”

Here we read very clearly that “they did not believe”.  Who did not believe, Thomas did not believe; Peter did not believe; Matthew did not believe; John did not believe. None of the Eleven remaining Apostles believed. Admittedly, Peter as usual, broke from the pack and took another step closer to believing. He went to check for himself. But Luke 24:12 tells us, that having heard the witness of the women, and having seen the empty tomb for himself, he went away – “wondering what had happened”.

Sometime later, it would appear that Jesus appeared to Peter privately, and nothing in that would be hard to accept. In Luke 24:34 the Eleven Apostles tell the two Disciples who met Jesus on their way to Emmaus, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.”   Immediately after Cleopas and his companion confirm that they had seen Jesus and He had made Himself known to them in the “breaking of bread”… and then, disappeared.   But it appears that with all of these “sightings”, the walls of disbelief were only slowly coming down. Either that, or they had a serious preoccupation with ghosts.

Luke 24:36-41 tells us that while they were discussing Him, Jesus appeared in the room and they thought He was a ghost. Jesus words were, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?” Jesus then invited them to look at Him and touch Him… and if they were like Thomas, they would have gone straight for the holes in His hands and in His feet, even if not the hole left by the spear that pierced His side. It is almost funny how the fact of their unbelief is reinforced by the writer. First they did not believe because they were perplexed and troubled and full of doubt.  Now they do not believe, but for the opposite reason. Look at Luke 24:41 – “And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement…”  More than likely it was the same visit that John records in John 20:20

So what’s the big deal with Thomas? None of the Apostles believed. I venture a personal opinion that it would appear that the women were more eager to believe than were the men! And yes, I respectfully quote those who say that women are more gullible than men… and yes, I confirm that children are more gullible than women… and finally I confirm that Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:13). Perhaps a victorious Christian life characterized by unwavering faith in God can be helped with a little bit of “gullibility”.

All of the Apostles required proof and multiple exposures to the reality of Jesus’ resurrection before they finally believed and accepted it as a fact. Thomas was no different, or was he? The other Apostles did not ask Jesus for proof. Jesus gave them proof without their having to ask. He invited them to look at Him and to touch Him, and He showed them His hands and His feet. Presumably, the only thing that would have been significant about His hands and His feet would have been the nail holes evidence of His crucifixion.

It may be lightly surmised that if the gullibility syndrome is reversed, and it is argued that women need more proof than children and men need more than women, then Thomas was the man among men. He did not want merely to see the nail holes in His hands and feet, he wanted to put his finger into the holes. Jesus did not offer to show the Eleven Apostles His pierced side for which He would have had to displace part of His clothing. But Thomas added that to his list of evidence.   He was leaving no stone unturned. He felt every repeated blow to every nail that ripped into the flesh of His Lord and Master. He may not have been sure when Jesus actually died, but he saw the spear rammed into the side of Jesus, and he saw blood and water pouring out. The memory was graphically inscribed in his mind for life. For him it was no verifiable nail holes, and no verifiable hole in the side… then no Jesus.

But here is the great news. Jesus made all personalities, and He accommodates them all. Thomas set the conditions, just like Gideon did. God read the heart, the intent and the motives… and in both the case of Thomas and Gideon, He approved them. Jesus invited the 11 Apostles to look at Him and touch Him.  He invited Thomas to examine Him, and we have to assume that Thomas did. But watch this now. The result of the observation of Jesus by the 11 Apostles was “joy and amazement” (Luke 24:41). The result of the examination of Jesus by Thomas was worship! “Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)

John 11:16 identifies Thomas as one of Jesus’ Disciples, and a very loyal and dedicated one at that. He encouraged the others to follow Jesus even to His death. And when in John 14:5 he did not understand what Jesus was saying, he asked him for an explanation. According to Christianity.com, “Tradition has him [Thomas] preaching as far east as India, where the ancient Marthoma Christians revere him as their founder. They claim that he died there when pierced through with the spears of four soldiers. According to the 4th-century Ecclesiastical History of Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea, he evangelized Parthia (modern Khorāsān).

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