Doubting Doubting Thomas

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.”

(John 20:24-29)

The Sunday following the resurrection of our Lord is sometimes called St. Thomas Sunday because of the events described in John 20:24-29. Because the Apostle Thomas said (v 25) “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”, he has also became known throughout history as Doubting Thomas. Because of these words the phrase ‘Doubting Thomas’ also entered into the popular vocabulary to describe anyone who refuse to believe something without direct, personal evidence. Charles Dickens may have named the character of the harsh skeptic in Hard Time for These Times in whose mouth he placed the words “…what I want is Facts…nothing but Facts…” Thomas for this very reason. No doubt many sermons this Sunday will focus on John 20:25 and similar parallels will be drawn about the Apostles Thomas’ words of “unbelief”.caravaggio024

There are many works of art that also depict the events described in John 20: 24-29. One of the most famous is shown  on the right by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio from the early 17th century. Like the sermons which will focus only on the Apostle Thomas’ skepticism, this painting, though seemingly beautiful, is completely wrong.

Many will consider the words of Thomas quoted in verse 25 this Sunday but forget about Peter’s three time denial of Jesus (Matthew 26: 69-75). Many will wonder at Thomas’ skepticism but forget how all the disciples fled into the darkness of unbelief on the night of His arrest (Mark 14:50-52). Few if any will note that even though The Risen Savior had already appeared to all except Thomas (who was absent) the disciples still met behind locked doors “for fear of the Jews” (John 20:19). The skepticism of unbelief was not only Thomas’ problem but the defining characteristic of Jesus’ followers from His arrest in the garden until this very moment!

Yes, Thomas doubted, but so too did all the others. The message of John 20: 24-29 then is not as much about Thomas’ unbelief as it is about the faithfulness of God even in the face of unbelief and fear.  Prior to His arrest, Jesus prayed

“While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” (John 17:21).

On the eight day following the resurrection, for the first time since before the arrest, all of the disciples were together in one place. Now God would show His faithfulness to all those who had been given to Him and “not one of them”, including Thomas, would be lost.

Mary Magdalene responded to the presence of the Risen King by attempting to cling to Him (20:17) and scripture says the disciples were glad (20:20) when Jesus appeared to them. The Loved One is alive! The natural response in such circumstance is to try and cling to Him. The Master has risen! Naturally, feelings of gladness would wash over all those who, less than 24 hours before, were weeping from despair.

Thomas’ natural response was to not believe unless he could place his finger into the mark of the nails and his hand into His side. Instead, Thomas, like all the others, did not doubt, but believed (20:29), what his eyes had seen. Unlike all the others however, Thomas did not respond naturally, but in worship of The King, for it was only from his mouth that we hear the declaration “My Lord and my God”!

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10 Responses to Doubting Doubting Thomas

  1. anglhugnu2 says:

    What is the morale of the story of Thomas’ absence? And, why is there a second visitation of Jesus? To the first time readers of John’s gospel, who had never seen Jesus (and maybe one or two of his apostles) what does the Story of Thomas communicate?

    On the surface, The Gospel of John seems a more indepth understanding of how the apostles and disciples of Jesus FELT during and after Jesus’ presence among them. John’s universal message of Love, in some cases, is unmatched. However, we should put this story of Thomas in its proper perspective so that we might learn more fully the importance of our own lives RIGHT NOW.

    The Gospel of John was written to shore up the confidence the Judeo-Chrisian community deeply disappointed that Jesus had not already returned with the kingdom.
    The story of the Thomas is the crowning moment for those wanting to know what to do now that Jesus had not returned as promised. With that said, as you can imagine, the importance of things unseen now carried more importance for those truly seeking a more spiritual answer to their more material questions. The most prominent question perhaps arises amongst the writer(s), “What is it that we are not seeing in the life and times of this enormous influence, Jesus of Nazerene? What does it mean?

    So, with nothing but memories in hand some 80 years after Jesus’ departure, the writer(s) of John prayerfully reflect upon the many stories spoken and written about Jesus to find out what purpose and meaning there was in his life. These members of the Christian community actually have conversations with the God within each of their experiences. As such, they read and listen to the stories, debate and discuss the oral memories, and ultimately compare and contrast their relective outcomes with the lives they lead. Herein, would lie the core truths about life as we know it today.

    As we read in the text of The Gospel of John, as it relates to Thomas, their discoveries of personal strength and resiliance are astonishing. The words “blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed” is a remarkable challenge to a new generation of believers (us included) who have had only the stories of Jesus to live and base their life actions upon. And, strange as it may seem, the question WWJD? (what would Jesus do) is perhaps older than we think.

    What exactly is it are we and they asked to believe? If we are listening to the unseen message of the gospels writer(s) we are asked to believe personal strength and resiliance lies within an active relationship with God; a truly benevolent father. A father, whose arms accepts you where you are, forgives you for what you’ve done, and leads you not into temptation and delivers you (daily) from all sorts of evils…if that is where you will his will be done here on earth as IT IS in heaven.

    In other words, whether we like it or not, the gospel writers had discovered in Jesus a message of self-help and endless innovation upon the inspirations of our ancestors directed by the Holy Spirit of The Father.

    To make a long story short…..Thomas, whether you like it or not, You are loved and loved right now!”

    AngllHugnU2
    Author of IM with God
    Available thru Amazon.com

  2. jerryk says:

    Hi AngllHugnU2,

    Thank you for visiting and for your comments. John’s purpose in writing this Gospel is stated in John 20:31: “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.”

    He is risen!

  3. anglhugnu2 says:

    I have no doubt the writers of this gospel were writing a document to support that community in Asia Minor’s long standing beliefs in Jesus as The Christ, the Son of God. However, the critical aspect for these persons reading what we now call 20:31 comes at its end…”by believing you may have life in his name.” The persons recieving the message of the gospel, in all liklihood, had a reasonable good understanding of the Jesus experience. BUT, what they might not have considered was what impact their understanding had made on their lives without their knowing it. the Gospel writers were simply reminding them of this inner strenght they possessed for a better life by their belief in Jesus.

    I am sure you know, The Gospels of Matthew, Luke,, Mark, and even John could very well have been written by those few inspired persons who ascribed to these four person’s take (or understanding) on the life of Jesus. It’s just the way they did things then to determine a kind of ownership of a faith life. It would be similar if you were an assistant or student to a famous preacher, let’s say Billy Graham, and you documented his take on the life of Jesus…you would have called your book back then The Gospel (the good news) according to Billy.

    Now, take this frame of mind, this way of doing things, this social practice or behavior and apply it to how you would (if you lived in that time period)..how you would make everyday life decisions….If you believe Jesus had the power to love his neighbor as he would have loved himself….even if it meant facing a savage death…you would believe not only in a love that IS stronger than death…BUT, a love that includes YOU as apart of its healing and even resurrecting power.

    Herein lies the brilliance of The Gospel of John over the works of, let say, Mark, Matthew, and Luke. The writers of this document, because the reflected on the meaning and purpose of Jesus’ life, discovered a deeper more passionate relationship with God. As such they write a document that not only says what Jesus did but why he does what he did. This then allows the Christian communities to take ownership of a deeper everyday relationship with God.

    By the way, this concept is not a new one for the Jews. The prophets of the Old Testament railed on the Jews for centuries about such a relationship. BUT, Jesus makes real this relationship to a few apostles and disciples who finally “get it.” And, these friends and/or associates are able to communicate a universal message of our ACTUALLY being capable of healing the sick, allowing the blind to see, and helping the lame to walk.

    So, it is quite possible the story of the cripple being asked to pick up his matt and walk is used by the writers to tell the rest of the community…if a lame person can pick up their matt and walk you too have the personal strength and God given faith to pick up your matt and walk. In other words, stop worrying about when Jesus will return and start believing (in Jesus’ name) the capacity for your living a good life right here and right now.

    Thanks for listening!

    AngllHugnU2
    Author of IM with God

  4. jerryk says:

    Hi AngllHugnU2 and thank you again for your comments. It would appear we differ about the authorship of the Gospel of John. This is, in my view, a secondary issue and one about which we may disagree in charity with one another.

    As to your ‘Billy Graham’ analogy, I think the words of Martin Luther have application:

    “We must make a great difference between God’s Word and the word of man. A man’s word is a little sound, that flies in the air, and soon vanishes; but the Word of God is greater than heaven and earth, yea greater than death and hell, for it forms part of the power of God and endures everlastingly; we should therefore, diligently study God’s Word and assuredly believe that God Himself speaks to us.”

    Scripture is God’s Word not merely “a document” as you assert or the word of John or Paul or “some other man who has not created heaven and earth”. It is not possible for the Gospel of John to have a “brilliance” over the other three Gospels as you assert because all four were and are the Inspired Word of God: “Every word of God proves true” (Proverbs 30:5), man shall live “by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4), “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” (2 Timothy 3:16). Again quoting Martin Luther, why “the phrase, ‘…every word’?” Answer: because “Christ is in every word, and he is wholly in all single words”.

    “Holy Scripture, being God’s own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: it is to be believed, as God’s instruction, in all that it affirms, obeyed, as God’s command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God’s pledge, in all that it promises.”

    Any view of the Scripture which is less than this is seriously deficient.

  5. anglhugnu2 says:

    “Holy Scripture, being God’s own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches..”

    I appreciate the warmth of your willingness to discuss matters surrounding our belief systems. For me, the above quote is of particular interest. For I have found myself in the most uncomfortable but blessed place of preparing inspired words touched and superintended by the The Father’s Holy Spirit.

    While in my youth I found such awareness somewhat odd, today, I am never in fear of The Word and its universal infallibility and divine authority blooming from within me. In fact, these days I embrace those moments when The One (God) opens the doors of his enormous love and uses my pen, keyboard, and writings as the way for another to truly touched and moved to discover the wealth of His ever expanding love blooming within their lives as well.

    M. A. Tkacik
    AngllHugnU2
    Author of IM with God

  6. jerryk says:

    Hi AngllHugnU2 and thank you again for visiting. I sincerely hope that I misread your previous comments. If I have misread them, I ask for your correction and forgiveness. If I did not misread them, please carefully and prayerfully examine yourself, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourself. Or do you not realize this about yourself, that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Cor 13:5).

    If your claim is true, then the Bible is wrong. If the Bible is wrong, then your assertion that “The Word and its universal infallibility and divine authority” bloom from within you cannot be true. If the Bible is true, your claim to prepare “inspired words touched and superintended by the The Father’s Holy Spirit” is false. This is why:

    The Bible claims for itself SUFFICIENCY which means that it is the only INSPIRED, INERRANT words of God needed for salvation, wisdom, obedience, and for the equipping for every good work. See for example 2 Timothy 3:15-17 and Jude 1:3 among many, many others.

    If your writings are inspired as you claim, the Bible’s claim of sufficiency is wrong and it is therefore not the word of God. If the Bible is not the word of God, then that which you claim blooms from within you cannot be based on divine authority because you have previously and mistakenly ascribed inspiration to Biblical authors. By definition, God cannot make mistakes, therefore that which He superintends cannot be in error. Your claims are therefore not only self-refuting but logically impossible.

    If the Bible is true, your writings cannot be inspired nor superintended by God.

    My friend, please examine yourself and test your words in the Light of God’s Word. Nothing less that your eternal destiny is at stake.

  7. anglhugnu2 says:

    Once again, I do love the very depth and breadth of your spiritual honesty. I admire the fairness of your words. They are filled with a great deal of God’s grenuine care and God’s real and honest love. I also believe there to be a great deal of inspiration for those who would have read what you and I have dialogued about here over the last few days.

    I am not quite sure it means much to you….but…beneath, around, and through our words are clear messages of a willingness to learn how truly close we are to The Father who loves you and I very dearly. I do not shrink (nor do I think you do) from the responsibility of being party to another person (outside of you and I) learning from what we know about such journeys, I embrace it. God works, as we know, in strange ways. I like being apart of those strange journeys of His.

    With that said, perhaps the hardest thing in this world for one person to explain to another is the exactitude and specifics of their spiritual journey. All I can do is explain to you what I have witnessed along the way in my conversations (my prayer life) with God. So bare with me as I reach for the words that might help you understand, and maybe even come to appreciate my willingness to lay claim to my honest and real relationship with God. God is my friend, my partner, my confidant, and my advisor on matters of Life. God is MY path….God is My way…to discover the real and honest truth of the eternal love and life God expresses through Jesus constantly.

    I know, as you might, there are the basics, the foundation, the ground rules (so to speak) about how one can lead a good life. We….and I do say we…would call that direction The Word of God, The Way, The Truth, The Life. And….yes….The Word of God as prepared by these distant ancestors leads us to a place where we can live in the present moment and say as Jesus might…”I am loved by The Father who wants me to love my Self as The Father loves me…I therefore will live to love my neighbor as my Self…because The Father loves me…right here and right now. This, my friend, is what life boils down to in our everyday encounters with each other….loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. I do believe everybody does love others as they love theirself….its just not all that great at times…..In fact, it is down right disgusting.

    I do not believe God created us because he needed to….God created us because he wanted to express Love….a perfect love…and infallible love. In general while our actions may speak to a different drum beat; one we have come to define as sin, the fact IS we ARE still today that perfect and infallible expression of God’s love.

    To believe we have the power to somehow subvert God’s will to express His perfect love is delusional at best. Yet, we somehow DO believe we have such power. And, I sense our multiple versions and visions for what we THINK love to be has proven to me we are convinced we DO have the capacity to subvert God’s will. This delusion, this sinfulness, this mistake dedicated life we practice day in and day out is ( and I know you will agree)…is pure folley, a lie. We ARE love (period).

    My friend….I examine my Self constantly…and continue today to test my words in the Light of God’s Word (especially the spirit of The Word) and have discovered an eternal destiny that can never be threatened….no matter how bad I might make it for myself in life. And, believe me…I have tried to really screw things up. BUT, I have found, through all of my mistakes, my creative efforts at sin, my seeming perpetual need to create problems for myself…God still loves me effortlessly and willingly. He wants me to be an apart of his willingness to express His ever-expanding Love. It took me decades to finally realize how truly close I have been to The One (God) who loves unconditionally.

    When we come to grow into the Loving expression we are of The Father, we come to improve the manner and nature of our approach to loving our neighbor as our Self. I guess…this is why my life’s motto and core of my new book’s message on spiritual intimacy is….I am loved…and loved….right now.

    Thank you for allowing me this time…….

    AngllHugnU2
    Author of IM with God

  8. vimto1 says:

    Thomas did not doubt. He was faithless. The point is that he should have believed the witness of the apostles but did not. WHe was the first historical person to be requried to believe in resurrection of Jesus via human report. We are in the same position vis-a-vis Jesus as Thomas was. Thus the witness of the sctptures is all we need for belief. Thus we are ‘blessed’.

    “Do not be faithless but believing…..”

    to which we should reply “My Lord and my God” in humble affirmation and adoration.

  9. jerryk says:

    Hi Vimto1 and thanks for visiting and taking the time to post a comment. No argument from me, but I would like to point out that Thomas was also an Apostle. I am only suggesting that the message of John 20: 24-29 is more about the faithfulness of God to accomplish all He promises more than it is about Thomas’ unbelief (faithlessness if you will).

  10. Guy says:

    Were not all the apostles the first “historical person(s) required to believe in resurrection (sic) of Jesus via human report”? I.e. Mary’s report? And did they all not deem that report to be “as nonsense”? I’m sure that was a wonderful preparation for them to face their mission to the world with humility and relying on God’s grace.

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