Thank God for ThomasPosted February 6th, 2012
by Sonia A. Randall
Doubting Thomas. Because of that moniker, Jesus’ disciple Thomas has become legendary. But references to Thomas as a doubter have always disturbed me. It doesn’t seem fair that he should have to bear that negative description throughout the ages simply because his faith was temporarily shaken by the crucifixion of Jesus.
Thomas was absent when the risen Christ first appeared to some of the other disciples. They also had experienced great uncertainty following Christ’s death. But Thomas, having missed that initial personal eyewitness experience, doubted. He did not, however, become a confirmed life-long skeptic. He was simply a man who had difficulty believing a report that, quite frankly, seemed unbelievable.
So Many Sermons
Many sermons have chided Thomas for his lack of faith. But how many of us would have acted differently in his position? How many of us can identify with him—or would, if we hadn’t heard all those sermons?
After all, we cannot believe just anything someone tells us is from God. We have to check it against Scripture and spend time praying about it. The disciple John tells us, “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (I John 4:1 NIV).
It is also easy for us to understand why Thomas set certain conditions for what he would believe. That, too, is a very human reaction. Thomas said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25 NIV). Thomas behaved in a way I can totally understand. Faith is not a matter of gullibility. Strong faith is not easy to acquire. It has to be given by God.
When all the disciples were gathered together, Jesus showed great compassion for Thomas. Jesus spoke directly to him: “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:27 NIV). When Thomas realized that this truly was his Lord, risen from the dead, he expressed a most beautiful confession of faith: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28 NIV).
Only then did Jesus chide Thomas gently, saying, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29 NIV). What hope that gives to people like me! Jesus loved Thomas despite his limitations. He provided what Thomas needed for a living faith. This gives me confidence that Jesus will help me to have faith, even when I don’t fully measure up to the ultimate ideal.
There is no indication in Scripture that Thomas doubted again. According to legend passed down through the centuries, Thomas was later taken to India as the slave of an Indian merchant, and there he planted the seeds of Christianity. There is a church in India today, the Mar Thoma Church, which is said to have descended from this group originally established by the disciple Thomas.