Summary: Thomas responded to Jesus based on the evidence of His resurrection. We need to do the same.
We are so glad that you’re here with us this morning to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. That event is without a doubt the single most significant and meaningful event in the history of mankind. But the significance of the resurrection is not just found in the gospel accounts of the events surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus, as important as those are. It is not found in all the commentaries that provide us with the scientific research that confirms and supports those accounts. To me the significance of the resurrection of Jesus is found in the way that it impacted the lives of ordinary people who are much like all of us, and in the way it continues to impact lives nearly 2,000 years later. No other event in history can claim to do that.
So each year as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, I like to take a look at one of the people whose life was greatly impacted by the resurrection of Jesus. We’re going to do that again this year as we look at this passage from John’s gospel:
24 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "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 it." 26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." 28 Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" 29 Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
John 20:24-29 (NIV)
In a Peanuts comic strip, Charlie Brown is talking with Lucy as they walk home on the last day of school. Charlie Brown says to Lucy: “Lucy, I got straight A’s. Isn’t that great!”
Lucy in her typical fashion shoots down poor Charlie Brown and says: I don’t believe you Charlie Brown. Unless you show me your report card, I cannot believe you.”
This morning, we’re going to look at the account of a man who was a lot like Lucy, a man who would not believe until someone showed him the evidence.
Although we don’t know a whole lot about Thomas from the Biblical accounts, almost all of us associate him with the nickname that he has been given as a result of this account I just read – “Doubting Thomas”. As I hope you’ll see this morning, that is really not a very accurate moniker for Thomas. In fact, when John wrote his gospel, probably after Thomas had died, the only nickname he used was “Didymus”, a Greek word that means twin, the very same meaning as his Aramaic name, Thomas.
As I mentioned, the gospel writers don’t tell us a lot about Thomas. In fact, Matthew, Mark and Luke merely include him in the list of the names of the apostles but don’t tell us anything else about him. In addition to the account we just read, John records two other events that give us some insight into Thomas, so let’s look at those briefly.
The first event occurs as Jesus is getting ready to return to Judea to raise Lazarus from the dead. The apostles knew that it was dangerous for Jesus to return to that area because the Jews were looking to stone Him. But Thomas responded with these words:
Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."
John 11:16 (NIV)
Thomas doesn’t sound like much of a doubter there, does he? He is willing to accompany Jesus even if that means his own life might be in peril.
The other recorded incident involving Thomas occurs in John 14 when Jesus tells His disciples that He is going to prepare a place for them and promises to come back to take them to be with Him there. Although I’m sure the other disciples were confused about what Jesus was saying, Thomas was the only one who was willing to speak up and ask Jesus to explain what He meant:
Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?"
John 14:5 (NIV)
Because Thomas was bold enough to ask the question, we have this response of Jesus which is crucial to our faith: