Summary: Thomas had doubts, and so do we sometimes. How does Jesus deal with doubters? With much grace!
John 20:24-29 – I Doubt it
Today we are continuing our series on what happened AFTER Jesus rose from the dead. Who was affected? How did their lives change? What difference does the risen Lord make in people’s lives? Why does the Resurrection matter? Today we are in John 20:24-29, and we are reading about a guy named Thomas. You have probably heard of Thomas by the reputation that the church has carried on through the years... Doubting Thomas. Let’s read John 20:24-29.
I read this week about a guy named Vseslav of Polotsk. He was born almost 1000 years ago, and ruled the city of Polotsk in the eastern European country of Belarus. His reign was quite uneventful except for building a large cathedral. There are a few interesting legends, though. He was also known as Vseslav the Sorcerer or Vseslav the Seer. What I get a kick out of, though, is his other nickname: Vseslav the Werewolf. The legend was he could turn into a werewolf. Belerus issued a commemorative coin in 2005 with an image of Vseslav in the foreground, and an image of a wolf in the background. For a ruler of a city for 57 years, it’s unfortunate that history best knows him as a werewolf.
History has not been kind to the reputation of Thomas either, and I think that’s a tragedy. If the truth be told, we are all a lot like Thomas. In the next few minutes, I’d like us to look at Thomas’ life, and gain encouragement for our own walks of faith.
Now, Thomas was one of Jesus’ disciples. And he was not half-hearted about it. In John 11, Jesus said that they should return to the hill country of Judea, in order to raise Lazarus from the dead. The disciples objected to that, because the last time they were in the area, Jesus was nearly arrested. But Thomas, in 11:16, said, “Let’s go and die with Jesus.” Maybe that was a little pessimistic, but it wasn’t half-hearted. That was not about lack of faith, or doubt; it was devotion.
Later, in Jesus’ last week, He was telling His disciples that there was a place for them, and they would be with Him there. Thomas asked Him, “How can we go be with You if we don’t know where You’re going?” That’s not doubt. That’s lack of understanding. That’s not fully realizing what Jesus’ plans are, but that’s not doubt. That’s a sincere desire to follow Jesus.
Within 18 hours of saying this, Jesus would die a horrible death. All His disciples scattered, and fell short of complete devotion to Him, including Thomas. On the third day, Sunday, the 1st day of the week, Jesus rose again. The grave could not keep Him, death could not hold Him, and hell could not contain Him. By His death and resurrection, Jesus defeated sin, death, and hell, and we have freedom to follow God in a way we never had before.
Then, Jesus started making appearances to His followers. On that 1st day, He appeared to Mary Magdalene, and then other women, and then Peter, and then 2 disciples on a road, and to His disciples behind locked doors. Well, except for Thomas. We don’t know where he was that night, or why he was not with His fellow disciples, but he wasn’t there.
Later, he found out about it. The others told him that Jesus was alive. And Thomas didn’t believe them. He said, “Look… unless I see for myself, and touch His hands, and touch His side, I won’t believe. Case closed.”
And at this point, we always say that Thomas doubted Jesus. I don’t think so. He didn’t doubt Jesus, so much, as he doubted what others were saying about Jesus. Yes, Jesus had said He would die, and rise again, but no-one really believed it or understood it at the time. All of them needed to see Jesus to believe, except maybe John.
It’s not so much that Thomas doubted Jesus as he doubted others. How many of you doubted the words of Harold Camping, who said that the end of the world was starting yesterday? All of you, right? No-one really seriously believed that yesterday was the beginning of the end. But how many of you doubt that Jesus is ever going to come back? Exactly. It’s not that you are doubting that Jesus will return, but you’re doubting people’s theories about it. That’s the same of Thomas. He didn’t believe everything he heard about Jesus, and neither do you… neither should you. Doubting someone’s opinion or understanding of Jesus is not the same as doubting Jesus Himself.
But still… sometimes we do doubt, though, don’t we? We can’t understand someone’s objections, and their suspicions trickle into our minds, too. We’re afraid of getting labelled a heretic or an apostate if we verbalize our thoughts. Maybe we begin to doubt the Bible, but maybe we’re doubting our understanding of it.