Summary: Thomas is given a sign, and responds in faith.
Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah,the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
Seeking a Sign
Signs are important. We need signs to help us decide what to do and where to go. I rely on road signs when I’m trying to find my way in a strange town; I rely on signs to remind me to take care when dealing with something dangerous; I need small signs of affection and friendship to encourage me when I’m feeling down.
Signs are important. But Thomas has often had a bad press for saying he needed a sign of who Jesus was. Thomas knew that Jesus was dead – there had been plenty of signs to make sure he knew that. So he wasn’t going to believe in the resurrection just on hearsay and rumour. However much he trusted his friends, he still wanted to see for himself. So he tells them – Unless I see … I will not believe. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
It’s easy to criticize Thomas – and to call someone a “doubting Thomas” has become a way of belittling them. If you’re a doubting Thomas, then you’re someone who won’t believe things even when everyone else around you thinks they are true. You are someone who isn’t willing to trust; who takes a great deal of persuading.
But actually I think there is something to be said for a bit of healthy scepticism. . I say that because I’m a bit of a doubting Thomas myself. There are lots of things that people believe that I refuse to believe.
- Millions of people start every day by reading a horoscope in the newspaper, but I think they are a complete waste of time.
- Many people are convinced that the earth is regularly visited by aliens and flying saucers, but I’m not willing to go along with it.
- And there are many religious ideas I’m not willing to go along with. I certainly don’t believe that all religions are equally true – in fact I’m convinced some people believe things that are quite untrue.
And when I was growing up – and before I became a disciple of Jesus – I would have said, with Thomas, that I wasn’t going to believe without a sign of some sort. I wasn’t going to believe just because someone else said it was true. If I was going to be a believer, it had to be because I knew it was true for me.
I think we all need signs to help us along the way. And I think the writer of our gospel knew that. That’s why, at the end of our scripture passage, he isn’t afraid to tell us that the reason for writing his gospel is to give us some of the signs we need. He tells us, in verses 30 and 31, “ Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. “
John’s gospel says: Jesus did many signs – and here are some of them. And the reason for telling you about them is so that by reading them and hearing them and considering them, you will find somewhere among them the sign for you – the sign that persuades you and convinces you that Jesus is the Messiah; that he is the one sent by God, and so that you will find new life for yourself through him.