Summary: If there is a poster boy for “doubting” it must be the Apostle Thomas. Thomas isn't mentioned often in Scripture, but there are examples for each of us in each instance. We've seen that he, like us, had his share of unsettling experiences.
March 9, 2016
Show Me Your Hands!
There are times when I feel like the man who said to Jesus “help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). And, how about this verse: “You don't have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible" (Matthew 17:20). The message here is this, “you don’t need to have great faith, like a David, an Abraham, a Joseph, or a Paul to do great things.” You only need a little, and the reason is that the Holy Spirit will take your little bit of faith and grow it. Don’t worry if you have some doubts. Remember the man who had doubts; I didn’t give you the entire verse. Listen to what he said: “The father instantly cried out, "I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” He must have had a little faith, for in the next verse we read, “When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.” Jesus removed the demon that was hurting the man’s son.
If there is a poster boy for “doubting” it must be the Apostle Thomas. Thomas isn't mentioned often in Scripture, but there are examples for each of us in each instance. We've seen that he, like us, had his share of unsettling experiences. One of those is in John 11. Like him, we've probably had questions about some things, perhaps it is the new revelation or knowledge, which Jesus had shared with them in John 14. Let's take a look at the final episode, the time when Thomas saw Jesus after the resurrection.
Thomas Refused to Believe
The text comes from John 20:24-31: “But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, ‘we have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.’ After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.’ Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name."
Some of us, myself included, wondered and still wonder why Thomas wasn't with the other apostles at this time. Where could he have gone? Though he may not have been marked as a follower of Jesus, he couldn't hide forever if that's what he was doing. At any rate, he was missing when the 10 apostles, as a group, saw Jesus.
When did Thomas make contact with the other apostles? We're not told when. It could have been later in the day. According to the first verses of John 20, Peter and John already had gone to the tomb and found it empty. Mary Magdalene had stayed at the tomb apparently for some time (compare Mark 15:47 and 16:1 with John 20:11-18) and had told the apostles of what she had seen. Luke records the visit to the tomb and back, made by a group of women who saw the empty tomb and returned to the apostles (Luke 24:1-10). In spite of all this, we read that Thomas refused to believe Jesus rose from the dead!
He also told the others what he would need to see if he were to believe. It's tragic that in so many cases people demand proof of something that cannot be reproduced. Nobody can prove Napoleon existed, for example, because there are no people alive today who can take one to Napoleon and say, "There he is!" Sometimes a demand for proof is simply an excuse for not wanting to believe the written records of an event.
It's worse in Thomas’ case because he had heard Jesus tell three different groups of people who demanded a sign that they weren't going to get one! Jesus had said the only sign, or substantiating miracle they would get was the sign of Jonah. He, Jonah, had spent three days and nights in the fish's belly, and Jesus said He would spend three days and nights in the heart of the earth (see Matt. 12:30-40). Now, Thomas was demanding a more precise sign than anybody else had requested!