Summary: Thomas is a case study of how we can move from doubt to faith ourselves, and assist others in making the same spiritual journey.
The Journey from Doubt to Faith
John 20:24-31; 21:12
When you and I woke up this morning, we didn’t wake up thinking that Jesus of Nazareth is still buried in a tomb in Jerusalem. We didn’t wake up in a world where death and the grave appeared to have been victorious.
But remember that on that first Resurrection Sunday so many years ago, the followers of Jesus didn’t wake up with that same assurance. They all thought he was dead.
That’s important to grasp if we are to understand the story we’re looking at today.
After Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion the disciples are broken-hearted, confused, wondering what to do next.
The gospels record that they are cringing in locked rooms, afraid they will be next, too afraid to show their faces in public, even for a funeral.
The chances of detection are too high. You’ll remember that just a few days earlier three different people had picked Peter out of the crowd and announced that he was one of Jesus’ followers. Those encounters took place at night, when it’s harder to recognize a face, and now it’s Sunday morning. So they send a couple of women alone to care for the body.
Anointing a body with spices and ointments was a last gesture of love and respect to the dead, and meant to cover the smell of the rapidly decaying body for as long as possible.
None of them were expecting the resurrection. But Jesus appears first to Mary of Magdala, and then that same evening to the apostles, huddled in a room where the doors are locked and the windows shuttered. “Shalom - Peace!” he tells them, and then he shows them his nail-pierced hands, the wound in his side. They laugh and cry together! He breathes on them and says, “receive the Holy Spirit!”
The disciples are overjoyed! Hope is rekindled! Life once more has meaning and is worth living, because Jesus is alive! It’s a new day for them – well, for ten of them. Judas is no more, and Thomas. . .. where is Thomas?
John 20:24-25 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.
"Not with them" - different people handle grief in differing ways. Some like to find comfort in one another’s company. Others creep into a hidden corner to be by themselves.
Thomas had a lot to sort out - news of his friend Judas’ death by suicide,; and then Jesus’ death - his mentor, his master, his rabbi, the one he had given up everything to follow - all in same weekend!
Jesus had picked him – even though he was an uneducated fisherman – to be his disciple. It was the break of a lifetime! Thomas had staked the rest of his life on following Jesus – leaving his family, his business, and everything else to be his disciple. Now Jesus was dead.
Thomas had gone away and cried, and cried, and cried. It didn’t make any sense. He was as depressed as a person could get.
When he eventually returned from wherever he was, the others filled him in on what had happened in his absence.
25So 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.”
Evidently Thomas was a pessimist by nature – he could always imagine the worst. E.g. - Lazarus was dead, Jesus told us about it, his response (John 11:16), was "Let’s go, too, that we may die with him!"
Also seems that he was a little slow to grasp spiritual realities. - Thursday night when Jesus was having what we refer to as "the last Passover Supper" with his disciples, he said (John 14:1-4): "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going."
Thomas wondered, “What was Jesus talking about? His father, Joseph, had long been dead and buried. His mother’s house was a small mud affair in the shopkeepers section of a little insignificant Galilean town called Nazareth. What in the world was he talking about?”
Thomas looked at John; he shrugged. He looked at Peter, but Peter was still thinking about what Jesus had just told him about denying him three times before the rooster crowed, so Thomas said: "Whoa, Jesus! Back up here. We don’t even know where you’re talking about going, so how can we possibly know the way?"