Summary: This morning’s message brings us behind closed doors with the disciples in those bewildering first days after Resurrection.
The Matter of Thomas
John 20:19 - 29 (NKJV) 19Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” 26And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
This morning’s message brings us behind closed doors with the disciples in those bewildering first days after Resurrection – and tells two stories of how the disciples encounter the Risen Christ – first, with all the disciples gathered (except Thomas), and then with Thomas coming the second time they gathered.
Have you noticed what I am NOT calling Thomas? I’m not calling Thomas, “Doubting Thomas.” Because I don’t agree with that. Over the years, the church has labeled this story: the story of “Doubting Thomas.” And that’s what we’ve ended up calling him, “Doubting Thomas,” as if the only thing Thomas ever did was doubt.
The traditional version is this story: When Jesus was resurrected, Thomas is the one who didn’t believe. Thomas is the one who didn’t get it. Thus the phrase “Doubting Thomas” has even slipped into our everyday speech – that’s what we call someone who stubbornly and obstinately insists on more proof – “Well, they’re just a ‘Doubting Thomas.”
History has not been fair to Thomas – there is much more to this story – there is much more to Thomas. And for that matter, that there is much more to doubt and to faith, particularly in bewildering times.
I would like to make the case for Thomas this morning.
But first: The case against Thomas. The case against Thomas is straightforward: The disciples are gathered together after the crucifixion – they’re scared, trying to make sense of the tumultuous events of their world, reeling from their trauma, and they’re staying safe behind closed doors. And the resurrected Christ appears in their midst, and says: “Peace be with you.” Then Jesus breathes on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
But Thomas wasn’t there. And when the disciples tell Thomas about it. He doesn’t believe them. He doubts. And Thomas tells them as much – “I’m not going to believe you until I see Jesus for myself, until I put my fingers in the nail-marks in his hand, until I put my hand in his side.”
So Jesus comes back and offers himself to Thomas, “Thomas, place your finger here. Thomas, place your hand here.” And then, and only then, does this “doubting Thomas” believe. Thomas doubts. Doubting Thomas. Blessed are those who believe without seeing.
But there’s more to this story.(The Case For Thomas.) First of all, there’s so much more to Thomas. We are always so much more than any one moment or event in our lives. Thomas has been with Jesus for the whole journey. He’s a bold disciple, not afraid to speak up at important moments.
In John 11 the story of Lazarus reveals the character of Thomas. Jesus doesn’t go to Lazarus at first, but when Jesus decides to go in verse 8, the disciples try to stop him. They tell Jesus that it would be dangerous to go to the town where Lazarus has died. The authorities there are trying to kill Jesus. But when Jesus says, “No, I’m going,” only Thomas speaks up and says in verse 16, “Let us go with Jesus, so that we may die with him.” But we don’t call him Thomas the Courageous.