Summary: Thomas, who is often remembered for his doubts, gives every Christian hope and encouragement as the Lord appears to him with the invitation to touch and believe.
Thomas, Doubter Turned Confessor John 11:1-16; 14:1-6; 20:24-29
Palm Sunday Sermon, by Don Emmitte, Grace Restoration Ministries
J. Stuart Holden wrote: “Of all the Master's men, Thomas is the one to whom least justice is commonly done. He is, in fact, mostly known for what are felt to be his faults. When his name is mentioned it is usually as ‘doubting Thomas.’ As such he might be held in a certain degree of wondering disrespect, not to say contempt, had not the Resurrection story in which he and the Master figure together, been chronicled.”
This is Palm Sunday. We could spend our time digging into the details of the Triumphal Entry, or the Cleansing of the Temple. In fact, we could spend hours each day recounting the incredible last days of our Lord on the Earth. However, as I was studying this week it occurred to me that one of our greatest needs is for assurance in the face of a world that is increasingly challenging our faith. So, in this day of endemic doubt and cynicism, we can be encouraged by the fact that among His twelve carefully selected disciples, Jesus included one whose name has become a synonym for doubt. Jesus always saw people for what they would become, not what they were. He sees us like that today!
When Andrew introduced Peter to Him, His first words were: "You are Simon... you shall be called Cephas (which translated means Peter)" (cf. John 1:42). Did you hear it? You are... You shall be. Jesus always saw the hidden potential in people. Our Lord's play on Peter's name was not a meaningless joke, but an appraisal and a prophecy. Cephas was the Aramaic equivalent of the Greek Peter. Petra signifies a massive ledge of rock. Further, it should be noted the reference is not to a pebble. So in calling Peter the “Rock” Jesus was assuring him that although he was now fickle and unstable, under His molding hand he would develop a character as stable as a rock.
Can we adopt a less generous attitude in our appraisal of Thomas, the twin? Just as He did to Peter, Jesus might well have said to Thomas. "You are temperamentally Thomas, the chronic disbeliever; but under my transforming hand you will become Thomas, the peerless confessor."
The picture of Thomas in Scripture is of a typical melancholic. He found it desperately easy to look on the dark side of things and conjure up difficulties. Thomas's nature was set in a minor key. He was inclined to view a gloomy possibility as a certainty. The trust and optimistic outlook of the child was absent from his makeup. Although he had a warm and passionate heart, it tended to be overridden by the speculative side of his nature, which influenced him toward suspicion and distrust. By nature he was argumentative and demanded a reason for
everything. Second-hand evidence was not enough. Add to all this a touch of obstinacy, and you have a temperamental problem on your hands. Thomas would not have described himself as a doubter or unbeliever, but only as a realist who must be true to himself.
Three incidents help us to understand Thomas and ultimately ourselves. On examination, it will be found that the same traits of character are revealed in each incident. The first was sparked by the Lord's insistence on going to the house of mourning in Bethany in spite of the obvious danger to Himself. The second arose out of Thomas' question of the Lord on the night of the Last Supper. The third was the memorable interview after the resurrection.
First, We See the Bethany Incident (John 11:1-6).
Take Your Bible, Please…
Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:1-16 ESV).