Summary: A look at doubt and faith
One day a young mother came into her daughter’s room to find her busy with her crayons and paper. “What are you drawing?” she asked. Her daughter paused and said, “A picture of God.” Her mother smiled and said, “But no one knows what God looks like.” The little girl continued with her work and matter-of-factly stated, “They will when I get through.”
That is what John is doing when he writes his Gospel — he is painting a portrait of God, and when he is done God’s picture will look like Jesus. He is saying, “They will know what God looks like when I get through.” He states at the end of this chapter: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31). One way John does that is to take us through the life of Thomas as he journeys from doubt to faith.
Thomas is perhaps the least understood and one of the most maligned of the disciples. But there is no one quite like Thomas. He is a natural skeptic, often leaning toward pessimism. He is the kind of person who sees problems more clearly than he sees solutions. He wanders in the dark more than he walks in the light. His mind is full of questions and even answers that are acceptable to most everyone else do not satisfy him. He is an analyst. He likes to tear things apart and look at them to see how they work. He wants to understand everything before he will believe in anything.
Let’s look at the personality profile of this skeptic. Almost everything we know about Thomas is found in the Gospel of John. John’s main concern in his gospel is moving people from doubt to faith, so Thomas is a natural study. In the eleventh chapter of John, Jesus has just informed the disciples of the death of their friend Lazarus, and then tells them that he is going to Bethany to raise him from the dead. But the disciples are aware that Bethany is only a few miles from Jerusalem, and the officials are seeking to put Jesus to death. Going there will mean that all of them will be placed in harm’s way. The rest of the disciples just sit in stunned silence at Jesus’ announcement. Their minds are filled with fear and uncertainty. But John writes, “Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him’” (John 11:16). In effect he says, “We are all going to die. I just know it. We might as well go and get it over with.” Thomas always expects the worst, but this time his pessimism is rooted in reality. The disciples will not die, because they will all run, but Christ will be taken to the cross — an awful end to a glorious life and ministry. Yet, to his credit, Thomas is, at this point, willing to go and die with Christ. That is more than the others seem to be ready to do.