Summary: It is so easy to characterise ourselves and others on the basis of past actions or occasions when sin has prevailed. The way Jesus deals with Thomas reminds us that we should not be judged on the basis of our reputation, but on the basis of Christ’s grac
“Thomas … vilified by reputation”
We like to put people into a box don’t we? To be able to look at someone and feel that we have a measure of who they are.
We see a single mum … and all too quickly we make a presumption about the sort of person she is.
We discover someone is a politician … and we think we know exactly what that person is like.
We see a man who has an alcohol problem … and we can tell you his life story.
We discover a young person on drugs … and we feel that we know their whole history.
That’s how it often works doesn’t it. We look at people. We look at what they are involved in. We look at their jobs. We look at the state of their homes. And before we have even gotten to know them we make a value judgement about them.
It’s so wrong ... yet we do it.
To prove my point what is the first thing you think of when I mention Thomas the disciple?
How many of you thought, “He was the disciple which doubted”?
Certainly there is good reason to think that way. Because that is what the Bible tells us about him.
Doubting Thomas. His actions are so well known that you can look up the phrase “doubting Thomas” in a dictionary and find it listed there. To be a doubting Thomas is to “be one who refuses to believe without proof”.
Thomas did have a bit of a doubting problem. But we also need to remember that Thomas was not the only one. Every one of the disciples had their doubts.
Why were they gathered together in this one house on the evening of the first day? Was it because the women who had seen Jesus had come and told them that Jesus was alive … and now they were just waiting anxiously for Him to make an appearance? Not at all. The disciples were there in fear of the Jews. They had come together in numbers because there was safety in numbers.
As they gather they would not have been talking loudly and excitedly about the resurrection of Jesus – you know the sort of excitement you have as you are waiting for a bride to turn up to her wedding.
The room would have been a place of whispered voices.
When footsteps were heard in the street everyone would have instinctively gone quiet – is it the sound of soldiers being led by the temple leaders to arrest the disciples?
The room has a vibe ... of fear.
Fear protected by locked doors.
Thomas is the one who gets put in the box of doubt, but the shoe fits all the disciples. On so many occasions Jesus had told them that it was all going to happen exactly like this. Let me read just one of these occasions from Matthew 20:17-19.
Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn Him to death and will turn Him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day He will be raised to life!’
It’s as if Jesus was furnishing the disciples with a check-list.
The betrayal was predicted. Jesus was not taken by surprise when Judas led that band of men into the olive grove.
The actions of the religious leaders were spoken of because Jesus knew their hypocrisy and envy. Jesus knew the injustice which would come.
The brutal treatment at the hands of the Romans was known and Jesus allowed it to happen even though He had access to 12 legions of angels who would come to His help in an instant.
His death by crucifixion ... a most horrible way to die ... but totally expected.
Jesus made it very clear that these events would happen. Most importantly He also made it clear that the resurrection was part of the package. “On the third day He will rise of life”.
Before it all unfolded Jesus gave them a check list ... and He didn’t do it once; He did it several times. The very reason He did so is because He didn’t want the disciples to doubt.
Yes it would be difficult to see Jesus die.
Yes it would feel like it is all over.
But the resurrection was on the cards. These events should be a cause for hope not doubt.
But hope is gone. Instead of sitting in that room in excited anticipation – after all a number of women had already seen Jesus and He had sent a message via them – instead there is fear and dread. Thomas may be the one who verbalises the doubt – but the other disciples were in exactly the same frame of mind. Indeed it is doubt that doesn’t quickly disappear even when Jesus reveals Himself.