Read John 11:7-16.
Last post from the book of John we looked at, what it looks like, when God doesn’t make sense. The post from the book of John before that one, we looked at how Martha gets a raw deal. Today we’re going to look at the record of another person in the Bible and how he gets a raw deal. Today we’re going to look at “Doubting Thomas.”
“A Skeptic” Of Epic Proportions
Doubting Thomas. His fame throughout the world for his cynicism and doubt endures to this day. When you type “doubting Thomas” into Google the first hit is from Wikipedia, and the first six words in the wiki definition read: “A doubting Thomas is a skeptic…” Thomas’s name has the word “doubting” attached to it, and he will likely be associated with doubt and skepticism until the world as we know it comes to an end. I know for me, it’s hard to hear the name Thomas without the four syllables “doubting Thomas” popping into my mind.
Where They Tried To Kill Jesus
Beginning in verse seven, we see in our text that after hearing the request to help Lazarus, Jesus says to his disciples: Let’s go to Judea again.
Why Jesus ends that statement with the word again is explained in the disciples response: “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?”
You see here’s the scene: The Pharisees had just tried to kill Jesus in Judea near Jerusalem. So Jesus is hanging out with his disciples a safe distance away in the area of Jericho. And it’s then that Jesus hears about his good friend coming down with a fatal illness. Mary and Martha are begging him to come and help because it’s to the point where Jesus is the only possible solution. The only problem is, Jesus’ friend Lazarus has fallen ill near Jerusalem. So if Jesus goes to help, he’ll have to return to the same area where the Pharisees just tried to assassinate him. But Jesus says, without any apparent concern: Let’s go there again.
What Everyone Else Was Afraid To Do
The disciples say: That’s where they just made an attempt on your life, and you want to go there again?
Jesus then explains to his disciples why he’s not afraid to go back. It’s not long before it becomes obvious he’s determined to go, in spite of the danger that awaits him there.
It’s at this point that Thomas says something amazing, he says, “Let’s also go, so we can die with him.”
The courage Thomas, “a skeptic,” displays here stands out from the other disciples. His devotion to Jesus astounds me. He’s the kind of friend who’s standing with Jesus even if it means dying with him. He’s an all in kind of guy when it comes to his relationship with Christ.
That’s not what I normally think of when I hear the name Thomas mentioned in the context of the Bible.
What Everyone Else Was Afraid To Say
Another time, at the last supper, not long before Jesus would be led away to the illegal legal proceedings where they’d condemn him to death, Jesus said: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”
At this point, I imagine, all the disciples are sitting there thinking, “Wait. What? We know the way to the place you’re going? You can’t be serious! We have no idea.”
Yet none of them had the fortitude to say a single word.
But Thomas is different. Thomas is an independent thinker. He analyzes Jesus’ words and decides he’s not satisfied with the situation. He’s not going to let it go. He has the courage to speak up. Thomas says, “Lord, we don’t know where you’re going, so how can we know the way?”
Thomas was a unique personality. He was different than the other eleven disciples. He was courageous. He was brutally honest. He was thoughtful. He was realistic.
And he was devoted to his friend.
Jesus Chooses Those Who Are Different
Thomas was different than most people. To me he seems to have an analytical personality type. I find it fascinating that even though he was different, Jesus chose Thomas to be one of the twelve. Thomas was chosen to be one of the twelve people on planet earth to be closest to Jesus. Thomas was part of the twelve who would ultimately lose their lives because they followed him. Why would Jesus do that? He had to know Thomas would doubt him. If it were me, I never would have chosen Thomas. I would have culled him out of the selection process and chosen someone who had greater belief in the vision. But Jesus chose Thomas.
Thomas Gets What He Wants
After they killed Jesus, on the evening of the first day of the week, the remaining disciples were together, except for one: Thomas. Grief is manifested differently in different people, and Thomas was different. Some people grieve by getting together with friends, some need time alone. Thomas seemed to be the type who need some time alone. So he missed the gathering. Jesus showed up in their midst, but Thomas missed it. They got it, they experienced Jesus, but Thomas missed him. The others saw the reality of Jesus, before Thomas did.
Later they tried to tell Thomas they had seen the Lord, but Thomas, with his trademark brutal honesty said, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
You might take offense at Thomas’s skepticism at this point, but I would say it’s understandable. The other disciples didn’t believe right away. When the women came with their report, the other disciples didn’t buy it. It took them awhile before they believed, might it not take a little longer for a guy like Thomas?
A week later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them.
And he stood among them. And he looked right at Thomas. But he didn’t condemn him for his doubt. Jesus never called him “Doubting Thomas,” we did that. Instead he gave Thomas just what Thomas wanted. Jesus said to him, “Thomas, put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side.”
“Stop doubting and believe,” Jesus said.
Jesus knew, he knew about Thomas. He knew what he said about putting his fingers where the nails were, and putting his hand into his side. He knew about Thomas’s skepticism. He knew his analytical personality. He knew his heart.
Jesus knew about Thomas’s doubts.
But he loved Thomas anyway.
And he received him to himself.
And Thomas said, “My Lord and my God.”
Ray Pritchard, The Apostle Who Would Not Believe: Christ Speaks to the Problem of Broken Dreams, Keep Believing Ministries
Thomas the Apostle, Justus.Anglican.org
Doubting Thomas–John 20:19-31, Churchmouse Campanologist
The image is of the painting Doubting Thomas by Caravaggio circa 1600, Wikimedia.org, Public Domain