Thomas isn’t mentioned often in Scripture, but there are examples for each one of us in each instance. We’ve seen that he, like us, had his share of unsettling experiences as in John 11. Like him, we’ve probably had questions about some of the things, perhaps new revelation or knowledge, which Jesus had shared with them as in John 14. Let’s take a look at the final episode, the time when Thomas saw Jesus after the resurrection.
Thomas Refused to Believe
The text comes from John 20:24-31: “But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.’ After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.’ Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”
Some of us, myself included, wondered and still wonder why Thomas wasn’t with the other apostles at this time. Where could he have gone? Though he may not have been marked as a follower of Jesus, he couldn’t hide forever if that’s what he was doing. At any rate, he was missing when the 10 apostles, as a group, saw Jesus.
When did Thomas make contact with the other apostles? We’re not told when. It could have been later in the day. According to the first verses of John 20, Peter and John already had gone to the tomb and found it empty. Mary Magdalene had stayed at the tomb apparently for some time (compare Mark 15:47 and 16:1 with John 20:11-18) and had told the apostles of what she had seen. Luke records the visit to the tomb and back, made by a group of women who saw the empty tomb and returned to the apostles (Luke 24:1-10). In spite of all this, we read that Thomas refused to believe Jesus rose from the dead!
He also told the others what he would need to believe. It’s tragic that in so many cases people demand proof of something that cannot be replicated. Nobody can prove Napoleon existed, for example, because there are no people alive today who can take one to Napoleon and say, “There he is!” Sometimes a demand for proof is simply an excuse for not wanting to believe the written records of an event.
It’s worse in Thomas’ case because he had heard Jesus tell three different groups of people who demanded a sign that they weren’t going to get one! Jesus had said the only sign, or attesting miracle they would get was the sign of Jonah. He, Jonah, had spent three days and nights in the fish’s belly, and Jesus said He would spend three days and nights in the heart of the earth (see Matt. 12:30-40). Now, Thomas was demanding a more precise sign than anybody else had requested!
This is unbelievable that a disciple—a follower—who had preached and done who knows how many things to the point of saying, “Let’s die with Jesus” (see John 11) would fall so far and so fast from his faith.
However, the story doesn’t end in unbelief!
Thomas Refused to Doubt
Between verses 25 and 26, an entire week has passed. We don’t read of anything happening, no visits from the Lord, no visits to the tomb, nothing at all. The doors were still shut due to fear of the Jews (v. 19). Still, we can rejoice that Thomas was there on this eighth day after the resurrection with the other apostles when suddenly Jesus Himself appeared to them!
The other disciples had seen Jesus on Resurrection Day and knew He wasn’t a ghost or spirit; He told them so! Remember, Thomas wasn’t there on the first day of the week (Resurrection Day) and hadn’t seen Jesus or heard Him say, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:38-39). He missed out on watching Jesus eat a piece of broiled fish!
Now, Thomas sees and hears Jesus for himself for the first time since the crucifixion. Can you imagine, Jesus tells Thomas to examine for himself the wounds in His body? What kind of thoughts went through Thomas’ mind? He had demanded proof—and it’s here! Pilate had shouted to the crowd, “Behold, the Man!” and now Thomas beheld the Son of God! Jesus didn’t chide Thomas or make fun of his doubts. He gave Thomas a chance to examine the facts for themselves. It’s as though Jesus was saying, “You make the call. Stop disbelieving, and begin to believe.” There was no other choice given. There is no other choice to give.
Thomas Refused to Delay
Thomas, as we’ve seen, was an all-or-nothing type of disciple. If he had doubts, he expressed them. If he didn’t understand a question, he asked for an explanation. Surely the Lord is pleased when disciples want to make things clear and sure. Those who doubt, James later said, are double-minded people, driven and tossed like a wave of the sea (James 1:6).
What, then, did Thomas do with the information he saw, literally standing in front of him? He, I think immediately, cried out, “My Lord and my God!” If he had any doubts, they suddenly were gone! Thomas, doubter that he was, had no doubt about it this time. Jesus was, and is, alive!
What will you do with your doubts?
The worst mistake anyone can make is to do nothing when a choice must be made. Thomas had doubts and expressed them, but he refused to doubt any longer when he saw Jesus. Demands for proof? Gone—not needed! Specific views of wounds in Jesus Christ’s body? Don’t need to look or touch them—I believe! Thomas still could have said, “No, I don’t believe it,” but he didn’t. He took a look at the evidence and believed the truth. Anyone can do the same thing. We have evidence in the Word of God about the Son of God; if we follow up on it, we can say with Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” Won’t you do this right now?