Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 The Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Today’s story might be familiar to some of us. It is the story of ‘Doubting Thomas’.
Thomas was one of Jesus’ disciples. But none of the disciples have the same nickname as Thomas. You don’t hear that about Peter. Thomas’ nickname came from this story. We see him doubting Jesus’ resurrection.
The word ‘doubt’ often carries a negative connotation. We don’t think it’s good to doubt, especially when it comes to God. Doubting seems like something we shouldn’t do. So we hide our doubts. We pretend like everything is okay.
Is doubting really that bad? What does it mean to doubt, anyway? Is it just a matter of not believing in God? Wondering whether or not God exists? At the end of today’s passage, Jesus seems to tell Thomas that it is better to have faith than to doubt.
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”John 20:29
I want us to look at the story of Doubting Thomas more closely. It will give us a newer and deeper understanding of what doubting is.
How does today’s story begin? Let’s hear it again.
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”John 20:24, 26
Thomas wasn’t there when Jesus appeared to the other disciples! Imagine how that might have made him feel. No one likes to feel like they are the only one who missed out on something important. That’s why we have an expression like ‘FOMO’. So it is understandable when he refuses to believe what the other disciples tell him.
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”Colossians 3:1, 2
Thomas probably felt disappointed. Betrayed. Hurt. And even angry. He wasn’t doubting for no reason. He wasn’t speaking with the confidence of an atheist. His doubting was in response to what he had experienced.
Remember, Thomas was a person of faith. While he was with Jesus, he was full of passion. When Jesus was going to go raise Lazarus, even at the risk of being stoned by the authorities, he was willing to go with him. He even called on the other disciples to do the same.
Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”John 11:16
Jesus meant everything to Thomas. So imagine what Jesus’ death must’ve done to him. And while he’s grieving, the disciples tell him they saw him—and that he missed out. It must’ve been a lot for him to digest all at once.
Through Thomas, we see a different picture of doubt. Doubting is not a complete absence of faith. Doubts can come even when we have faith. Doubting is our crying out for greater faith. In our doubting, there is a helpless and desperate cry for belief. That’s why our doubts are often expressed as anger. We see how much our faith is lacking.
We see this cry for faith throughout the Gospels. A father comes to Jesus with his son because no one can heal him, not even the disciples.
Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!“Mark 9:21-24
The father wanted to believe, but he also couldn’t help himself. So he desperately cried out to Jesus. Jesus healed his son.
Jesus once tells Peter to come to him on the water, and Peter starts to walk on water. Then this happens—
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”Matthew 14:30, 31
When the challenges and circumstances of our life affects us, they also affect our faith. Not only do we become shaky, our faith also becomes shaky. We lose confidence. Even those of us who were once very committed and passionate about God. We want to believe, but we feel totally weak. We feel unsure and totally helpless.
Thomas wanted to believe that Jesus was alive. But he felt like he didn’t have enough faith. All he could say was to demand that Jesus show up in front of him.
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Through the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”John 20:26
Jesus came. But he didn’t scold Thomas for doubting.
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”John 20:27
Jesus did exactly what Thomas wanted. But Thomas didn’t have to touch Jesus’ wounds. Seeing Jesus was enough for him. Jesus gave him the strength to believe again.
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”John 20:28
Thomas didn’t lose his faith, even in his doubting. In fact, through his doubting his faith became stronger. He encountered God in a new way. He later went as far as South India to preach the gospel.
When we feel like we are lacking faith, we don’t have to be afraid. Doubting is a part of our faith journey. Faith and doubt co-exist. If there is no faith, there is no possibility of doubt either. All we have to do is to be honest about our doubts with God. Don’t bottle them up. Express them, just as they are, to God.
Cry out to God like Thomas. God can handle your anger, sadness and disappointment. Don’t let yourself fall into indifference. Indifference is what kills our faith. God sees your desire behind your words. God will give you the strength to overcome your doubts. God will help you believe again. You will come out with an even greater faith.
It has been a week since Easter. So it is a blessing to read Thomas’ story which also happened a week after Jesus’ resurrection.
The story of Doubting Thomas shows us that the risen Christ still is alive and present with us. Christ, who is the Word, speaks powerfully to us through the words of Scripture.
Jesus performed many other 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 Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.John 20:30, 31