The Book: Thomas wasn’t the only doubter

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas. Caravaggio
The Incredulity of Saint Thomas | Caravaggio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. … Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” (John 20:19-20, 24-25)

Last Sunday we read about my favorite apostle, Thomas. This is a guy I can relate to; a thinker who liked empirical evidence. I suspect he was not an overly emotional sort, at least on the outside. Clearly, he was skeptical of the experiences of others.

We don’t know where Thomas was when the risen Jesus first appeared to the gathered disciples. But, he plainly was not cowering in fear with them behind the locked doors of the upper room. When he arrived, after the risen Jesus had departed, it was doubtless to the great emotional outpouring of those claiming to have seen a man risen from the dead. He didn’t buy it: “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

Thomas dangled in this agony for more than a week, forced to rely on the witness of the apostles who had seen the risen Lord.  Day after day, Thomas knew the pain of being left out, the one who had not experienced the physical presence of the resurrected savior.

Perhaps his doubts were as mine: “Why would Jesus appear to everyone but me. What does that mean?” Perhaps he even began to doubt Jesus’ love for him. But, God had plans for Thomas, including bringing Christianity to the Indian subcontinent. In His good time, he appeared to Thomas and, through him, provided a message to the apostles and millennia of Christians.

Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (John 20:26-29)

I can imagine the other apostles sheepishly staring at their feet, quietly understanding that they had believed in Jesus’ resurrection precisely because they had seen it.

I’ve met Christians who never seem to experience doubt. We can call them blessed. However, God used Thomas’ doubt as a lesson for the rest of us, generations of sometimes doubting faithful who have never touched the physical wounds of Jesus, yet place our eternal hope in their efficacy.

Scripture quotations are from The Revised Standard Version of the Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1965, 1966 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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