Doubting Thomas and the Compassionate Saviour

“So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he (Thomas) 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.” (John 20:25)

I feel for Thomas. One of the great disciples of the Lord. He led a faith-filled life of following Jesus and would be one of the twelve apostles who would go on to turn the world upside down. Following the Resurrection, he would live the rest of his life devoted to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the world. Tradition says that Thomas died a martyr in India after travelling that great distance to spread the Good News. And yet, many of us know Thomas as “Doubting Thomas”. It is an unfortunate nickname that originated from Thomas’ struggle to understand and believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. The other disciples had seen Jesus while Thomas was absent, and they proceeded to tell Thomas of their great visitation. But Thomas could not believe their testimony. No matter how much they tried to persuade him, he could not be convinced. Thomas would say 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.” It is a strong statement of disbelief, and one that wouldn’t be recanted until Thomas actually saw Jesus and put his finger in His wounds. Jesus would say to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” It was a beautifully prophetic statement speaking of all the saints down through the ages. Of those who would follow and not see the risen Christ and yet would believe. Saints like you and me.

It was a strong statement from Thomas, and yet, it was uttered after hearing astonishing news. The Saviour had come back from the grave. It truly is an “unbelievable” story. I find that I am drawn to Thomas and his doubt, because it is a familiar story. It wasn’t just Thomas who expressed doubt (even though he is the one with the unfortunate nickname). Mary Magdalene had been told of the resurrection from an angel, along with Mary the mother of James and Salome, and yet when Mary saw Jesus she thought He was a gardener. Her grief had overcome her eyesight. Only after Jesus convinced her of his own identity by calling her name did Mary then believe and finally run off to tell the disciples. And guess what? They didn’t believe her either. The Gospel of Mark records, “When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.” (Mk 16:11) But it wasn’t just the resurrection. All throughout His earthly time with the disciples, Jesus would have to encourage, challenge, and chastise the lack of faith in the disciples. We might think it gets better with the coming of the Holy Spirit, but the book of Acts tells us of several instances of the Lord doing tremendous things and the disciples struggling to find the faith to comprehend what was happening.

The fact is, faith is hard. More than that, Life is hard. And faith is our wrestling with God trying to understand, believe, and follow in spite of all that is happening. Some days our faith is fierce and strong. And some days, all we have is the sliver of hope that God is holding on to us because we have nothing left to hold.

Following Easter, and the Resurrection of our Lord, many of us will be filled with hopeful hearts believing that God continues to live and move today in the same power that He did when He raised Jesus from the grave. We will see opportunities to share this great news with others and a deep belief that each day holds infinite possibility for God to do something incredible. But others might not look at each day with such jubilant expectation. And hope and faith might come sparingly. But the Good News is that Jesus did come for Thomas. Even amongst the doubt. And I don’t think that Jesus uses the same nickname for Thomas. In great compassion, Jesus met Thomas in his doubt and without condemnation allowed him to explore the wounds in his side resulting in Thomas exclaiming, “My Lord and my God.”

And God will meet us in the very same way. He will fill us up when we are low. Without condemnation, He will meet us in our fears and doubts and will lead us in compassion and love until we too exclaim, “My Lord and my God.”

Reflections for this week:

  • Consider the Resurrection and all the great implications it means for each and every day. Think about the incredible fact that the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in us! Allow faith to fill your mind with an expectant hope of what God can accomplish through us each and every day.
  • But also be real about the fact that our faith doesn’t always rise to the level for which the empty tomb demands. Be real about our own struggles, as well as the struggles of others. Such struggle does not label us as “Doubting Chris” or “doubting (your name)”
  • In such moments, ask God to meet you in the same way He met Thomas. Realise that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ” and allow God to fill you up with faith and hope.

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