“Doubting Thomas,” as he is commonly called, receives an undue portion of our disdain for his skepticism of the resurrection. We are told that Thomas “was not with them when Jesus came” to the other apostles on the day of his rising. (John 20:24) We are further told of Thomas’s stubborn disbelief of his colleague’s testimony and the only conditions on which he would believe. (John 20:25) Perhaps this is why we remember Thomas as the “doubter.” His gloomy defeatism leads him to make a hyperbolic request that he would not believe unless he was able to touch the body of the risen Lord. Quite unexpectedly for Thomas, he is granted his request just a few days later. (John 20:26)
Jesus shows up again (“even though the doors were locked”) in the room where the apostles were assembled. This time, though, he singles out Thomas. “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and look at my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Don’t be faithless, but believe.’” (John 20:27) It is stunning to me that Jesus complies with Thomas’s excessive request. In a way, though, that is exactly what he did with the other apostles. Even though they were vocal about their unbelief, they were obstinate and unbelieving until they, too, had seen the risen Lord for themselves. In reality, therefore, Thomas is just like the other apostles who did not believe until they saw. “Doubting Thomas” turns into “Confessing Thomas.” “Thomas responded to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (John 20:28) His newfound faith and conviction lead to a stirring declaration of Jesus’s true identity. “Thomas might have been slower than his fellow-disciples to come to faith in the risen Christ,” F.F. Bruce comments, “but when he did so, his faith was expressed in language which went beyond any that they used.”(1)
Then Jesus utters those blessed words. “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have seen and yet believe.” (John 20:29)
Again, it is important to note that this is a rebuke to every disciple in the room, not just Thomas. They had all delayed their belief until they had seen the risen Lord. These words, though, are incredibly meaningful to those entrusted to them. As Jesus gives the apostles the commission to “make disciples of all nations” they would be fulfilling this bidding of imparting belief without sight. (Matt. 28:18–20) Likewise for us centuries later. Every time the Scriptures are opened, we are repeating this scene. Every time the gospel is preached, we are replicating a moment wherein the faithless ones are greeted by their faithful Lord. We are welcomed by the risen Christ who “brings us to his wounded side, and hides us there.”(2)
Whenever God’s Word is opened, “Doubting Thomases” of all ages are invited to put their hands in Jesus’s wounds and be made to believe again in his all-sufficient atonement for us. The power of the resurrection and the promise of redemption are found in the persistence of Jesus’s scars — scars which forever mar the body of our Savior.
(1) F.F. Bruce, The Gospel of John: Introduction, Exposition and Notes (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992), 394
(2) Charles Bridges, Psalm 119: An Exposition (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2002), 291
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