Ah. Thomas. The disciple. The loyal. The doubter. He and I have a lot in common.
I decided to take the time leading up to Resurrection Sunday, (or Easter if you prefer) to study some of the disciples that Jesus chose to walk alongside Him during His earthly ministry. I have read about them before but I want to study them. Some of them will be a short study, I suppose, others will take longer. I decided to start with Thomas. I think it is because I relate to Thomas. Thomas, in his honesty, gives us a beautiful picture of a Savior who understands.
I was thinking about where to take my personal bible study next and I just started to think about the cross, and then I started to think about the Gospels, and then I started to think about Thomas. He gets a bad rap if you don’t really know anything else about him other than he did not believe that the other disciples had seen the resurrected Jesus. I am not sure why, but I guess humans like to label people based on one moment where they spoke the truth in their heart, or were, you know, human. I know in many instances, people just will not let people rise above a moment in their lives. But I do not agree that this was a bad day, a bad moment, or that Thomas should be labeled a doubter.
If you have read the New Testament, then you know that there are only a few facts about his life. Actually, it did not take all that long to freshen up on facts about Thomas. I studied about him for a little while. I made some notes and I thought I might write this post. But as I began to write, I had to stop and study some more. I have prayed and thought and been unable to return to writing it. This entire week I could not focus. I just kept thinking about Thomas. I realized that Thomas was just like the rest of us. In John Chapter 20, verse 25, the other disciples begin to tell Thomas that they have seen Jesus, the Resurrected Jesus. Thomas tells them that he needs to see where the nails were, where the spear pierced His side, or he will not believe. The greek word used in this verse for believe is pisteuso, which is translated to believe or entrust, (Strong’s) , other translations say confident about, firmly persuaded. So, essentially, Thomas is saying that in order to trust, or be persuaded to believe and be confident about, he needs to see Jesus and touch the scars.
Isn’t this just like us? We don’t ask to see the nail scarred hands, or even the pierced side of our risen Savior, but we ask for proof. Maybe we don’t ask Him directly but if we are honest, sometimes, we wish we could have the assurance of having Jesus walk right into the room and say, “Here is where the nails were, and here is where the spear pierced my side”.
I know Jesus understands our struggles. Haven’t you ever prayed, “Lord, I believe, but help my unbelief.” Like the father of the boy in the book of Mark, haven’t you been there? Lord I am trying, I know you are able, I know you can, I am trying to have faith, help me. Jesus asked His Father in the garden if there was any other way, but there was not, He understands our struggles. Certainly, when something hard to understand happens, when people suffer, when people die, when life seems to crash a hundred miles an hour into a brick wall, don’t you have a Thomas moment? I do.
When I was a young Christian, probably around sixteen or seventeen, I can remember hearing a message about Thomas and being so judgemental. I remember thinking, “he was walking around watching Jesus perform miracles, he had a front row seat. How could he have doubted that what Jesus said He was going to do, He would do? I am pretty sure I remember being pretty vocal about that opinion. Ah, so young, so naive.
Yes, Thomas was chosen and Thomas saw Jesus do amazing things. Thomas was there when Jesus raised his friend, Lazarus, from the dead. Thomas saw it. He heard with his own two ears, Jesus Christ of Nazareth speak to death and command it to leave. In my opinion, Thomas did not doubt the power of Jesus.
But we also walk with Jesus, His Holy Spirit indwelling us. We have seen Him do amazing things in our life, seen His hand of protection. We know. We don’t doubt the power of Jesus, but we still struggle at times.
While studying Thomas, I came across another interesting viewpoint. In Dru Johnson’s book, Scripture’s Knowing: A Comparison to Biblical Epistemology, he postulates that trust is the English word that should be used to translate here instead of believe. What’s the difference? Believe is defined as to accept something as true, to feel sure that something is true. Trust is a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone or something. Dr. Johnson’s writing states that the conflict in the “Doubting Thomas” narrative of John 20:25 is not about Thomas not trusting that Jesus has resurrected but that he does not trust the other disciples testimony or account of it. He wants to see for himself. And then Jesus shows up to prove that the disciples testimony is true.
Don’t we too want to know and see Jesus for ourself. I certainly do. I love to hear about what God is doing in the lives of others. But I want Him to show up in my life, too.
Sure, we want to walk around like we are certain God will move, or God will show up for us. But when He seems to be taking a while, or it just looks like He might not come through, or that our ideal outcome and His ideal outcome look a little different, we are all Thomas. Thomas wasn’t a doubter. Thomas was honest. He didn’t actually say, “I doubt Jesus defeated death”. He basically said “I need to see and touch Jesus so I can know it.” Don’t we all? Thomas wanted to see and touch the Victory of Jesus. And Jesus came and showed it to him.
Maybe you aren’t brave like Thomas, maybe you would never say it aloud, and certainly not to your friends, but sometimes, you need Jesus to show you who He is and what He can do. And I think, instead of pretending like we don’t, we should just go ahead and say, “Jesus, show me who You are, and show me what You can do, in this situation, in my life, through me. Jesus, show me your victory.”
Think about it for a moment. You are Thomas. Your friends come up and say, “We saw Him, He has resurrected from the dead! He is Alive! You, as Thomas, have followed Jesus and you believed everything He said, and you have seen Him do miraculous things already. I have to believe, that part of you knows it is true, wants to believe that this thing He said he would accomplish, He did. But, it seems overwhelming that it could be true. Especially, if what Jesus has taught and called you to do depends on this moment in history and it has happened. Then you have to move forward in obedience. Wow. So, you need Him to show you. You hear what everyone else says about Him. But, you need to know for yourself. So He shows you, and then he says “Because you have seen me, you have believed, blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. (John 20:29)
According to the Key-Word Study Bible, the Greek word translated blessed in this scripture from John 20:29 is makarioi, which means to be fully satisfied, receiving God’s favor, regardless of the circumstances. I think this points to how Jesus understood how hard it is to believe, when you have not seen. Those of us who cannot see and touch the evidence of our victorious Savior, with earthly eyes, are to be fully satisfied, with the biblical knowledge that Jesus completed the task He was sent to accomplish.
It gives me great comfort to know that He showed up and helped His friend, Thomas. Our Heavenly Father wants us to be fully satisfied in what His word tells us, and He sent the Holy Spirit to help us with that. But friends, just like Jesus understood what Thomas was feeling, he also understands when we feel the same way.
So, if you need Jesus to show up and bring His Victory in to your life or circumstance today, ask Him to do just that.