But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to Him,'We have seen the Lord!' But He said to them, 'Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.' After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, 'Peace be with you.' Then He said to Thomas, 'Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here with your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.' Thomas answered and said to Him, 'My Lord and my God!' Jesus said to him, 'Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.' (John 20:24-29 NASB).
We've all have heard of doubting Thomas; he was one of the disciples of Jesus. He said he would refuse to believe that Jesus had risen until He would put his hand in the nail-prints in Jesus' hands and side.
Learning about Thomas
We learn the most about Thomas from John. Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell us little. But his name occurs in John several times. The first reference is in chapter 11, verse 16. Lazarus has died and Jesus says that He is going to him. Thomas speaks up and says, "Let us also go, so that we may die with him." When they had last been in Judea, the Jews had tried to stone Jesus. Thomas thought it so dangerous to return that they would all be killed. If Thomas was doubtful, at least he was loyal. Even if Jesus would be killed in returning back, Thomas would go with him. What a loyal friend!
We next hear from Thomas in the upper room in the long discourse from John 13:21 through chapter 17. Jesus says He will be going away and coming back again. He is going to prepare a place for His disciples. He says that His disciples know the way He is going. At this point, Thomas speaks up. "Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?" The question of where Jesus is going is touched several times in the section (John 13:33, 37; 14:3, 5, 28; 16:5, 7, 17, 28).
Jesus is going to the Father. He is going to be crucified and die. He is going to offer Himself in sacrifice for every human being. The disciples don't know themselves yet. They will desert Him at His crucifixion. Thomas may say that He does not know where Jesus is going, but He wants to know. I like it that he wants to know.
The last reference is at John 21:2. Jesus has been crucified and the disciples have scattered. But here they are, seven together, fishing. Thomas is one of them. Thomas remained in connection with the disciples. There was a strong friendship among them, and here he is fishing with the others.
But the main story, the one from which the world has the phrase, "doubting Thomas," is found at John 20. This is where we have our focus this morning.
Thomas sets Conditions to Believe
The setting is John 20:19-29 and two events. It is evening. The disciples are gathered in a room in Jerusalem. Thomas is not present.
The doors are shut and it is night. There is fear. Jesus is recently crucified. They speak together in dim light, in low tones.
No one has opened a door, suddenly there He is! Jesus is standing in their midst! "Peace be with you," He says. All eyes are on Him. As He lifts His hands before them they see the disfigured flesh, the puncture wounds from His being nailed to the cross. He lifts aside his garment showing the spear-punctured side. Then the disciples rejoice with Him! There is no question; this was their Jesus.
He speaks again, saying, "Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you." Then He breathes on them, and says, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." Jesus is reaffirming their commission. They are to go and do the work He has given them. Then as silently as He came, Jesus disappears.
Verse 24: "But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came." It must have been the same night or next day that Thomas came, and then how joyfully they told proclaimed, "We have seen the Lord!" But stubbornly Thomas responds: "Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand and into His side, I will not believe."
How often we are petulant; we refuse to believe. Is it really a reasoned unbelief? Or just self rearing its prideful nose? Do we refuse to believe for good reason, or because we are fighting with God over some alleged small-time non-offense by Him?
What was it in Thomas' mind? Jesus came when I wasn't there? How could He! Thomas wanted incontrovertible evidence. He wanted to see the nail holes in Jesus' hands; he wanted to put his finger in the place of the nails; he said he would put his hand in Jesus' side where He had been pierced--that then and only then would he believe.
At this point, consider Thomas' reaction from Ellen White's book, The Desire of Ages:
Gloom and unbelief filled his heart. As he heard the disciples tell of the wonderful manifestations of the risen Saviour, it only plunged him in deeper despair. If Jesus had actually risen from the dead, there could be no further hope of a literal earthly kingdom. And it wounded his vanity to think that his Master should reveal Himself to all the disciples except him. He was determined not to believe, and for a whole week he brooded over his wretchedness, which seemed all the darker in contrast with the hope and faith of his brethren.
He would not see through the eyes of his brethren, or exercise faith which was dependent upon their testimony. He ardently loved his Lord, but he had allowed jealousy and unbelief to take possession of his mind and heart (pp. 806, 807).
Thomas had his head full of the idea that Jesus would set up an earthly kingdom. But if things were actually as testified, he would have to surrender that view. He determined he would not believe. He resisted the new idea, brooding and stewing and setting himself apart. The more he thought of it, the greater depression he felt.
Thomas Sees the Nail HOLES
Finally, a week later, he joined in with the disciples. It was evening and hey were eating together, speaking of Jesus' appearing a week past. Suddenly, Jesus again appeared! He had appeared to the group previously when Thomas wasn't present; but this time His appearance seems to have been for Thomas' sake. He turned to Thomas and asked him to put his finger in the nail holes and in His side.
What condescension! How unreasonable Thomas had been dictating to God the conditions by which he would believe. He had no business doing that. But Jesus came to him, and offered him the very evidence he had insisted upon.
Thomas saw the nail holes; but he did not put his fingers there; he did not put his hand in Jesus' side. When Thomas saw, he believed, and joyfully exclaimed "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28).
Hear an insight, again from Ellen White, from page 808:
Many who, like Thomas, wait for all cause of doubt to be removed, will never realize their desire. They gradually become confirmed in unbelief. Those who educate themselves to look on the dark side, and murmur and complain, know not what they do. They are sowing the seeds of doubt, and they will have a harvest of doubt to reap. At a time when faith and confidence are most essential, many will thus find themselves powerless to hope and believe. . . .
Unbelief is seldom overcome by controversy. It is rather put upon self-defense, and finds new support and excuse (Ibid., p. 808).
Jesus did not argue with Thomas. He came and presented the physical evidence. But He called out a blessing upon all who would believe without seeing. One more statement:
The faith of Thomas would have been more pleasing to Christ if he had been willing to believe upon the testimony of his brethren. . . all who receive Christ must do so through the testimony of others (p. 807).
You might hear that and think, "Wait, that's not how it was for me. I read it in the Bible and I believed it." Realize friend, that everything written in the Bible is the testimony of others. While God gives us His Holy Spirit, while His angels impress our hearts, it is His Word, the Bible, written at His design by the hands of humans sharing their experience, which is that upon which we believe. We are dependent upon the testimony of others and others are dependent upon our testimony.
We have not seen--not like Thomas--and we have believed. If you are here today and you believe, rejoice! Do not forget that it is through your testimony that others will be led to believe in Jesus. There will be no greater privilege in heaven than to hear others you had part in leading to Jesus, say to Him, "My Lord and my God!"
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