Thomas’ mother did not call her son “Doubting Thomas.” But that is what you may have heard him called. You know Thomas. He was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus and was referred to as Thomas Didymus (Thomas the Twin). But through the years he has been weighted down with a nickname “Doubting Thomas.” Even today we sometimes refer to a person who is habitually doubtful as a “Doubting Thomas.” He or she wants proof before they will believe.
Thomas’ nickname was accurate on at least one occasion. Jesus appeared to the disciples on the day He was resurrected, but for some reason Thomas wasn’t with the group (John 20:24). When Thomas showed up, they told him of Jesus’ appearing; but Thomas doubted their story. I think he wished the story was true, but Jesus being raised from the dead was just too good to be true. So Thomas said he would have to see and even touch Him before he would believe Jesus was alive again.
We might think Thomas’ doubts would be a strike against him. But that isn’t the way John’s Gospel portrays it. Doubt led Thomas to be the only disciple (recorded in scripture) who called Jesus “God.” When he saw Jesus a week later, Thomas said, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). What kind of person was Thomas to make such a dramatic change and make that confession?
Thomas was a realist. When Jesus was ready to return to Bethany and raise Lazarus from the dead, Jesus’ disciples argued with Him. Jesus’ enemies were determined to kill Him. But Thomas, understanding the danger, still declared, “Let’s also go so that we may die with Him” (John 11:16).
Thomas was a seeker, too. When Jesus comforted His disciples the night of His arrest, Thomas wanted to know more. Unafraid to admit his lack of knowledge, Thomas asked what must have been on the minds of the others that night. “We don’t know where you are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus’ answer was short and to the point. He answered Thomas with words that have changed lives through the centuries: “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).
Realist, seeker, yet only a few days later Thomas was a doubter. He wanted to believe; he wanted evidence. He would not base his faith on wishful thinking. He wanted to believe the other disciples, but a risen Christ was too good to be true. But one week later Doubting Thomas became a believer and one of the first to confess Jesus’ divinity. Thomas’ brief words became the climax of John’s Gospel. John wrote his Gospel to show that Jesus is God. And who better to make that point than the realist who was a seeker and experienced the evidence that made him a believer.
How about you? Have you walked in some of the same steps as Thomas . . . realist, seeker, doubter, believer?
Are you a realist, facing the truth about yourself, humankind, this chaotic world. A realist soon recognizes our inadequacies in the face of life and admits their need for God. It isn’t realism to hid from reality or to devote one’s life to the many pastimes we use to avoid life as it is or to throw life away pursuing some futile cause. Or are you a seeker, still wondering how life is to be lived? Is life meaningful? Does it have a purpose; does it have a key? The Creator knows. This world offers a multitude of answers to life’s questions, but none of the answers truly deals with this world and the eternity that lies beyond. Only in Christ do we find not only answers but a way to live in the light of those answers. Jesus’ answer to Thomas said it all, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”?
Reading Thomas’ encounter with Jesus after His resurrection shows God does not condemn doubt. God has revealed Himself in the world, in scripture, in the Son of God Jesus Christ. We do not understand all of who God is or all He does; but we know He offers to us a personal relationship with Him. We can know God through Jesus Christ in a way that weathers doubt and confusion and fear. It leads in God’s time to the same sort of belief which “Doubting Thomas” could confess: “My Lord and my God.”