People have often been hard on Thomas. He has been nicknamed ‘Doubting Thomas’ and some have portrayed him as almost a coward, when in actual fact, the evidence in the Scriptures is that Thomas was a man of great courage.
Thomas is sometimes treated as though he is a person who doesn’t want to believe, like many people today in society today. But maybe Thomas wanted to believe but found it hard to.
This man Thomas? The other Gospels tell us nothing about him except his name. It is only here in John’s Gospel that Thomas comes alive for us. Thomas is portrayed as a man of great courage. There is the time Thomas speaks up when Jesus and his followers received news of the illness of Lazarus, the close friend of Jesus. News comes that Lazarus is near death. Jesus makes no move for two days to go to his friend. There had recently been two attempts to stone Jesus, so Jerusalem was a dangerous place for Jesus and his disciples.
Suddenly, Jesus announces he will go to his dying friend. The disciples think this is a bad move! It would be suicidal for them to go near Jerusalem. The danger is so great the disciples are near to abandoning Jesus at this point. But Thomas speaks up and says, “Let us go, that we may die with him.” Thomas can only see disaster lying ahead: nothing else. But this is no reason for him to turn his back on Jesus to try and save his own skin. He loves his Lord and because of Thomas’ courage, all the disciples go with Jesus to visit Lazarus.
And now here in today’s situation-again before we judge Thomas, we must also remember that while the other disciples were locked away for fear of the Jews, Thomas wasn’t there – which means he must have had the courage to venture outside. And in regards to faith-Thomas is no worse than the other disciples. They also didn’t believe until they saw Jesus. They didn’t believe Mary’s testimony that she had seen the Lord. Yet Thomas is the one who is labelled the doubter.
What we see in Thomas is that human courage and faith in God are two different things and sometimes the two are easily confused. The human strength that allowed Thomas to be absent from the safe place behind the locked doors is not going to help him when he needs faith. Just as it wasn’t Peter’s human strength that allowed him to obey God rather than the human leaders.
When the other disciples tell Thomas they have seen the Lord, Thomas cannot accept it. The return of Jesus from the dead is too much for Thomas to believe, ironically even though he had seen the raising of Lazarus back to life.
So Thomas didn’t doubt that people could be raised from the dead. But he couldn’t believe that Jesus, the raiser of dead people could be raised himself. So when Jesus does appear to Thomas and invites him to touch his hands and his side and realises it is indeed the Lord-he in joy and excitement bursts out with his great confession of faith, “My Lord and my God”.
These aren’t the words of a man who is still pondering his findings! When Thomas sees the risen Jesus in person before him, he doesn’t need half an hour to detachedly examine the body of Jesus. The scriptures don’t tell us if Thomas even touched Jesus. Thomas speaks out with the courage of his faith, “My Lord and my God”. This is the greatest and boldest confession of faith any follower of Jesus made, and it comes from the mouth and heart of Thomas. It is a courageous confession and the same confession of faith we make about Jesus in the Creed.
Yes-The tomb is empty, but yes: sometimes so too is the place where we go to look for help from God. Yes-Jesus deals with Thomas’s doubts, but yes-he declares that this won’t be how he will deal with the faith/life struggles that we go through. And yes-Jesus will use our faith and says that we will be greatly blessed when we believe without seeing,
In Thomas’s struggles we see that God is the one, the only one, through whom our life questions can be answered. God is the initiator and it is God to whom we must go in our life struggles. When we allow God to direct our life and trust him it won’t always be “up” – it will sometimes be “down”. But it will always be forward to eternal life in heaven.
On the seventeenth day of the second month the Lord shut the door of the Ark and the water beneath the earth burst open and the floodgates of the sky were opened for forty days and nights. On the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains appeared and after forty days Noah opened the window. A dove was sent out to see if the water had receded to sustain life. It returned as it left-empty handed, or more precisely-empty beaked. . Seven days later he sent it out again and it returned with a fresh olive leave. Seven days later he sent out the Dove again and it did not return to the Noah, but returned to the world where it once was.
I have met several Thomas’s in our world who want to believe, but struggle. Just as we struggle when those we want to believe seemingly want not to, and with those that are yet to believe that we know and love that can be very hard emotionally.
Jesus rose and left the tomb and it remained empty and returned to the Apostles’ who were hiding in fear carrying His scars for their freedom, and in another seven days Thomas saw for himself the risen Lord.
Jesus said to Thomas: “Because you have seen me you have believed, blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.” The Word of God as recorded by the apostles in the room has not returned empty we have believed and are blessed. And as blessed we are, in prayer and in service to our Lord do we make known Him known to those who doubt or know not.
Isaiah 55:11: “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
Mark 11:24: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
No less than the very Words of God that the more so should we respond too in faith in our homes, in our workplaces, schools and here in this house of God.
So I ask you now in prayer to bring your needs and those of others before the Lord in Prayer. To in prayer offer to the Lord your fears and trials and in faith leave them with Him, and ask that’s the Lord Will be done to see those we know who still doubt or deny Him, will in God’s time together with the apostles, Thomas and us. Together with those in Christ that have gone before, those with us now and those yet to come and together with the angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven see, know and bellow in sure and joyful voice “My Lord and My God “
We bring our prayers before the Lord. Amen