Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"And Jesus rebuked Thomas..." Or did He?

"Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him, 'We have seen the Lord,' but he said to them, 'Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe." - John 20:24-25

People who have never read the Bible are still familiar with the terminology, "Doubting Thomas."  This is because of the event outlined in John 20:24-29 and the stigma attached to the Apostle Thomas for his lack of faith after the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  But did you ever stop to consider that his lack of faith might have been reasonable?  Think of what this man had just been through.  We do not know exactly how long Thomas had been following Jesus but we can reasonably conclude that it was a period of at least a couple of years.  What remarkable things Thomas saw in that time!

Consider back in John 11 when news came of Lazarus' sickness and Jesus announced his death. It was the Apostle Thomas who said of Jesus to the other Disciples, "Let us also go that we may die with him" (verse 16).  Afterwards, Thomas was one of the witnesses to the resurrection of Lazarus and heard the proclamation of Christ, "I am the resurrection and the life: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (verse 25).  There had to have been no doubt in Thomas' mind at that point of the reality of the resurrection.  He had seen with his own eyes a man laid in the grave for four days suddenly returning to live.  This is not to mention the countless other miracles he had seen in his sojourn with Jesus.

But now, after the praises of adoring crowds had changed into shouts calling for blood, Jesus of Nazareth, the miracle working Son of God, was reduced to nothing more than a horribly beaten, bloody figure of a man hanging by nails on a cross, motionless and empty of life.  Jesus was dead and Thomas saw it all.  As with the other Disciples, Thomas had forsaken all to follow Jesus.  And now, having been removed from the cross and laid in a borrowed tomb, all of the hopes and dreams of this Disciple were dead and buried.  Can you imagine the feeling?

Can't you hear the promises of Jesus being repeated in the mind of Thomas?  He said He was the Savior.  He said He was the Son of God.  He said He was the way.  He said He was the Father dwelling among men.  He said He would raise from the dead.  One day passes.  Two days.  Three.  What happened?  How had Thomas been so foolish as to put all of his hopes in this man?  Can you imagine the heartache?  In a period of only a few days he had gone from a Disciple to a despondent and faithless character.  But who can blame him?  He had watched it all: the popularity, the adoration, the miracles and then the opposition, the persecution and the crucifixion.

Thomas was being reasonable when the other Disciples came to him claiming to have seen the resurrected Christ.  Certainly he had disbelieved.  Certainly he had doubted.  Most of us would have too especially when ten other people come to us who were also Disciples claiming to have had an experience that we had not yet had.  It might have even passed through Thomas' mind, "What a cruel joke to play on me after all I have been through!  How dare you!  Don't you understand what I have been through?  But...if I can see the nail-prints, I will believe."  In that moment of supreme doubt, there was a glimmer of hope.

What did Jesus do?  Eight days later, the Lord appeared to the Disciples and, this time, Thomas was present.  Giving a greeting of peace, Jesus walked past the other Disciples and offered Thomas His hand.  Jesus was so eager for Thomas to believe that He met him right at the place of his doubt and proved Himself to be alive.  We would have rebuked Thomas.  He would have been the object of our scorn and ridicule.  Of course, we do still call him Doubting Thomas, don't we?  How self-righteous we have become.  But Jesus Christ Himself did not rebuke him.  He simply condescended to a level on which Thomas could relate, even on the shifting sands of doubt, and reached out a nail scared hand of compassion.

Your questions will not knock God off of His throne.  Having questions and doubts are not unnatural nor are they to be condemned.  But you must learn how to deal with your questions and doubts correctly.  Bring them to Jesus Christ.  Don't hide them.  Don't be ashamed of them.  You are not abnormal because you struggle with disbelief.  Jesus Christ will not condemn you for it if you will give Him a chance to meet you at your place of doubt and prove Himself to you.  It may take eight days after everyone else is certain, but if you will allow God to work in His time, you will receive your answers.  You must be content to wait upon Him and trust that He will not fail you.

Thomas gave a bold profession of faith at that moment, "My Lord and my God!"  He had no more reason to doubt who Jesus Christ was.  Yes, the Lord told him that those who hadn't seen and yet believed were blessed.  But who among us is prepared to look at the Apostle Thomas and say he was not blessed as well?  Take your doubts to Jesus Christ and He will meet you there and prove Himself to be your Lord and your God.

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Douglas Raynor said...

Beautifully written.

Anticipating more.

Trish Fleming said...

Having been the doubting Thomas for my first 35 years of life, it was a sermon on this scripture that won me to Christ. Jesus revealed his nail scarred hands to me by way of the Pentecostal experience. "Those that have not seen yet believe are blessed" speaks to me of denominational Christians who have not experienced the Holy Ghost yet are striving to live a life pleasing to Christ. May we never ridicule or be condescending towards them...I was unable to live for God before I "saw" and experienced him myself!

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