The Gospels are filled with some amazing stories. All throughout Jesus’ ministry he did supernatural works. He changed water into wine, walked on water, and raised people from the dead. Yet, even the disciples of Jesus had times where they lacked faith. The disciples had limited views of what Jesus was doing. The sacrifice of Christ was one of those examples. The disciples did not understand that Jesus would rise from the grave. One example of this is in John 20: 24-29. The first two verses of this passage says:
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.” -ESV
I think this section of Scripture is important because it shows us a lot about humanity. Thomas was with Jesus from the start of his ministry and witnessed many of the miraculous works of Jesus. There is still a part of Thomas that limits what Jesus can do through the power of God. And humanity is constantly doing this. Notice what Thomas says, “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.” Thomas makes it clear that he wouldn’t believe Jesus rose from the grave unless he could touch his wounds. This is a clear sign of unbelief. Thomas’ doubt isn’t calling the disciples witness into question. He is calling Jesus into question. Jesus could not be alive because Thomas knew he died. Unless, Thomas sees the proof with his eyes he refused to believe. This is an act of disbelief. Many times I hear atheists claiming that they “invite” God to their meetings but he never shows them. Thomas’ comments are strikingly similar to these atheists. Then, something amazing happens. John records God’s mercy on Thomas’ unbelief in verses 26-29 when he writes:
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand,and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” -ESV
Jesus waits eights days before coming to Thomas. He does not immediately show up to Thomas to cure him from his disbelief. Often, we want immediate answers to our problems. We live in a culture filled with fast food, twitter, and short attention spans which often leads us to be impatient. This reminds me of a character named Veruca in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”. Her father gave her everything and she got used to getting what she wanted, when she wanted it. Our Father does not work like this. He is not a genie in the sky waiting for us to ask something of him. He knows what is best for us and he will deliver…in his time.
When God does deliver he does so fully. Jesus knows what Thomas wanted, but even more, he knew what Thomas needed. Jesus knew that if Thomas would actually see him and touch his wounds Thomas would believe. God does the same for us. He gives us what we need to believe. Now, he doesn’t show up with his resurrected body but he lifts people from spiritual death to spiritual life. That is what the unbelieving heart needs and that is what God can deliver.
What is amazing about this passage is that Jesus shows that he isn’t simply thinking about Thomas at this moment. Jesus is thinking of you and I. Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” We do not see Jesus yet we trust the testimony of the witnesses that saw Jesus. It is not that we do not have evidence for Jesus’ works but we do not see him physically. That is why Jesus calls us “blessed”. We know that Jesus died and rose again for our sins and to give us his righteousness. But, there is one more thing that I want to highlight from this passage.
Thomas responds in a manner that we should take note of. He says, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus is our Lord. He is in control of our lives. When he takes us for himself that means we are under his lordship. We need to do what he wills us to do. The second statement is even more amazing. Many people claim that the Bible never speaks about Jesus as God. Well, Thomas does and Jesus does not rebuke him for doing so. If Jesus was only a good teacher, as Muslims claim, Jesus would need to rebuke him for blasphemy. Jesus is Lord and God and we need to always be reminded of this when we have times of doubt.
I want to end with the words of Martin Luther when he said:
“This is indeed a powerful and clear passage, which highly praises faith and gives the testimony that we certainly have eternal life through the same; and that this faith is not an empty, dead thought on the history about Christ, but that which concludes and is sure that he is the Christ, that is, the promised King and Saviour, God’s Son, through whom we all are delivered from sin and eternal death” -Thomas Delivered from His Unbelief – John 20:19-31