Jesus and Thomas
24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 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.”
26 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.” 27 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.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
The Gospels do not hide the doubts of the first believers. When the women found the empty tomb of Jesus, they were completely lost for an explanation. They certainly did not think Jesus had risen from the dead. The idea did not even occur to them (Luke 24:4–8).
These women had believed in Jesus. They followed Him and shared a deep love for Him. But they had been traumatized by the horrible reality of His excruciating death, which they had witnessed just two days before. Their visit to the tomb was motivated by love, but it was absolutely devoid of faith. Their hopes and dreams had been shattered.
The Disciples Who Did Not Believe
The trauma of great suffering and loss has led some people to say with sadness that they can no longer believe. That was precisely the position of these women on the first Easter morning.
The empty tomb left them wondering until God gave them the explanation. Two angels appeared and announced to them that Jesus had risen (Luke 24:6–7). Then the women remembered Jesus’ promise and believed (24:8). Christian faith does not rest on feelings, impulses, or personal insights. It rests entirely on grasping and believing what God tells us He has done. If God had not told them why the tomb was empty, they would never have known what to make of it.
The women returned from the tomb and told the disciples what had happened. But the disciples did not believe them (24:11). Peter raced to the tomb and saw the strips of linen cloth, but he still left “wondering to himself what had happened” (24:12). It was only when Jesus appeared to the disciples that their hearts gladly embraced what their minds could no longer deny.
Thomas was not with the other disciples when Jesus appeared to them, and he insisted that he would not believe unless he had irrefutable physical evidence: “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).
Thomas loved and respected the other disciples, but he refused to rest his faith on the experience of his friends. He was determined that his faith should rest on solid evidence.
One week later, the disciples were gathered in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Jesus came to them and spoke directly to Thomas. “Put your finger here; see my hands,” He said. “Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:27).
Faced with the evidence he had asked for, Thomas believed and confessed his faith in Jesus, his Lord and God.
Seeing and Believing
The faith of the apostles was a believing response to the evidence placed before them. They saw. And because they saw, they believed. This theme runs throughout the Gospel accounts of the resurrection. When John went into the empty tomb, he saw and believed (John 20:8). Mary Magdalene told the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” (20:18). Jesus showed His hands and His feet, and “the disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord” (20:20).
The apostles were given the unique role of being direct witnesses to the resurrection. A witness is someone who has seen an event directly, not someone who can report things secondhand. This was so important that when the apostles chose a replacement for Judas it had to be someone who was a direct witness of the resurrection (Acts 1:22).
So Thomas was right to insist that he had to see Jesus for himself. Hearing reports from the others was not enough if he were to fulfill the role of an apostle.
How Can We Believe?
The Bible’s emphasis on seeing raises an obvious question: How can we who have not seen Jesus believe? The answer is that the four Gospels present us with the evidence of eyewitnesses to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The unique calling of the apostles was to record what they had seen and heard about Jesus so that people in every generation and culture would have the opportunity to believe.
God has not called us to a blind faith. He invites us to investigate the claims of Jesus, and He presents us with the evidence of His words and works in the Gospels so that we may do so.
A Relationship of Integrity
Christian faith is a believing response to the evidence God has placed before us. It does not rest on the dogmatic assertions of the church, or on the mystical experiences of an individual, but on the evidence of God’s Word, the Scriptures.
God has created you with a mind, a heart, and a will, and He will not bypass any of them. He invites you into a relationship with Himself that has integrity because your mind is persuaded, your heart is captivated, and your will is committed.
This does not mean that all your questions will be answered. But it does mean that God has given sufficient evidence for you to “believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).
A View from the Fifth Valley
Faith belongs in the valley rather than on the mountaintop because there are many things that we cannot see. We walk by faith, not by sight. And that means we live with many unanswered questions.
Christian faith affirms what God has revealed. Christian humility admits there are many things we do not know. But faith in Jesus stands on a sure foundation of solid evidence, and those who trust in Him will not be disappointed.
After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples and other believers over a period of forty days. On the last of these occasions, they caught a glimpse of what Jesus had promised for the future. That story takes us to the last great mountain peak in this second stage of our journey.
- What significance do you see in the fact that the disciples were slow to believe that Jesus rose from the dead?