In Defense of “Doubting Thomas”

 

I think Thomas, the Apostle, has been given a bad rap.  He is known best for his declaration that he would believe that Jesus was alive when he could touch Him for himself. 

We quote Jesus, after offering Thomas His hands and side, saying “…blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  That’s you and me, obviously.

 That makes perfect sense.  Jesus is no longer walking the earth in human form.  All of us who have come to saving faith have come by, well,  faith. 

Should Thomas have believed his fellows when they told him Jesus had risen from the dead?  Probably.  He had been a disciple for a while and should have known whom he could trust.  Of course there was that Judas business, but still…

 According to the text, it does seem that Jesus reproves him a bit:  “Because you have seen, you have believed…”

 Let’s go back a few verses in John 21.

 I don’t see where any of the disciples believed Mary of Magdala when she told them she had seen the Lord.

 Sunday evening the disciples,  minus Thomas and Judas,  were huddled in fear in a locked room when Jesus stood among them.  Mind you, He’d come in without knocking and it doesn’t say He had the key.  He showed them His hands and His side, and then the record says,  “The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.”

 Did they believe without seeing?  I don’t know.  I’m just asking, but they did see.  Jesus did show Himself to them.

 What else do we know about Thomas?

 In John 11 it is recorded that when Jesus announced His intention of going to the Jerusalem area, brushing aside the protests of His disciples that His life was in danger there, Thomas said to the others: “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”

He may have been skeptical, but he was commited enough to Jesus that he was willing to die with Him if need be.

Christian tradition holds that Thomas preached the gospel in India and was martyred there,  killed by a spear. For that reason, artists often paint him with a spear.  Indian Believers commonly call themselves “St. Thomas Christians,” descendants of the Apostle’s converts. Thomas left an indelible imprint on the people of an entire continent.

 There’s so much we cannot know about this follower of Jesus, but what seems certain to me is that he loved the Lord and followed Him with his whole heart, eventually laying down his life for the Good News. 

 Jesus’ words, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed,” are often used,  it seems to me,  as an excuse by those who have never had a personal encounter with the living Christ.  True visions are extremely rare, and most of us will never have one of those, but we can press in until we actually experience Christ-life at work in us.

 “Doubting Thomas” would not settle for only the testimony of others.  He insisted on a personal touch from Jesus. I think we would do well to emulate his passion for truth.

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4 thoughts on “In Defense of “Doubting Thomas”

  1. Maybe the disciples didn’t believe Mary because she was a woman?? Women were not highly appreciated back then. Hmmm…just a thought. Something I never considered before. Thanks so much, Elaine. Great thought-provoking post! Blessings!

  2. That’s entirely possible, Lynn. It seems to me that few people realize how revolutionary Jesus was/is in His regard for women. But what strikes me is that the disciples in that room Sunday evening didn’t seem to recognize Jesus until He showed them His hands and feet. Remember, at the tomb Mary was frightened until He said her name.

    Hmmm…that’s a good thought; how many of us recognize the Lord until He calls us by name…? Just wondering…

  3. Well, your article and the responses have all given me something to think about. Thomas did seem to go a step further in insisting on actually touching Jesus’ wounds in order to believe. And yet, when actually confronted with Jesus, He did not insist, but immediately worshipped Him. So Jesus’ presence was all he really needed. Maybe that’s what we all need for faith to increase. Jesus’ presence was known to the disciples by seeing Him; today He manifests Himself to us Spirit to spirit. Is it that today we still need to see, but we are blessed because we “see” in a different way?

    • Thanks for the comments, Nancy. I often wonder if anybody is reading it!

      I think we assume that Jesus was telling Thomas that he was less blessed because he believed after seeing. I think that’s a false assumption. The fact that Jesus DID show Himself to Thomas says to me that Jesus was very close to Thomas and loved him.

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