But Thomas, one of the twelve, call Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, we have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. And after eight days again his disciples wee within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace is unto you.
Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. John 24-29 King James Version
Vs 27b…be not unbelieving, but believing. Darby
…Do not disbelieve, but believe. ESV
…Stop your doubting, and believe. GNT
…Stop being an unbeliever and believe. NCV
…Don’t be faithless any longer believe! NLT
…and call a halt to your progressive state of unbelief, but become one who is believing. WUEstNT
Vs 29b …blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
…How happy are those who believed without seeing me! GNT
…Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing. The Message Bible.
…Those who believe without seeing me will be truly happy. NCV
…Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe. NRSV
When you read the various resurrection accounts in the gospels, it is clear that Thomas of all the disciples reacted to the news that Jesus was alive with the most resistance. The first time Jesus appeared to the disciples as a whole he was the one disciple that was absent. Scriptures does not say where he was but for some reason he was not there the first time Jesus appeared to the disciples after the resurrection. It is never a good idea to willingly miss church for that very reason you might miss something very important. As was in this case, Thomas missed out on being able to witness first hand the appearance of the resurrected Lord. It was the most important sighting in comparison to the other sightings because it was before the other eleven apostles all at once. It sealed the deal for the other apostles because in this appearance Jesus had showed them his hands and his feet. John tells us “then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord.” But his absence deprived him of the opportunity to share the common experience with the other disciples and therefore he was not quite ready to be where they had achieved. Some how he could not bring him self to fully accept what he was hearing from the other disciples.
Some how the trauma of having seen him crucified had left a strong impression on him and affected them deeply. It was not something he could easily shake off or recover immediately from. In some ways the news Jesus had arisen caught him by surprise in the sense that he was not ready to deal with such an occurrence. He was still processing the crucifixion and death of Jesus. He was still trying to make sense of it all and figure out what he was going to do next when all of a sudden he had to deal with these new reports that Jesus had arisen from the dead. He no doubt had mixed emotions because on the one hand a part of them was intrigued by the thought that Jesus might still be alive but on the other hand there was another part of him which made him suspicious and wary because he did not want to get his hopes up and then get disappointed again. This report more so than any of the others was coming from the other ten disciples who all saw him at once? Ten people who he knew were credible and reliable. There description all matched and it was too great a coincidence that they all saw the same thing. He had been around these guys and Jesus for almost three and half years and he had to have some assurance they would not have made this up. However despite all this strong evidence, Thomas was stubborn and obstinate. He was immovable and unbending in assuming Jesus was indeed alive.
Clearly, in the back of his mind he remembered Jesus saying that if you tear this temple down I will rebuild it in three days. He was there when Jesus said, “Just as Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days so the Son of Man must be in the earth for three days and then rise again.”
He had flatly told them on several occasions that he would be crucified but on the third day He would rise again. And yet when told by the other disciples that this indeed had happened he balked at it. There was something in the make up of Thomas that made him especially agitated by all this uncertainty. When other disciples told him Jesus had arisen, Thomas refused to accept it. He said, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails and put my finger into the mark on the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe. “ There is an element of sheer determination in this response defiance if you please. The crucifixion of Jesus and his subsequent death had affected Thomas in a way where he settled into a conviction that Jesus was dead so that even when he heard these things about Him being alive, he could not readily accept what they were saying. It was something he had already settled in his mind, something that he had put away and he was not about to go dig it up again. He had already started to adjust to the fact Jesus was gone and he did not want to go back to reviving lost hope and deaden prospects. At this point for all intensive purposes, he wanted to leave Jesus in the grave and go on with his life without him. Thomas was showing strong faith in reverse. He was displaying great confidence and decisiveness in the wrong direction. It’s like he had the right spirit but the wrong cause. Often we talk about someone having strong faith, there is also such a thing as strong doubt. Some times you can be absolutely convinced something is not true and even though you encounter all kinds of information to the contrary you refuse to accept it as true. Nothing can move you off your stance and you exercise great resolve in deflecting any suggestion that what you determined is not true is in any way true.
Thomas was not having it. He had concluded that Jesus was dead and even though the other disciples told Him Jesus was alive, he was not ready to take what they said as being true. Thomas was unbelieving in the face of all he had in front of him. It reflects an advanced level of thinking in that Thomas had already reached a point in his mind where Jesus was never coming back. So much so that when he heard from the other disciples that Jesus had indeed come back he was already too far gone. His mind drew a blank because he had already put Jesus in a place in his mind where he could never come back.
He had a mental block that would not let him incorporate the idea that Jesus could be alive. Every time he thought about it or heard about it his heart could not commit to it. It really illustrates the power of preconceived notions or underlying assumptions in affecting how and what you hear. When you take a cynical position, when you are negative about things and for whatever reason have a closed mind about something, nothing anyone says and nothing you see can change your mind. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary if you are already convinced of something you can still be undeterred by it. Jesus tells him to not be unbelieving or as another translation says don’t be doubtful. Still another says don’t be faithless. Jesus is talking about a posture and perspective. He is talking about the position you take prior to receiving information. It’s like you have certain prejudices and certain belief which cloud how you receive new information. In other words don’t be of a distrustful, disbelieving mindset. Be positive, be optimistic, and maintain openness to what you hearing. Let’s not shut down and rule things out before you have heard them. Lets not assume something could not be true before you give yourself a chance to see for sure and know for sure whether it is or not. Don’t be inflexible, rigid and closed to what God might be doing.
The trauma of the crucifixion had caused Thomas to go into a locked down mode where he was not going to let his hopes get up too high. He was not going to get caught up in all this hysteria. He had developed a negative and pessimistic attitude as a result of what he had seen and experienced. So much so that now that Jesus had arisen, he could not share in the joy of what had happened. He could not enjoy the moment. While the other disciples were glad he remained on the outside looking in. Its like watching people around you celebrate and have a good time but keeping your composure and remaining a spectator.
Thomas had a condition no believer of Jesus Christ can afford to have that is the condition of hard heartedness. It is when you have reached a point where you are actively discounting things, ruling things out. You are more conscious of what can’t happen than you are about what can happen. You approach things from the perspective that certain things cannot happen and no matter what you are not going to let your self believe other wise. Even if God were to do something for you, you are so sure certain things cannot happen that you will reject it or react in a way where you deny it. It’s like the way the children of Israel reacted to Joshua and Caleb when they told them we should go up at once and take the land. They reacted by becoming angry and threatening to stone them.
They were just not having it because they had already decided it could not be possible. Or what about the reaction of Martha when Jesus showed up at the grave of Lazarus. She had already settled in her mind that her brother was dead and when Jesus said remove the stone; she resisted and said Lord by this time his body stinketh. In other words, come on Lord I have already put that to rest lets not revive it again. Thomas was not ready to entertain such a possibility because in his mind Jesus was dead. You can reach a point where your heart is hard and you quite simply are not going to let anyone or anything convince you otherwise.
This extra appearance, this second time that he showed up before the disciples was for the distinct purpose of addressing Thomas’s erroneous posture. This was all about correcting a bad way of thinking which Thomas had some how pick up on. The last thing a disciple of Jesus Christ must have is a spirit of disbelief. There are a lot of things God will tolerate but the one thing He cannot allow to be in your heart is a spirit of unbelief. Whenever you shut down, whenever you are guided by a spirit of doubtfulness or skepticism. Whenever you are suspicious and pessimistic God has to reverse that trend in you. No matter what may have happened to you and how many bad things may have come your way, at no time and in no case are we ever to start to adopt a defensive stance in which we are standing aloof resisting any possible change for good or miracle.
Thomas had trouble making the adjustment. It was hard for him to make the transition from grieving to rejoicing. He had been down and depressed and it was too much to ask for him to all of a sudden switch to being happy and hopeful again. And yet that is exactly what God requires us to do. God requires us to stay in mode where at any time we can ready to react to good news. We are to live on the edge, constantly looking for what is going to happen. The problem with Thomas was he was so full of unbelief that even when he had all the evidence he needed to believe he still required more.
He says that before he was going to commit himself to this possibility, he wanted more tangible evidence. He wanted some concrete proof and confirmation that this was in fact true before he let himself get excited and celebrate like the others. As awesome as it might be for Jesus to be alive, Thomas kept his feelings in check and did not let himself believe this might indeed be true. Thomas should not have needed all that to believe. God wants us to be quick to believe. He wants us to be so inclined that it does not take much for us to believe. Because we are already expectant. We are already anticipating things the slightest change causes us to believe. This is why God promises us things. He announces stuff to us so that we are in a state of readiness to react as things start to happen. We are suppose to anticipate what God has spoken, look for it, watch for it, foresee it taking place. We operate from the presumption that something is about to happen. It’s like the Church was praying for Peter who was in prison and when God freed him and he showed up at their door they thought it was a dream or something and did not let him in. As awesome as the resurrection was Thomas was missing out because he had taken an unbelieving position. Jesus tells him not be a doubter be a believer.
Jesus had arisen and Jesus was alive but he chose to keep on acting and living like nothing had happened. He refused to make any adjustment. He refused to do anything different. He was determined to keep on doing what he was doing and operating like he was still dead. He was like a lot of people who continue to function and act like Jesus is dead. After all these years after he has arisen from the dead they are still walking around living like Jesus is not alive. But I have come to declare to you the good news that Jesus has arisen and He is alive and well.
The other disciples were all excited and celebrating but Thomas was keeping an even keel. The people who are most excited this morning are those who know He is alive. But there are those who don’t know what we are all excited about because they are still acting like He is still dead. But if He is alive then we have hope. If He is alive we have a reason to expect good things.
- He was glad for the other disciples but he did not think it applied to him. It is possible to agree to something and give mental assent to something but not really commit to it. You can believe certain things are true but not believe it enough to apply it in your own life. It’s like a lot of people believe God is real but they don’t believe in Him enough to get saved themselves. They will come to church and participate with others and don’t deny what God is doing in the lives of others but they themselves are not willing to turn their lives completely over to Him. Thomas did not deny what the other disciples said; he simply was not ready to go simply on their word. It’s like you can celebrate Easter and the resurrection but not really take it to heart within your self. You keep it as a religious holiday or celebration but you never let it get down in your heart to a point where you let the reality of it impact what you think or how you believe. You never internalize the significance of it, you never let it envelop you or affect you to the point where you do anything about it or feel a need to change. It is good for other people but you yourself are not getting caught up in it. You can think it is good for other people but not quite right for you. It is wonderful that we are celebrating Easter but you your self are not in to it. Thomas was not absent. He was with the group. He was in the midst of all the talk and fellowshipping with the other disciples. Just like old times, Thomas was in the group but He was not of the group. He like a lot of people who enjoy the spectacle of Easter. They like to participate in the services and be a part of the holiday but the bottom line is they never really buy into the real meaning of his resurrection. They never really believe in what it all means. They take part in the festivities but they never become accept the premise for why we celebrate. You are missing the whole point if you don’t take the significance of His resurrection seriously. What good is it to believe that Jesus is dead? How much sense does it make for you to be praying to a dead god? If he is dead why are you at church? Why are you participating in church activities if He is not alive? What a waste to read your bible and sing songs to a God that is not alive?
I have never understood how people can see what Jesus has done for other people and think it is not right for them. I can’t understand why anyone would not want what Jesus can do for them. Its like they can be glad for other people and it never occurs to them that what God did for someone else can be for them too.
He refused to believe in something that was good.
He refused to believe in something that He needed to believe in.
He refused to believe in something that He clearly wanted.
- He could not merely take their word for it, he needed to see and feel for himself. This was something that he felt like he needed visible and physical evidence to offset all the visible and physical evidence he had seen to the contrary.
- He set up his own human criteria for whether he would believe or not. In other words, he required the Lord to meet his requirement or prerequisite before he would believe. It’s like you can have in your mind something has to happen or God has to do some certain thing before you will believe what God has promised.
- Thomas reveals the real nature of doubt. Doubt is not just that you don’t believe anything. Doubt is that you don’t believe enough. It is believing to a point and stopping short of believing until you have some kind of other evidence or proof. It’s like you don’t let yourself completely go but you take a wait and see approach where you are waiting around for some confirmation, some more change to be evident.
- The nature of believing in God’s word is you have to be willing to walk by faith and not by sight. As Hebrews tells us Faith is the evidence of things not seen. In Romans 4, it is said of Abraham that he “being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief but was strong in faith giving glory to God and being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.” Thomas had it backwards, you don’t see and then believe you believe and then you will see. God requires us to commit ourselves to the truth of His word the reality of His word before he actually reveals it in the natural. Before you can touch it, before you can see it, before your physical senses can attest to it, you are required to believe that it is true. Jesus told the Lepers they were cleansed before the Leprosy had left their bodies but when they were obedient to his word and started to go show themselves to the priest they experienced what they believed. The woman with the issue of blood believed she could be healed if she could but touch the helm of his garment and Jesus said according to your faith be it unto you. She believed before she saw it. This account goes to the root of what in means to believe. Believing involves taking something that is not yet visible and accepting it as true.
- Thomas did like a lot of us; he did not want to believe without seeing it first. He wanted what he saw to be the basis for what He believed. He wanted something to make him more assured and confident about what He was hearing. It is human nature to want to see something that indicates that something is in fact going to happen. It’s like we all like to see things moving in a particular direction before we can be sure something is going to happen. For example, if we are going to be prosperous, we like to see some improvement that helps us to see how things are working out. If we are going to be healed, we like to see the physical symptoms disappearing and positive reports from the doctor. Whenever we are trying to believe we welcome any kind of good news or favorable changes which seem to confirm what we believe for. But this account helps us to see how important it is to stake a claim on the truth even before you see anything. Decide that some things are going to happen before you see any evidence that they could happen. Make the commitment to believe some things that there is nothing physical or visible you can point to that verifies what you believe.
- We can sit here and judge Thomas and say he should have believed but all of us struggle in this very area. All of us know what it is like to believe in things that we can’t see anything that confirms what we believe.