rate this sermon
John 20:24-20:29 (NIV, NIRV, TNIV, KJV)
Keywords: (Suggest Keywords)
change font size:
When we think of the Lord’s disciples. We have certain words that almost always go with them. We think of Judas Iscariot or Judas the Betrayer, we think of Peter denying Christ three times but also Peter the Rock that the church was build on, we think of the John, the one Jesus loves, and we also think of Thomas or as he is better known as Doubting Thomas.
I want to look at the man that we know all to often as doubting Thomas and see if this name really fits the character of Thomas. Is this doubting aspect of Thomas really negative or should we see it as a positive trait. As an inquiring mind that needed to see the truth to believe but was more than willing to believe once he saw the truth. Maybe he just needed to see the truth, had questions and wanted them answered.
I think that the doubt that Thomas expressed is said well in this quote. "His doubt had a purpose. Thomas wanted to know the truth, his doubt gives evidence not a lack of faith, but of a desire to have faith founded in fact not fancy."
Let us look at the three times that Thomas is mentioned in the gospel of John. This is the only gospel that makes any mention of him beyond being listed in the list of disciples. The first mention we find is in John 11:16.
Let us start by reading a few verses before. Starting in 11:7 "Then he said to his disciples, "Let us go back to Judea." 8 " But Rabbi," they said, "a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?" 9 Jesus answered, " Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. 10 It is when he walks by the night that he stumbles, for he has no light." 11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, " Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am , going there to wake him up." 12 His disciples replied, " Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better." 13Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. 14So then he told them plainly, " Lazarus is dead, 15and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe,. But let us go to him." 16 Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."
The last few times that Jesus had been in Judea the Jews had tried to seize and kill Christ so there was good reason why the disciples were not to eager to go back there to see Lazarus. But we see in this case the good example of Thomas who knew that Jesus was going to go back there no matter what the disciples thought. Jesus was going to go to his now dead friend Lazarus. Thomas statement that he made here was a very brave statement in that he had assumed that if he went with Jesus it could very well mean the end of his life. He was willing to follow Jesus in this case even if it meant death. He was putting into action the teachings of Christ that we find in Mark 8:34-35 "If anyone would come after me; he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whomever wants to save his life will lose it, but whomever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.
In this case Thomas was the one disciple who was putting into action the teachings of Jesus. He was willing to follow his master even if it meant death. He truly wanted to do the will of God and if this meant death than he was willing to take it. This does not fall in line with personality of a doubter but rather one who has honest questions but once he receives the answers he is more than willing to follow. Thomas could only see disaster - but he was for going on. Thomas was determined to be faithful - even in the face of death!! For Thomas there may be death, but there could never be disloyalty.
The second mention that we find of Thomas is in John 14. We will start in verse 1. 1"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. 2In my fathers house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you with me that you may also be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going. 5Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" 6Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one come to the Father except through me."
I think that it is really neat to see that the second mention of Thomas in John is this mention and a question that he asks that I am sure the other disciples had on there minds also brings out one of the greatest "I AM" statements of Christ. "I am the way and the truth and the life." One of the most known statements in Christianity stems out of a question that doubting Thomas asked or maybe just honest Thom.
I think we can still look at this and say how little faith that Thomas had he didn’t just accept the words of Christ and go on his way. But he was so eager to know that if Christ was going to go away Thomas wanted to go with him. He very honestly and passionately said "I don’t know the way but I sure want to follow. Tell me how". Not only was he so passionate about going with Christ and sticking with his Lord but he also sought out a deeper truth and asked a question that brings out a reply that really is at the heart of Christianity.
Okay now I know that these two scriptures are not where doubting Thomas gets his name but it is in John 20:24 where he gets the name doubting Thomas but how deserving of this name is he even from this scripture.
Let us look at verse 24. "Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand in his side, I will not believe. A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though 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; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my GOD!" Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
It is easy to see where we get the nickname doubting Thomas as even Jesus says, "Stop doubting and believe." So it is easy to say oh well Thomas was a doubter and even Christ himself says so.
However we need to look at the whole story. Mary Magadleene was the first to see Jesus and then she told the disciples but when we see the first appearance of Christ to the disciples they were locked in an upper room in absolute fear for their lives. Now I don’t want to add anything that is not in the Bible but I think that if we look at this we would see that Christ first appeared to a former prostitute and this women tells a group of good Jewish boys that their Lord is risen. I would think that there might be some doubt in their minds here. So to be it would see that Thomas was not the only one who had to see to believe but maybe the only who expressed it or maybe the only one that the Bible tells about so that we can learn from his example. I don’t know.
Thomas was not with them and when they told him he said I have to see and know for myself. So yes there was doubt in his mind but I don’t think it was a doubt in his Lord but maybe a doubt in man. He did not give on Jesus when he had not seen him for himself even a full week after everyone else had seen him. He was living on faith by even being with the disciples the second time. He needed to see for himself but I don’t think he ever gave up on Jesus and the faith that he had. Thomas needed a faith founded on fact that he himself had discovered he could not take anyone word for it but had to see for himself and when he did he did not doubt but was a very faithful disciple.
His reaction to the risen Christ is also very profound as he addresses him as GOD. He says "My Lord and my God." Powerful truth that comes out of Thomas here. He knew that when he saw the risen Lord that he truly was encountering God. I don’t think that he would ever forget that.
I know at times we really can identify with Thomas. We have doubts and we want to know something for ourselves. No ones word is good enough but we need to know for ourselves. Is this not having faith I don’t think so. What faith is greater: the one that never doubts or the faith that doubts and investigates and believes. We see examples of this throughout history if people who doubted and some even went as far as to try to disprove Christ and what happens. They doubt but they also have a changing encounter with the risen Lord. Lew Wallace the man who wrote Ben Hur was one of these and there are many others.
So when we have doubts or when we hear about doubting Thomas let us remember that he was so much more that a doubter but rather was one who needed to find out for himself, needed to search for the truth, needed to believe not because of other mens words but because of God himself revealing it to him. We can trust others but let us search. Let us be like in Thomas in his dedication to Christ, in his desire to really know for himself this risen Lord. I think Thomas really fits what Josh McDowell once said "My heart cannot rejoice in what my mind rejects."
So let is search with both our hearts and the unseen faith and with our minds and the discovered risen Lord.