Jesus And Thomas
- THE ABSENCE OF THOMAS
Thomas was one of the twelve: “but Thomas, one of the twelve…” [20:24].
§ Θωμᾶς - “Thomas” [20:24, meaning ‘twin’;
§ Δίδυμος - “Didymus” [20:24], ‘double’;
Jesus said to the disciples: “Let is go into Judea again” [11:7] to the home of Lazarus.
§ The danger of going to Judea: “Master, the Jews of late sought to stone you; and are you going to go there again?” [11:8].
§ Jesus insisted on the need to go to Judea: “are there not twelve hours in the day…” [11:9-10].
§ Thomas understood the dangers of going south to Judea but was willing to take risks for Jesus: “Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow-disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him” [11:16].
§ For Thomas, not following Jesus obviously did not occur to him as an option; but his willingness to join Jesus was a matter of accepting the inevitable, clearly without understanding anything of the joy of which Jesus had spoken, to say nothing of being able to share in it.
b. The Upper Room
Jesus in the upper room with the disciples: “supper being ended…” [13:1].
§ Jesus teaches the disciples with regard to his departure: “I got to prepare a place for you” [14:2].
§ Jesus introduces the idea of the way: “whither o go you know, and the way you know” [14:5].
§ Thomas’ words convey the uncertainty of the disciples; he wanted more than words in order to follow Jesus to the place of preparation: “Thomas says unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?” [14:5].
§ The response of Jesus: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…” [14:6].
Throughout this Gospel Thomas has been presented as a realist, a person who evaluated situations on the basis of what he could perceive.
§ Thomas is consistently the one who points out what is unintelligible and unacceptable to the human mind in what Jesus testified of himself and demanded of his disciples.
§ Thomas is slow to comprehend and always ready to say so.
2. The Absence
On this occasion Thomas was absent: “was not with them…” [20:24].
§ οὐκ ἦν - “was not” [20:24], imperfect, ‘to exist, be’; ‘to be in a place’;
§ μετʼ αὐτῶν - “with them” [20:24],
b. The Testimony
The disciples’ evidence: “we have seen the Lord…” [20:24].
§ ἑωράκαμεν - “seen” [20:24], perfect active indicative, ‘to see’; ‘to pay attention to’;
§ τὸν κύριον - “Lord” [20:24],
Thomas again comes onto the scene in a way that can be called characteristic of him, as the disciple who, though, evidently genuinely loyal to Jesus, repeatedly gives evidence of his resistance to Jesus’ departure to the Father and his lack of understanding of that departure. [11:16; 14:5];
§ That he, though one of the “twelve”, was for that very reason not in their company “when Jesus came” is an obvious inference, though not said in so any words.
3. The Response
a. Seeing is Believing
Thomas demands the most concrete evidence: “except I shall see in his hands...” [20:24].
§ μὴ ἴδω - “except I see” [20:24], aorist subjunctive, ‘perception by sight’;
b. The Evidence
i. The Hands
The evidence required: “except I see in his hands the print of the nails…” [2:25].
§ ἐν ταῖς χερσὶν αὐτοῦ - “his hands” [20:24], both the Hebrew and Greek words for hand can include the wrist and forearm;
§ when the victim was nailed to the cross, they drove the nails through the wrists; the hands would not have supported the weight; nails were commonly driven through the feet, one foot placed on top of the other;
§ τύπον - “print” [20:24], ‘mark, image, impression’; ‘visible scar’;
ii. The Touch
The touch: “and put my finger into the print of the nails…” [20:24].
§ ἥλων - “nails” [20:24],
§ βάλω - “put” [20:24], aorist active, ‘throw, cast, place’;
§ δάκτυλόν μου - “finger” [20:24],
§ τύπον - “print” [20:24], ‘mark, image, impression’; ‘visible scar’;
iii. The Side
With regard to the side of Jesus: “thrust my hand into his side…” [20:24].
§ βάλω - “thrust” [20:24], aorist active, ‘throw, cast, place’;
§ μου τὴν χεῖρα - “my hand” [20:24], “they pierced my hands and feet” [Psa.22];
§ εἰς τὴν πλευρὰν αὐτοῦ - “his side” [20:24], ‘side of the human body’; “the soldiers with a spear pierced his side” [19:34].
The emphatic denial: “I will not believe” [20:24].
§ οὐ μὴ πιστεύσω - “not believe” [20:24], ‘trust’; ‘knowledge, conviction, trust’;
d. The Continuity
i. The Self-Identification
The self-identification marks the continuity of the resurrected Jesus with the Crucified Jesus:
§ They needed to be sure that he was the same Jesus who was attached to the cross by nails through his hands and that he was precisely the same Jesus who was pierced in the side by one of the soldiers: “But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water” [19:34].
§ To prove who he is, Jesus shows them the scars of his suffering and violent death: “showed unto them his hands and his side” [20:20].
ii. The Victory >>> The Easter Greeting
Jesus shows them the scars of his suffering and violent death, not just as signs to recognize him but also as signs of victory.
§ He shows himself to be the triumphant one, the one “whom they have pierced” [19:37], in keeping with what [19:37] about the prophetic-messianic significance of his pierced side: “a bone of him shall not be broken” [19:36].
Thomas refuses to believe unless he has all the evidence the other disciples received.
§ Thomas wants more than that: “except I put my finger into the print of the nails…” [20:25].
§ The reply of St Thomas reveals how he had dwelt upon the terrible details of the Passion. The wounds of the Lord are for him still gaping, as he had seen them. He must be able to reconcile that reality of death with life before he can believe.
§ His demand was for some assurance to connect in a reliable manner the physical Jesus of the crucifixion (his hands and his side) with the experience of the other disciples.
§ These were his nonnegotiable bases for accepting the reversing of his mind on that event. Unless he had such physical proof, he stated, “I will not believe [what you are saying].”
Thomas’s faith, or lack of it, was determined by what he had experienced; beyond that he could not go unless his demands were met.
- THE APPEARANCE OF JESUS
1. The Appearance
a. The Timing
Jesus appeared again a week later: “after eight days…” [20:26].
§ By the Jewish method of counting, with the current day as day one, the “eight days” would be a week later.
§ Hence again on the “first day of the week…” [20;19].
b. The Entrance
A week later the disciples were again gathered indoors: “came Jesus, the doors being shut…” [20:26].
§ ἔρχεται - “came” [20:26], present middle or passive, ‘to come, go’; ‘to move up towards’;
§ θυρῶν - “doors” [20:26], ‘entrance, gate’;
§ κεκλεισμένων - “being shut” [20:26], perfect passive participle, ‘closed and in some cases locked’;
§ ἔστη - “stood” [20:26], ‘to put’; ‘to be in a place’;
§ εἰς τὸ μέσον - “in the midst” [20:26],
c. The Greeting
The greeting: “peace be unto you…” [20:26].
§ εἰρήνη - “peace” [20:26], ‘absence of hostility’; the Old Testament Shalom, ‘wholesomeness’; ‘wellbeing’;
§ ὑμῖν - “be unto you” [20:26],
i. The Angel of the Lord
In most theophonic reports in the Old Testament the fear is engendered by an appearance of the divine.
§ The context of a theophany, the divine appearance, was expected to strike terror in the life of a human because of the common Semitic belief that to see God would mean that one would die.
§ Gideon: “when Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the Lord, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord God! For because I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face” [Jdg.6:22].
§ The calming word: “Lord said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die” [Jdg.6:23].
2. Jesus & Thomas
Jesus responds directly to the requirements stated by Thomas:
a. The Response
i. The Hands
Jesus addresses Thomas with regard to his hands: “reach hither thy finger…” [20:27].
§ φέρε - “reach” [20:27], present imperative active, ‘to bear, carry, bring forth’;
§ ὧδε - “hither” [20:27], ‘to this place’;
§ δάκτυλόν σου - “your finger” [20:27],
§ ἴδε - “behold” [20:27], aorist active imperative, ‘see’; ‘pay attention to’;
§ τὰς χεῖράς μου - “my hands” [20:27],
ii. The Side
Jesus addresses Thomas with regard to His side: “reach hither your hand…” [20:27].
§ φέρε - “reach” [20:27], present imperative active, ‘to bear, carry, bring forth’;
§ χεῖρά σου - “thy hand” [20:27],
§ βάλε - “thrust” [20:27], aorist active imperative, ‘throw, cast, place’;
§ εἰς τὴν πλευράν μου - “my side” [20:27], ‘side of the body’; ‘rib’; “the soldiers with a spear pierced his side” [19:34].
§ “the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs…” [Gen.2:21];
b. The Rebuke
Jesus rebukes Thomas: “be not faithless but believing” [20:27].
§ μὴ γίνου - “be not” [20:27], present middle or passive imperative, ‘to come to exist’; ‘to happen’; ‘stop doing what you are doing’;
§ ἄπιστος - “faithless” [20:27], adjective, from a, ‘without’, and pistós, ‘believing, faithful’;
§ πιστός - “believing” [20:27], adjective, ‘trusting’; ‘pertaining to belief that trusts’;
Many interpreters think that Jesus’ invitation is intended literally and that Thomas literally complies before making his confession.
§ But it seems rather that Jesus’ offer is meant to shame Thomas with his own words.
§ The impression given is that the sight itself proved sufficient: “because you have seen…” [20:29].
§ This provides proof to the disciples that Jesus hears them although he is not physically present with them.
After a brief but interminable pause, Jesus continued. “Well, come here Thomas and bring your finger!” By this time Thomas was almost completely undone (to use an expression from Isaiah 6). But Jesus continued. “No, Thomas, put your finger right here!” “And now your hand, Thomas, put it right here in my side.” Can you feel the churning that must have gone on in the whole psyche of this early disciple? Authentic believing was the issue. Thomas was now prepared to make his unforgettable declaration. But Jesus was also prepared to set the parameters of his requirements for believing.
3. The Confession of Thomas
At the sight of Jesus all of Thomas’s doubts vanished.
a. The Great Confession
Thomas’s great Christological confession and personal confession of faith: “My Lord and my God” [20:28].
§ ὁ κύριός μου - “my Lord” [20:28], ‘owner, ruler, master’;
§ ὁ θεός μου - “my God” [20:28],
§ This marks a leap of faith; nobody has ever addressed Jesus like this.
The title κύριός is an early post-resurrection title: “God has made that same Jesus, whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ” [Acts 2:36].
§ The name given as a reward for finished work: “every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord…” [Php.2:9-11].
§ The power and authority of the resurrected Jesus: “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” [Rom.1:4].
b. The Gospel of John
In this confession of Thomas, however personally formulated, the fourth Gospel reaches its climax and returns to its starting point in the prologue; a crowning display of how human faith as come to recognise the truth set out in the prologue:
§ The Son is God: “in the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God” [1:1].
§ The Son of God became man: “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us…” [1:14].
i. The Climactic Event
Jesus’ resurrection is the end and climax of that historical self-revelation.
§ the coming and work of Jesus the Christ, the Word that was from the beginning with God and was God has become flesh and dwelt among us. Thomas is a paradigm for the fact that only the superiority of Jesus’ historical self-revelation, with many a fall, brought the disciples to the confession of Jesus as Lord and God. This constitutes the foundation of the high (christological) stakes in this entire Gospel.
It certainly seems unlikely that Thomas comes to his confession only on the basis of an examination of Jesus’ body.
§ The confession sounds more like a direct and spontaneous reaction to Jesus’ appearance and words, which totally overwhelm Thomas.
§ The confession conveys Thomas’s deep shame and reverence at seeing Jesus’ divine glory.
§ For what, at the sight of Jesus, filled Thomas with awe he had only one word left “my God” [20:28].
§ For the first time in this gospel Jesus is addressed in the absolute sense as “my God” and that this lofty word at the end of the Gospel comes form the lips of unbelieving Thomas.
§ In the moment that Thomas came to see that Jesus was indeed risen from the dead he came to see something of what that implied. Mere men do not arise from the dead in this way!
§ His utterance does not simply acknowledge the reality of the resurrection of Jesus, but expresses its ultimate meaning, that is, as revelation of who Jesus is.
4. Jesus’ Concluding Statement
a. The Transitional Stage
Jesus and his physical presence with the disciples: “because you have seen me…” [20:29].
§ ὅτι - “because” [20:29], ‘for this reason’;
§ ἑώρακάς με - “seen me” [20:29], perfect active indicative, ‘perceive with eyes’; ‘to look at’; implying not the ‘mere act of seeing’ but also the actual perception of some object’ and therefore distinct for blepw;
§ πεπίστευκας - “believed” [20:29], perfect active indicative, ‘to trust’; ‘knowledge, assent, trust’;
i. The Resurrection Evidence
The resurrection is the pinnacle/peak of the revelation of Jesus Christ
§ It is necessary that there are visible, physical evidences of the fact of his resurrection, otherwise there is no Christian faith: “these signs are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ…” [20:31].
§ Paul’s proclamation in Corinth: “he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures; and that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve…” [1Cor.15:4-5]; “if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins” [1Cor.15:17].
§ Believing on the basis of seeing is not thereby degraded as a concession Jesus makes to the weakness of some, a concession that ought not to be needed.
§ If it were, all the appearances and miracles in which he revealed himself in the presence of the disciples [20:30] would fall into the same category.
b. The Last Days
Jesus foresees a time when he will not provide the tangible evidence afforded the disciples: “blessed are they that have not seen…” [20:29].
§ μακάριοι - “blessed” [20:29], ‘happy’; ‘possessing the favour of God’;
§ ‘To be makários, blessed, is equivalent to ‘having God’s kingdom within one’s heart’: “blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” [Mat.5:3].
i. The Discontinuity
The discontinuity with the present situation: “they that have not seen…” [20:29].
§ οἱ μὴ ἰδόντες - “have not seen” [20:29], ‘to look at’; implying not the ‘mere act of seeing’ but also the actual perception of some object’ and therefore distinct for blepw;
§ πιστεύσαντες - “have believed” [20:29], aorist active participle, ‘to trust’; ‘knowledge, assent, trust’;
§ Faith is now called forth by the word of the Gospel: “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved” [Rom.10:9].
ii. The New Era
The new era to emerge is the era of the Spirit: “he breathed on them…” [20:22].
§ But Jesus is speaking here of a transition that will come into effect from this point on. From now on – at least after Jesus final departure to the Father – people will have to believe without seeing, simply on the basis of the apostles’ witness: “them also which shall believe on me though their word” [17:20].
§ Jesus is pointing to the transition into the ‘era of the Spirit or the invisible presence of Jesus’: “I will pray the Father and he will give you another Comforter…” [14:16-17].
This is then said to be directed against Thomas, whose faith did rest on sight and was therefore inferior to that of others.
§ There is undoubtedly present in the contrast a gentle reproach to Thomas. He has not “believed” the testimony of his fellow-disciples that they “have seen the Lord”.
§ Thomas’ faith triggers in Jesus’ mind the next step, the coming to faith of those who cannot see but who will believe.
§ The transition that ‘one era preceded another’ and that ‘one leads to another’.
§ Peter: “though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy…” [1Pet.1:8-9].
It is this “unbelieving” Thomas who toward the end of the Gospel confesses Jesus in words that before him no one had dared to utter and whose last word can therefore strike the keynote of the entire Gospel of Jesus’ glory.
At first (ch. 1:1) the Evangelist declared his own faith: at the end he shews that this faith was gained in the actual intercourse of the disciples with Christ. The record of this confession therefore forms the appropriate close to his narrative; and the words which follow shew that the Lord accepted the declaration of His Divinity as the true expression of faith. He never speaks of Himself directly as God (comp. 5:18), but the aim of His revelation was to lead men to see God in Him