According to the apostle John, Thomas was not present on Easter Sunday evening when Jesus appeared to the other disciples and devoted followers (John [20:24]). And regardless of what they said, Thomas refused to believe that Jesus had risen till he saw Jesus with his own eyes (John [20:25]) — a declaration that earned him for posterity the unflattering title “Doubting Thomas.”
The Holy Spirit did not inspire John to include this account in order to embarrass Thomas. Rather, it’s recorded because God has important things to teach us about our own doubts and what kind of “seeing” really brings us joy.
“I Will Never Believe”
Early Sunday morning, when Mary Magdalene first reported that Jesus’s body was missing (John 20:1–2), Thomas felt like he was in good company. None of the apostles, except perhaps John (John 20:8), really believed that Jesus was alive.
But then the women claimed to have seen him (Matthew 28:9), and then Peter (Luke [24:34]), and then a follower named Cleopas (Luke [24:13]–32). Lastly, by that evening, all of Thomas’s closest friends claimed that Jesus had suddenly appeared in the middle of a locked-door meeting where he spoke and even ate with them (John [20:19]; Luke [24:42]–43) — a meeting Thomas missed for some reason.
“God has important things to teach us about our doubts — and what kind of ‘seeing’ really brings us joy.”
So, Thomas soon found himself in bad company. The only other member of the Twelve who had not seen the risen Christ was Judas Iscariot.
As Thomas listened to his friends excitedly describe their encounter with Jesus, it did not excite him. He was skeptical and frustrated. And he even blurted out, “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” (John [20:25]).
Why Didn’t He Believe?
Why did Thomas respond this way to friends he knew so well and trusted? The words he spoke tell us of the horror he actually saw.
The Gospel accounts of Jesus’s death are sparse on details, so it’s hard for us to feel what Thomas felt as he actually watched Jesus die. In fact, Thomas’s declaration of unbelief (“unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails”) is the only time nails are mentioned in the Gospels as part of Jesus’s crucifixion. Most of what we know about Roman crucifixion we learn from other sources.
The slaughter of Jesus outside Jerusalem had been so gruesome that it was all but humanly impossible for Thomas to imagine a resurrection of Jesus’s body. True, Thomas had seen Lazarus’s resurrection. But Lazarus had died of an illness, and Jesus had been there to raise him. Jesus had been torn to shreds and died.
How does a mutilated man raise himself? Let’s not assume too quickly that we would have responded differently had we seen what Thomas had seen.
Sight for Sore Eyes
And Jesus was not in a hurry to relieve Thomas’s doubts. He let Thomas stew in his own unbelieving words uncomfortably alone in the midst of a joyful fellowship of believers for eight awkward days (John [20:26]).
Finally, a full week after Easter, Jesus appeared when Thomas was present and said, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” (John [20:27]).
Written by Jon Bloom
Full story at Desiring God