Poor old Thomas has a bit of a reputation – he even has his own Wikipedia page (Doubting Thomas)! This doesn’t seem quite fair, as it’s clear from the Gospel accounts that all the disciples struggled to accept that Jesus had actually risen from dead. In v2, Mary Magdalene, on seeing the empty tomb, thought that the body of Jesus had been moved, not resurrected. Jesus subsequently (v11-18) appeared to her, and she was convinced that he had risen from the dead. In v19-23, Jesus appears to the disciples, as they gather fearfully in a locked room. He shows them the nail wounds in his hands and the spear wound in his side, and then, in a kind of prequel to Pentecost, he gives them his peace, breathes the Holy Spirit upon them and confers on them a ministry of forgiveness of sin. John tells us (v20) they ‘were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.’ But Thomas wasn’t present for that; he hadn’t seen Jesus, he hadn’t seen the wounds or heard his words. We shouldn’t be too hard on Thomas.
A week later, the disciples are together again, and this time Thomas is present. As before, the doors are locked, and suddenly, inexplicably, Jesus is there. He repeats his greeting of peace, and then he turns to Thomas, and speaks to him. ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side.’ It’s obvious from Jesus’ words that he knew exactly what Thomas had said a week ago to the other disciples. ‘Look at my hands, see the wound in my side. Thomas, I know what you said to the others. I know what you’ve been going through this last week, and here I am, Thomas. Stop this doubt, this unbelief – Thomas, believe.’ Jesus doesn’t criticise or condemn; he gently and graciously meets Thomas where he is, and Thomas sees and believes.
In v29, Jesus speaks a blessing for those who believe without seeing. ‘Faith is being sure of what we hope for & certain of what we do not see’ (Hebs. 11:1). Satan will regularly fire his fiery arrows of doubt at us – ‘How do we really know it’s true? What if it’s not true?’ The answer to that is to look back at what God has done in your life, and consider how he has changed you. Look at the cross, consider the risen Christ, and remember, ‘I know him, he is within me by his Spirit. I am sure of what I hope for, and certain of what I do not yet see. He has promised me that one day I will see him – my faith may sometimes be weak, but it is faith in a strong God, a God who keeps his word – if he has promised that I will one day see him, then I believe that promise.’