John 20:24-29 – THOMAS: A MAN MISUNDERSTOOD AND MISJUDGED

Among Bible-believers, it is likely that Thomas is most well-known for an occasion that is recorded in John 20. Thomas was one of the Christ’s twelve original apostles, being listed with his fellow- apostles in Matthew 10, Mark 3, Luke 6, and Acts 1. Like all the apostles, Thomas spent a lot of time with Jesus, preached, and did miracles (Mark 3:13,14).

Other than being listed with the apostles, Thomas’ name does not appear in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or Acts. The only information we have about him as an individual is found in the book of John. Among other things, we learn there that Thomas was called “Twin/Didymus” and was willing to lay his life on the line for His Lord (John 11:16).

What about John 20? In that chapter, we read that Jesus rose from the dead, two of His disciples ran to the tomb and found it empty, and the Lord appeared to Mary Magdalene (John 20:1-18).

Following that, on the same day, which was the first day of the week, the Christ appeared to His disciples behind closed doors. He showed them His hands and His side and, as we would expect, the disciples were glad to see Him (John 20:19,20).

What about Thomas? The Bible says, “Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came” (John 20:24). The Bible does not reveal the reason(s) Thomas was not with the other apostles when the Christ appeared to them, but we know this: he missed out on a special opportunity.

The other disciples shared with Thomas the wonderful news that they had seen the Lord. Thomas responded by stating the conditions under which he would believe that they had seen Jesus (and that He was alive again): “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). So, Thomas said he wanted to see and touch the Lord before he would be convinced.

After eight days, Thomas got his chance to hear, see, and touch the risen Lord when He appeared to His disciples and Thomas was present (John 20:26). That day Jesus told Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side, Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:27).

In that instance, Jesus told Thomas to do two things: (1) Use his finger and hand to touch the Master’s body and (2) believe. Did Thomas actually reach out and touch Jesus’ body as he had longed to do and the Master instructed him to do? The Bible does not say. What about the part of believing that Jesus had risen? After Jesus’ statement about touching Him and believing, Thomas’ reaction was, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). Truer words were never uttered! Indeed, Jesus is Lord and He is God. Thomas believed both of those truths. Because he saw the risen Savior, Thomas could (and did) go forth to speak as an eyewitness of His resurrection (Acts 4:33).

Many refer to the apostle Thomas as “doubting Thomas.” In fact, in modern times some employ the words “doubting Thomas” when referring to a certain type of person. When I Googled “doubting Thomas,” here is what appeared on my computer screen: “ a person who is skeptical and refuses to believe something without proof.” Please consider this: if faith is based on evidence (and according to the Bible it is, Hebrews 11:1) is it wrong to say, “I will believe only that for which there is evidence?” No, it is not!

Did you know that none of the other apostles believed the testimony of those who told them they had seen the risen Lord and that He was alive? It is true: not one of them believed. After Mary Magdalene saw the risen Christ, she went and told His closest followers (apostles). “And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe” (Mark 16:9-11). Later, “He appeared to the eleven . . . and rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen” (Mark 16:14).

When did the other apostles believe that Jesus had risen from the dead? When they personally saw Him, that is, when they were given credible evidence. When was Thomas convinced that Jesus was alive again? Same answer: when he was given credible evidence. When Thomas proclaimed that he would not believe Jesus had risen until he saw it for himself, he was simply asking for the same evidence that his buddies had received. Remember, true faith is based on proof.

As for me and my house, we do not identify him as “doubting Thomas” because he did not do anything different than his fellow-apostles did. He sought evidence. There is nothing wrong with that. To be consistent, if I am going to call Thomas “doubting Thomas,” would I not need to call Matthew “doubting Matthew,” call Peter “doubting Peter,” and do the same with all of the other apostles who failed to believe until they were given convincing proof?

— Roger D. Campbell

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