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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Seeing Thomas in Context

The Apostle Thomas is often known as the Doubter, or Doubting Thomas.

This comes from his response to the other disciples telling him, “We have seen the Lord,” and Thomas responding, “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).

Sounds a bit harsh, right?

The context here can shed some light on his thinking and how he got to this point.

Thomas’ reference to the nail prints and side of the Lord may not have been an original thought. Just before this, when Thomas wasn’t there, Jesus had specifically shown the other disciples “His hands and His side” (John 20:20). In their gladness of having seen the Lord, they may well have excitedly told Thomas, “We saw his hands and his side.” Thomas’ response might have been much more of a “I want to see them, too,” kind of response. His reference to “I will not believe” may have been more in reference to the other disciples than the Lord.

Thomas was not without his faults. Thomas could be cynical (John 11:16). We also see that his responses were rooted in his honesty about not understanding.

After Jesus’ betrayer went out to betray him, Jesus revealed to his remaining disciples he was leaving and was going someplace else. Peter asked about where, and Jesus answered about when. Then after prophesying Peter’s denial, Jesus told them about going to prepare a place for us in his Father’s house and concluded, “where I go you know, and the way you know” (John 14:4). That’s when Thomas pipes up, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” (John 14:5). Thomas didn’t know what he already knew. His response led Jesus to make one of the most important Gospel statements in all of Scripture: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

The beautiful thing about the meeting after the resurrection is Jesus is he met Thomas right where he was. Jesus let Thomas do exactly what he said he wanted to do (John 20:27). Can you imagine that moment? …actually reaching your fingers into the nail prints, and reaching your hand into his side? When the Lord said, “Do not be unbelieving, but believing,” that would have been a very humbling moment, and Thomas indeed responded with great humility: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

Thomas, his life, and the record of his responses, and his growth are a gift to us today. There are many people today who hear and don’t believe Jesus is Lord. For them, we can point to Thomas and tell them, “There was someone with Jesus who didn’t believe at first, but who saw Jesus for himself and later believed.” We have his testimony today. Be believing!

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