“Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘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.’ Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’” (John 20:24-29).
Let’s be honest here; I feel bad for Thomas. He just witnessed Jesus being beaten, flogged, crucified, and then buried in the ground. Now he is being told that Jesus has been raised and he is just supposed to believe. We call him “doubting Thomas” now as a result. As you read the story, considering your own heart and your own faith, you are led to feel bad for Thomas knowing the bad reputation he has received. And then you come to v. 29 where Jesus said, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
We all struggle with doubts. God is patient with us in our doubting and our questioning. Our modern and postmodern mindsets challenge us to be able to prove anything we might claim to believe, and so because we don’t feel that we have scientific evidence to believe, we begin doubting. We want to support Thomas in this story, because we see ourselves in him. But then Jesus has to make the statement that seems to almost condemn his doubting.
We need to acknowledge the culture we live in. We live in a culture that celebrates skepticism, questioning, and doubting. The strong man in our culture is seen as the one who doesn’t believe. We hear Karl Marx’s out-of-context, paraphrased quote that says, “Religion is the opium of the people” or “Religion is the opiate of the masses” and we believe the culture is saying that we shouldn’t rely so heavily on faith because that is for the weak. Marx was speaking to how people who live in a state of distress rely on religion for comfort. Whatever Marx’s purpose was, our culture celebrates doubt.
But Jesus speaks against our culture. He asks Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me?” I hear Jesus saying something like, “After all I taught you, and after all the prophets said about the Messiah, you are still doubting my resurrection?” Thomas did have the Old Testament promises about the Messiah. And he did spend three years learning from him; so no, his doubt was not something to celebrate, but instead something to confess.
No, we do not have three years of physically walking with Jesus, hearing the Son of God teach us with his own voice. But we do have God’s Word that has been preserved. We have years of evidence that the Spirit of God is working in the world, sustaining his chosen people. We have enough physical evidence to believe. Yet even with all the physical evidence, remember what Jesus said. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.” And then remember what Solomon said in Proverbs 3:5. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.”