Believing Thomas

John 20:19-31

Seeing is believing……a phrase we often use….. Throughout the gospel of John, examples of people who needed to “see” before they could “believe” are plentiful. In fact, as we saw a few weeks ago in our study of John chapter 1, the invitation to “come and see” was offered by many, including Jesus himself, as a means of producing faith and belief.

“Come and See” pattern in the gospel of John:

  • In the first chapter of John, Jesus says “Come and see” to the two disciples of John the Baptist who ask him “Where are you staying?”
  • In verse 41 of the same chapter, Andrew – one of the first two disciples – goes and finds his brother Simon (Peter) and says “We’ve found the Messiah…. Come ….and see..”
  • In the passage directly after this one, Philip becomes a follower of Jesus and immediately tells his friend Nathaniel about Jesus….using the same words as Jesus…”come and see” – verse 1:46.
  • In John chapter 4 the Samaritan woman does the same thing. She encounters Jesus deeply, his identity is revealed to her, and she receives eternal life. She immediately goes and testifies about Jesus to the people of her town saying…. “come and see”.

In each of these cases the messenger was saying…..come and see for yourself. Come and meet Jesus. Then you can decide for yourself. Come, see, and then you’ll believe.

In our text for today, Thomas also wants proof of what the other disciples tell him. But he’s not the only one:

  • The first disciples who hear what Mary tells them – Jesus’ body is gone! – want proof  too, so they run to the tomb…. and find it empty. (20:3)
  • Later, when Mary comes back to them after talking to Jesus (who she had thought was the gardener) announces that she has seen the Lord…we still aren’t told whether the disciples believe her or not. Probably not, since they haven’t seen Jesus yet for themselves. (20:18)
  • And finally, Thomas, when he hears from the others that Jesus visited them in the upper room and spoke with them says “unless I see…… I won’t believe.” (20:25)

And of course, this makes sense. Because, seeing IS often the impetus for believing.

Thomas is often described as “doubting Thomas” but it’s clear that it’s not so much a problem of doubting, but that he simply wants confirmation in the same way that the others did, and that each of us do.

When Jesus reappears a week later, Thomas is there. Jesus addresses him directly, telling him to put his finger in the nail holes, and his hand in his side. “Don’t be unbelieving, but believe” says the Lord. Thomas then becomes “believing Thomas” confessing “My Lord and my God” (v. 24ff)

Then Jesus says an interesting thing: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Wait… believing is not ALWAYS based on seeing??

What an encouraging thing to read…..since that includes all of us doesn’t it? We can’t “see” the resurrected Jesus physically.  We have never met him in the same manner that his disciples did. Yet, we’ve come to believe through encountering the resurrected Jesus. It’s the same resurrected Lord, and we too, proclaim, “My Lord, and my God!” So we know that yes, it’s not only possible, but rather normal to believe without seeing….proof and confirmation can come from “spiritual seeing” and many other experiences as well as from physical sight.

Here are two “take-away”, important phrases of Jesus from today’s text:

  1. “Don’t be unbelieving…..but believe”
  2. “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

Just as Jesus was sent by His Father to earth….to show us the way, to teach of the Kingdom, to proclaim freedom and salvation to the world….we are being sent by Jesus (with the help of the Holy Spirit) to be involved in the same work – kingdom work – loving people, serving people, announcing the arrival of the kingdom, freedom, and salvation.

Dear Lord, please help us in our unbelief….and work through us today. Amen.

“Doubts can drive us further into Scripture and closer to God as we seek answers for our questions. If you have doubts, pursue God until they are resolved.” David Jeremiah

Doubt is honesty; unbelief is obstinacy.
Henry Drummond