THOMAS: the seeker after truth
Reading: John 20 verses 24-31
A week is a long time in politics…and even more in the life of a follower of Christ during the final days of Jesus’ life…
Life seems to be going in one direction and suddenly it all changes…
- The man you believe is the Saviour of the world is arrested and executed one Friday (or Thursday)
- The sun is blotted out for three hours…complete darkness
- There is an earthquake in Jerusalem…unheard of!
- Tombs split apart and the dead are seen throughout Jerusalem
- A report comes in that the temple curtain into the most holy place has been split from top to bottom
- You hide from the authorities for fear that you might be arrested
- You know that Jesus had said that he would be put to death and rise again…but you thought he was speaking figuratively
And then some amazing news starts to emerge…
- On the following Sunday morning another earthquake strikes Jerusalem
- The stone is rolled away from the tomb (Why!)
- Some of the women become hysterical, with some mad-cap tale about an empty tomb and Jesus’ body gone
- Angelic beings appear and tell the women that Jesus is risen
- Mary Magdalene and possibly the other women are spoken to by Jesusin the garden…or so they claim
- Jesus appears to Simon Peter …and to two disciples on the road to Emmaus
- Then Jesus appears to the disciples in a house when Thomas is away…Jesus is there one moment and gone the next!
AND THEY EXPECT YOU TO MAKE SENSE OF IT ALL!
- Well, Thomas simply could not get his head around it!
Then just one week later
- Jesus re-appears … this time, when Thomas is present
We’ll refer to this event in a moment
- Jesus even walks on the shores of Galilee when the disciples are fishing and eats breakfast!
- He makes many other (unrecorded appearances)
- Finally he ascends from the Mount of Olives and they see him no more
- But a messenger from God tells the disciples that this same Jesus will return in the same way that they have seen him go
YES, A WEEK IS A LONG TIME IN THE LIFE OF A BELIEVER!
Of course we often refer to poor old Thomas as ‘Doubting Thomas’ because he had doubts that Jesus was alive
WHEN I WAS TOLD THERE WAS NO FATHER CHRISTMAS… I refused to accept it…even though my cousin said that she would show me where the presents were hidden!
- And when confronted by all the evidence, Thomas cannot accept the truth of the situation
- But many of the other disciples did not believe until they saw Jesus face to face…it wasn’t just Thomas with doubts
But let’s not be too hard on Thomas: There’s more to him than meets the eye…
- He was appointed to be a disciple by Jesus
- He showed an earnestness in asking a question that gave us one of the most important statements in the Bible, in John 14:
Jesus said: “You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
So he was Thomas the seeker:
“Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (verse 5)
And his desire to follow Jesus to the end is found in John 11 v 16:
Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
He was truly Thomas the brave
And, yes, he was also Thomas the bewildered & confused:
Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” (John 20 vs 23-25)
But he was also quick to express his commitment:
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” (v 28)
BEFORE WE START BRANDING THOMAS as ‘Doubting’ we need to understand the circumstances:
- Here was a man who had given up everything to follow Jesus
- He had witnessed the most amazing miracles
- Listened to Jesus handling the most powerful religious leaders
- Seen his grace and forgiveness transforming lives
- Walked with him from east to west, north to south, mile upon mile
- Now he had seen him abused, mocked, beaten, crucified
Thomas (probably only in his 20s or 30s) had so much wanted to know the way through life…and having found it in Jesus he was even prepared to lay down his own life for Him
- Thomas’ life was in pieces
- He risks arrest and imprisonment by leaving the house
We don’t know why he wasn’t with the other disciples when Jesus first appears
- Perhaps he just needs to ‘get away’ and be alone with his own thoughts
- Perhaps he had volunteered to buy food or take messages or find out what was happening in the city
After a time Thomas returns and is met by this explosion of testimony from the others about seeing Jesus alive…
- It’s all too much
- He has already been deeply wounded in his soul and doesn’t want to face any more pain
So he shakes his head and utters those fateful words:
“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”
It’s easy to dismiss Thomas as a ‘doubter’…but let’s look at our own lives first:
Am I ever a ‘Doubter? Answer, yes!
1. Do we earnestly ask the Lord to show us the way, so that we can follow? Thomas did
- I fear that sometimes we ask God to show us the way but place restrictions on where the way leads
- We say ‘this way or that way but no other way’… or start moving before we have His anointing…then complain that God is not leading us!
- Perhaps it’s because we are not wholly serious when we sing: ‘Wherever He may guide me, no want shall turn me back’ or ‘Follow, follow, I would follow Jesus anywhere, everywhere…’
2. Are we willing to follow Jesus anywhere, even if it means laying down our lives? Thomas was
- What did Jim Elliott say: ‘He is no fool to lose what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose’
- We sometimes hesitate to speak about Jesus in case the person jeers at us!
3. Do we speak openly and honestly about our doubts and fears? Thomas did
- As Christians we are sometimes reluctant to express our doubts or raise serious questions in case we are accused of ‘backsliding’ or ‘lacking faith’
- Christians who feel more secure rush to tell us that we are wrong to feel the way that we do
- They quote Bible verses at us or tell us that Satan is getting at us…and to get them off our back we smile and thank them for reassuring us
BUT INWARDLY OUR DOUBTS AND QUESTIONS REMAIN
It’s actually okay to have doubts…think of Jesus in Gethsemane
- God often uses doubt to reinforce our faith and trust in Him
- Thomas doubted…but it wasn’t those around him that dealt with the situation…it was Jesus himself
- Friends may help us …but God has to speak into the situation
BUT WE ONLY COME TO RECOGNISE OUR FAILINGS when He shows us His hands and feet
- Clever sermons are useful and wise counsel is a blessing
BUT ONLY WHEN WE KNEEL AT THE FEET OF THE CRUCIFIED SAVIOUR will we get life in perspective
4. Are we ready to humble ourselves before God, even in front of our friends? Thomas was
- He fell down at Jesus’ feet and declared ‘My Lord and my God’
Jesus did not rebuke Thomas…He simply said that believing by seeing is good but ‘not seeing’ and still believing is even better!
THE WORLD DECLARES: “See and believe”
God says to us: “First believe and then you will see”
THOMAS WASN’T THROWN OFF the discipleship team
- He wasn’t made to wash the dishes for a week
- Or parade around town carrying a sign saying: ”I had doubts, so I am in disgrace”
Thomas continued following Jesus …but as a much wiser and more faith-driven disciple than before
ONE WEEK IS A LONG TIME IN THE LIFE OF A DISCIPLE
BUT ISN’T THERE A BIT OF THOMAS IN ALL OF US?
Just look what the Apostle John wrote in verses 30 and 31:
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.
But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
WHAT SHOULD OUR RESPONSE BE?
Let’s determine that we shall adopt a ‘Yes we can’ approach in our lives…or rather, ‘Yes, He can’
Let’s be honest and realistic and use the wisdom that God has placed within us… but say and mean it when we claim that NOTHING IS TOO HARD FOR MY LORD
Put your finger in the nail holes; place your hand in his wounded side…and believe that what Jesus Christ did on the Cross at Calvary was to bring salvation to you and to me and to all who believe