Posts Tagged ‘Thomas’

Doubting Thomas’ Doubting

“Be not faithless, but believe.”

Then [Jesus] said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

(John 20:27, NIV)

First of all, Thomas didn’t doubt, he flat out refused to believe. The NIV translates the word apistos as “doubt” but pistos means faith so apistos would be “without faith.” There are other words used in the New Testament that mean doubt and they aren’t used. Even the context argues against “doubt.” In verse 25 Thomas had said, “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.”

So here’s the question: what wouldn’t Thomas believe? Well, he wouldn’t believe that Jesus was alive. But why? Did he not believe in resurrection? I doubt that is the answer; he saw it happen.

In chapter 11, Jesus and the disciples were across the Jordan river, where John the Baptist had been, when they receive word that Jesus’ good friend Lazarus was ill. Jesus decided to remain where he was two more days and then announced, “Let us go to Judea again.” His disciples pointed out that the Jews were trying to stone him there. When he insisted that he had to go “wake up” Lazarus who had died, Thomas replied, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

We learn a few things in this exchange. First, Jesus said “let us go” so it appears the disciples, including Thomas, went with him to Bethany. So though Jesus’ disciples were not mentioned, they were surely there. Therefore, Thomas saw Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead. He is mentioned by name in the context if not the location. So it seems unlikely that, by chapter 20, Thomas didn’t believe in the possibility of resurrection.

The other thing we can learn from Thomas’ statement takes a bit more work. Who was he referring to when he said “die with him”? Thomas was traveling with Jesus and the Jews were trying to kill Jesus, so maybe Thomas meant “let’s go die with Jesus.” If that’s what he meant, and he wasn’t being sarcastic, it shows tremendous faith in Jesus. Jesus is worth dying with. Thomas is that dedicated to Jesus.

But the most recent and direct reference to someone dying is not Jesus but Lazarus. The statement that Thomas is referring to Jesus’ that Lazarus had died. So if Thomas is saying “let’s go die with Lazarus” it seems that he is asking to partake in the resurrection, the “waking up,” that Jesus has promised. Either way then, Thomas is showing tremendous faith in Jesus and his ability to raise the dead.

So back in chapter 20, Thomas is being told by the other disciples that they have seen Jesus alive. He can’t accept, that not because of a lack of faith in Jesus, but, it seems, because he believed that only Jesus could raise the dead. In the Old Testament, God raised the dead but he did it through men, through Elijah and Elisha. He never raises the dead independent of a prophet (thought, theoretically, he could). For Thomas to accept that Jesus is alive again would mean that God is using someone other than Jesus to raise the dead and it seems Thomas cannot accept that. Jesus is dead, Thomas reasons, so he can’t raise himself; there is not other prophet to raise him, so Jesus must surely still be dead. To accept his resurrection would be to admit God is using someone else for his mighty works. It would put another prophet on par with Jesus.

But Thomas is missing one key component, one line of code, one important link in the chain. Though he thinks very highly of Jesus, he doesn’t think quite highly enough. There is an explanation that Thomas hasn’t yet considered.

When Jesus appears to Thomas and invites him to inspect his risen body, he commands Thomas to stop not believing and to believe. If Jesus is alive, then he must have raised himself. But people cannot raise themselves because they’re dead and dead people can’t do anything. Then it all comes together for Thomas and he announces, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus had been Thomas’ lord, his master, and Thomas had been his disciple. Now Thomas understands what Jesus had said before:

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”… But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

(John 2:18-22)

“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

(John 10:17–18)

The only answer is that Jesus is Thomas’ master and more. Human nature dies, divinity can raise it, and divine nature cannot. Jesus is Thomas’ lord and his God.