But Thomas (who was called the Twin) one of the twelve, 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 the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, 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. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt 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 come to believe.” John 20:24-25 (NRSV)
“Doubting Thomas” gets a bad rap. After all, he wasn’t there the first time Jesus appeared to the rest of the apostles in the Upper Room. Maybe Thomas thought the rest of the guys were playing a joke on him, or maybe he thought they had some sort of mass delusion, and they were claiming to have seen Jesus arisen because they wanted to see Jesus alive again so badly.
I understand Thomas wanting to see Jesus alive for himself, and to really know the truth. As a rational and analytic type, it is really hard for me to take anything on faith unless I see it, touch it, and have something tangible to convince me it’s real. I understand the value of taking the pragmatic, realistic approach to the world around me.
Jesus did not expect people to follow Him mindlessly. As followers of Jesus we are instructed to test the spirits, (1 John 4:1-2) and to be wise as serpents (Matthew 10:16). Faith in false things is worthless. All the belief in the world, if it is put into a lie, doesn’t make the lie true. We only need to observe the actions taken in the names of the false religions and twisted cults of this world to see the damage that believing in a lie can do. When Jesus spoke of teachers and leaders and movements, and of those claiming to be believers, He said, “You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16-20) He didn’t tell us to just jump on the bandwagon.
This being said, there is a fine line between being so cynical that there is no room for wonder or mystery or faith, and being open to everything that is said without any sort of filter or discretion being applied.
The Holy Spirit gives us the gifts of wisdom and discretion if we only ask for them. But Thomas wasn’t there when Jesus first revealed the Holy Spirit to the other disciples, so how was Thomas supposed to know? He took the logical route, and given the options he could clearly see, that was not a bad thing to do.
We come to places in our lives as well where all we can do is come to faith like Thomas- only through what we can see and touch and experience for ourselves. It is a harder road than to simply be able to have the faith to follow those before us, but the lesson sticks harder as well.
Jesus didn’t scold Thomas, because Thomas came to Him the only way he knew how. There is no shame in needing hard evidence to believe, but Jesus also said to Thomas, ”Blessed are those who don’t see but still believe.” (John 20:29)
It is a blessing to be able to learn from the testimony of others. It is important for us to share our testimony so others may be blessed by it. Our stories can strengthen others’ faith, and if we ask, the Holy Spirit will help us find the courage to share them. Sharing our stories may save another person the pain of having to have to go to the school of hard knocks to learn what our experience may teach him or her.
Lord, if we have to share in Your suffering, and walk in Your shoes, and feel Your scars, in order to believe in You and to walk in Your way, let it be so. Let us listen to the Holy Spirit so that we will have the discretion to test the spirits and reject what is false, but also the faith to trust Him to open our hearts to those things that are of You and therefore true. Make our love ever stronger and our faith ever deeper, so that we may believe You even when we can’t see.