Don’t you just hate it when someone defines you by one action —
that one time you were mean in junior high,
the forgotten birthday your sibling won’t let you forget,
the time you got that speeding ticket…or three.
That last one might just be me.
No one loves a label, particularly one with a negative connotation, and especially one that just won’t die.
In this way we can completely relate to Thomas. How would you like to be remembered in infamy as the Doubter, with Doubting always added as a catchy pre-fix to your name?
Before we define Thomas by one passage of Scripture in John 20, let’s preface our post-resurrection-Thomas reading with less famous passages in which he makes his appearance.
In John 11:16, following the resurrection of Lazarus, Thomas proclaims his absolute willingness to die with Jesus:
So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
In John 14:5-6, Thomas asks questions of Jesus, to understand and know His teacher, His Savior more, a clear mark of discipleship:
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
When my husband showed me these verses, my heart became tender toward Thomas. He seems a little like an all-in or all-out kind of person, something I lend toward myself. However, it’s not how I see Thomas that matters, but how Jesus sees Thomas, and in our famous “Doubting” Thomas passage in John 20, Jesus makes His thoughts and His grace quite clear for our Doubter.
Read John 20:19-29 –
19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 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.”
26 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.” 27 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.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Let’s put the emphasis here where it belongs: on Christ, rather than Thomas, so we can see Thomas for who Christ sees Thomas to be.
Jesus reaches in.
He reaches into Thomas’s questions.
He reaches into Thomas’s stubbornness.
He reaches into Thomas’s failure.
The Risen Christ gives Thomas the same gift He gave everyone else, despite his doubts. He offers him confession and forgiveness, new eyes, and a new heart.
I’m especially struck by the direct translation of the Greek for John 20:27:
“Bring the finger of you here, and see the hands of me, and bring the hand of you, and put (it) into the side of me.”
The timbre of it gives attention to the intimacy Jesus offered in response to Thomas’s proclamation that he would “never believe” unless he saw the marks and placed his hands in Jesus’ side.
Jesus takes the time and effort to address our fears and our failures. He doesn’t leave Thomas in shame. He offers the very thing Thomas says he needs. Now, this doesn’t always happen. When we ask for a sign, that doesn’t mean we’ll get it…or does it? Look further down in John Chapter 20 to find the answer.
John 20:30-31 –
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
These are written, Thomas’s story is written as a sign for us. The Word of Life, the entirety of Scripture is the Sign for us. In fact, the signs are so many, so full that they can’t all be recorded in Scripture. He writes them in our lives and on our hearts.
We are all Thomases…Dirty Doubters, but we have a Touchable Savior.
Our Risen Savior comes into our lives and into our homes in His Word, answering questions, giving signs of Who He is and What He does for us every day. That same confession and forgiveness He offered Thomas is what defines us through the Resurrection of Jesus.
Thomas – Touched by Jesus….that’s his real name and how we are blessed to remember him.
Leave your name in the comments below, like my example here, write it large on a paper to remind yourself, and/or write it on your hand with an eyeliner or a marker. Let’s proclaim the Resurrection’s grace in our lives together.