The rest of the disciples have seen Jesus at this point. All except Thomas. We don’t know why he wasn’t with the others when Jesus appeared to them, but for some reason he missed it. The others excitedly tell him that they have seen Jesus. He’s alive! But Thomas just can’t accept it. He just can’t believe and goes so far as to say that he won’t believe until he can actually see and feel Jesus’ wounds for himself.
The passage tells us that eight days go by before Jesus appears to them all again, this time with Thomas present. What must those eight days have been like? Did the other disciples try to convince Thomas? Did Thomas feel left out because they had experienced something that he hadn’t? Did he wonder why Jesus hadn’t appeared to him, or did he just deny that any of it could be true? There’s a lot that could have happened during those eight days.
I’m so touched by the way the story continues. Jesus appears once again to them all, including Thomas. Instead of shaming Thomas, Jesus meets him right at the point of his unbelief. He gives Thomas undeniable truth of who He is, showing him the wounds that Thomas’ unbelief demanded to see. Jesus tells him, “Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
Hebrews 11:1 gives the biblical definition of faith: “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” The faith that Jesus was calling Thomas to was not a blind faith. Thomas had lived with Jesus and knew who He was. He was being called to the kind of belief that Rusty talked about in his message this weekend: “Believe means trust and then act.” Jesus was asking Thomas to trust that He was who He said He was and then to act out of that belief.
I can relate to Thomas way more than I wish I could. I have experienced Jesus in so many ways in my life, and yet I know at times that He could say the same words to me that He said to Thomas, “Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” There are times when I have to ask Jesus to help my unbelief. I feel like the father who brought his demon possessed son to Jesus and asked Jesus to help if He could. When Jesus challenged the man’s “if you can” his reply was “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) That’s been my prayer a lot. The times when I do believe, but I don’t understand or I doubt. That’s when I need Jesus to fill my lack of understanding and doubt with His fullness. When I need to overcome my unbelief. When I need to make the choice to believe.
Executive Director of Education and Outreach