If you could go back in time and witness any event in history what would it be? The sinking of the Titanic? The parting of the Red Sea? David throwing a stone at Goliath? Perhaps the birth of Jesus? Or what about the NCAA basketball game last Saturday night when Jalen Suggs made a three point shot from the middle of the court with no time left on the clock and won the game for Gonzaga?
But in truth, no other event in all history would be more important or climatic that the moment the stone rolled away and Jesus walked out of that tomb. Seeing that would settle the matter, once and for all, about the most significant claim of our faith. If we saw it we could tell others, “I saw it happen and I saw Jesus alive.” But would that change the world if even hundreds of us were then to see it happen?
“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.” (John 20:25, NIV)
We call this man, “Doubting Thomas”. But later on, Thomas did believe—because he saw Jesus and was able to touch Jesus. Have you seen Him? You’ll never be the same..Have you touched His nailed scarred hands? To touch Him is to have your doubts removed.
“A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:26-29, NIV)
Not everyone was sure Jesus would really come back from the dead. But when the disciples saw Jesus, they could not deny it! But one was absent—-Thomas. I don’t think that he was any less devoted or in love with Jesus than the others, nor did he think Jesus was a liar——but he had not seen the resurrected Jesus, he only heard the rumors. And so he made that famous little sentence: “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.” The rest is history, of course.
So who was the apostle Thomas? We always call him “doubting Thomas.” The Gospels don’t tell us a lot about him, so he’s mainly identified with the story in John’s Gospel about needing to touch Jesus’ wounds from the crucifixion before he’d believe. But this isn’t all there is to Thomas. But there’s a good chance that Thomas was a twin. John tells us that Thomas was known as “Didymus” the Greek word for twin (John 11:16, 20:24, 21:2) Although all of the Gospels mention Thomas, it’s only the Gospel of John that records any of Thomas’ words. Church tradition tells us that Thomas was a missionary who ended up in India, and was martyred there for turning Hindus to Jesus.
But here are some things about Thomas that we can celebrate. When Jesus told the disciples that He was heading back to Judea to see Lazarus, the disciples fearfully reminded Him that the Jews there had just tried to stone Him (John 11:8). It’s Thomas who speaks up, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (11:16). Thomas was brave. After a comment like that, you’d think that we’d remember him as “Thomas the Brave.” But the emotional impact of Jesus’ trial, flogging, and crucifixion had a toll, and Thomas found it hard to accept the humiliation of Jesus.. He’s the only one who isn’t present the first time Jesus appears to the disciples and this has an effect on his faith (John 20:24). When the disciples all come to tell him that they’ve seen the risen Lord, Thomas refuses to believe it (John 20:25). Yes, perhaps he had given up at that point. Perhaps he could not believe that mere mortals could kill Jesus and he was dismayed.
But also consider how Thomas’s doubts allows us to see Jesus’ compassion with our doubts. Earlier He told them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:1–4, New International Version)
Naturally, the disciples don’t necessarily understand what He’s talking about. And it’s Thomas that asks Him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way” (John 14:5, NIV)? Thomas was inquisitive, believed and wanted to fully understand. Even though it’s obvious that Thomas is missing the greater point that Jesus is making, our Lord doesn’t get frustrated about it. In fact, because of Thomas’ question, Jesus says one of the most profound things written in John’s Gospel: “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:6–7, NIV). The lesson here is that you shouldn’t be ashamed of your questions. Asking for clarification can lead to new insights and breakthroughs. Thank goodness for Thomas questions!!!
But as you know, when Jesus appears to the disciples, Thomas was absent (John 20:24). After seeing the Lord, they run to tell Thomas, but he doesn’t believe them. He wants first hand evidence—-not second hand accounts—-even from his best friends. And so Thomas’s absence illustrates a great point: It’s incredibly important for us to be connected to and regularly gathering with other Christians. This connection allows us to be encouraged by each other’s stories and our shared experiences.
Thomas walked beside Jesus for three years. He heard Christ’s teachings and saw Him perform many miracles, but he still struggled to believe Jesus had risen from the grave. After he touched Christ’s wounds and responded with the words “My Lord and my God,” Jesus makes an important comment: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29, NIV). Jesus is talking about you and me! We didn’t have the luxury of walking with Jesus or touching His scars. We live thousands of years removed from the events recorded in the Gospels, and Jesus recognizes the faith that it takes for us to believe. That’s why He pronounces a special blessing on us for trusting Him!
So a week later the eleven disciples, including Thomas, were gathered in a house – we do not know where or even why, but the doors of the house were locked – the disciples were still afraid of the Jewish leaders. And suddenly Jesus appeared among them. This in itself was astonishing, and seems, like the other appearances of Jesus, to suggest that Jesus’ resurrected body was not governed by the normal laws of nature. His first words were ‘Peace be with you’, but then He pivoted to Thomas, and told him to place his fingers in the nail wounds in his hands. He told Thomas to place his hand in the gaping wound in his side, where the soldier’s spear had pierced. In doing so, he showed Thomas that He knew what Thomas had been saying. ‘Believe’ commanded Jesus.
But look at Thomas’ response: he calls Jesus not only Lord, but names him God as well. There was not mistaking now—-Jesus was Lord and God Incarnate. Jesus knew about Thomas’ doubts—only God could have known this. Thomas believed because he saw with his own eyes that it was Jesus, risen from the dead. But Jesus reminded him how much more blessed were people who never saw Jesus, never heard his voice, but believed in him as Lord and God.
The Resurrection enables us to know Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus knew only a few people would see him in his resurrected flesh no matter how long He stayed on the earth. So He established the apostles as witnesses to his life, its teaching and his resurrection. He expected others to come to believe because of their teaching – see Jn17:20 and the confirming power of the Holy Spirit.
One of my favorite apologists, Chesterton, said this about Easter almost 100 years ago:
“On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realized that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but of the dawn.…. I hope as you walk with the Gardener in the dawn of this year you experience the rich blessings of knowing Him and making Him known. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!” (Chesterton, The Everlasting Man)
So friends, this Easter morning, 2021, please hear this. There’s a rumor going around, for over 2000 years, that Jesus really did rise from the dead——just like He said He would. Now it’s a rumor, because not everyone has seen Him. But it’s said that once you see Him——once He touches you——you’re never the same.
Have you heard about this resurrected Jesus—-have you really seen Him—-have you talked to Him and touched His scars?