By Bill Watkins
“He’s gone and he’s not coming back. No one comes back. I love him as much as any of you, but I won’t spend the rest of my life waiting for something that will never happen.”
We don’t know whether Thomas said these words, but he could have. He loved Jesus enough to have died with him (John 11:16), but he was not about to live in denial. Let the rest of his companions hold on to the ridiculous notion that he was coming back.
“Dead is dead and no amount of foolish wishing can change that.”
The problem for Thomas is not doubt. It is unbelief. The Bible never calls Thomas a doubter. It calls him an unbeliever. (John 20:27-29)
Thomas was there. He was always there. He was there when Jesus fed the five thousand, walked on water, raised Lazarus, was taken in the garden, and when he bled, and cried, and died on the cross. He saw the back that had been laid open by the flagrum. He winced when he saw the spear pierce Jesus and witnessed the blood pour out with his own eyes. Thomas knew that no one who had been so abused could ever come back.
On the first Sunday after Jesus died, women came in the morning from the tomb with the news that it was empty and angels had told them Jesus was risen.
“Let Peter and John run to the tomb. Nothing can change what I’ve seen.”
Later in the morning, Mary Magdalene came to say that she had actually seen and spoken to the Lord.
“Maybe her demons are coming back.“
When two disciples came that evening from Emmaus, Thomas was there (Luke 24:33 and cf. Mark 16:12-13). They began to tell of a strange encounter with Jesus on the road. They said it was Jesus, but he didn’t look the same.
“Enough is enough! I’m grieving too,but I refuse to be delusional.”
Thomas refused to believe and left. Had he stayed, he would have seen Jesus himself before the two had a chance to finish their story (compare Luke 24: 33-36 to John 20:24).
When the apostles breathlessly told him that Christ had come into the room just after he left, he felt that he needed to help them return to reality.
“Can any of you prove that someone actually was there? If someone really did show up, did any of you have the presence of mind to test and see if this person was actually Jesus?”
“Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25)
Eight days later, Thomas is still there. He may be unbelieving, but he’s loyal. “You don’t give up on your friends just because they aren’t thinking clearly.” Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:26-28)
“He did come back! Nothing is impossible for Him! I believe!”
Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)
I’m thankful for Thomas. I’m glad that he demanded proof. Because of his absolute refusal to accept anything less than empirical evidence, I have greater hope and faith. I have not seen and yet have believed.
Because Jesus lives, everything he ever promised will come true. We are not alone (Matthew 28:20). All things are working together for our good (Romans 8:28). We are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). His peace is for real (Philippians 4:6-8). He’s really coming back to take us home (John 14:1-3). These promises, and so many more, are verified by a resurrection that actually occurred.
Because Jesus really rose, nothing is impossible. My life, the future, the state of the world, my family, my feeble efforts—nothing is impossible! Addictions, sorrow, and brokenness do not have to be forever. We live in hope because we serve a risen Lord.
Faith and Hope for an Unbeliever
By Bill Watkins