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.” ,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.” 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 believed.” John 20:26-32
Dearly beloved here is Jesus Christ, in His graciousness, speaking a command and gentle rebuke to Thomas. Christ has revealed Himself to Thomas, despite Thomas’s previous statement that he would never believe, we see Him in a repentant posture of worship, “Ho Kurios moi, kai ho Theos mou”.
This is a dramatic event as Thomas makes this shift from unbelief to belief. Let’s look carefully at the Scripture to see the impact of this account.
What does the record tell us about Thomas prior to his emphatic rejection of his fellow apostles accounts of the resurrection?
We see his appointment and the teaching he was under:
From Luke 6:12-19,
In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: ….the bible names, Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, and Simon, and Judas son of James and Judas Iscariot.
Each rabbi would have disciples, a group who were under his teaching, for example we read in Acts 22:3 that Saul was under the teaching of Gamaliel, a leading scholar of the age. Jesus already had a large following of disciples and he now selected apostles. An apostle is an envoy, a delegate a messenger.
In this same passage Luke 6, we see the themes of Christ’s message as He continues with preaching the beatitudes. He speaks to the poor, hungry, those who weep, and those who are marginalized. He offers stern warnings for the rich, those whose bellies are full, those who laugh and who are offering the popular teaching of false prophets. He orientates his hearers to a correct attitude to their enemies, and correct judgment, culminating with this admonition in verse 46 – 49.
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock.
All we read shows that Thomas was obedient to Christ. Moreover, He knew those who built their house on the sands of false religions, vain philosophies, and competing ideologies; the hypocrites and sycophants. He was as familiar as we are with the pious religious types, those we would know today as a cultural Christian. Thomas met the followers of rituals, ceremonies and traditions, who consider themselves Christian but their hearts ultimately care for their own creature comforts and conveniences, more concerned with matters of the world than those of the kingdom.
Are your foundations down to the rock? Consider this: who make the best fighters? If you were heading to war, where the bullets are striking the ground, the shrapnel blasting through the air scattering molten shards of metal able to slice a man in half and scatter body parts, who would you want alongside you, as an ally?
With an enemy ready to deceive, and distract, do you want to be with a theorist or a practitioner? A theorist being one who may be well versed in Scripture, one who has an intellectual understanding of the requirements of warfighting but who has not actually fought in a battle. A practitioner someone who puts knowledge into action, facing the trials of battle and has the scars of experience to show? The soldier who has been to war, the surgeon who has actually conducted operations, or the lawyer who has fought a case in court.
Let me ask you, have you a faith constructed on the sands of intellectual ascent to Jesus through study or even a temporal religious experience, or do you bear battle scars from conflict and trials because you have a firm foundation and your soul belongs to Christ?
Why does Ephesians 6:14-18 speak of the Christian being issued the full armour of God?
the belt of truth,
the breastplate of righteousness,
for your feet, the readiness given by the gospel of peace.
the shield of faith,
and the helmet of salvation,
and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
You only issue armour to a soldier if he’s going to war. The one who never leaves the safety and protection of the training ground for the field of conflict is of no need of armour and is of no value to his commander.
If you are born again, you’re on the rock, if you’re on the rock then you are in the fight. If you are in the fight, you are collecting the bruises and wounds of engaging with the enemy. Thomas was not only under the teaching of the Lord but as one of His commissioned officers he was in the battle and by all accounts prepared to die, see John 11:6.
In Matthew chapter 10 we see Thomas the apostle sent with authority, the text reads: These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.
Do you suppose Thomas received this authority and did not exercise it? There is no questioning from scripture his obedience. Our account shows he is a man of faith, on the streets preaching the word and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom. Don’t miss this important phrase, the kingdom is at hand! at hand is the greek phrase. ‘eggizo’, it means, be at hand, come near. There was an urgency to Thomas mission. He knew from Daniel 7:13 how near that kingdom was: ……
And Don’t you just love Thomas for being the one who asked the question that attracted one of Christ’s most profound statements, I am the way the truth and the life, found in John 14, starting in verse one:
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me……And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you maybe also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
What a great question from Thomas. That’s my encouragement ask questions, inquire, seek answers. In the garden, we read in Genesis 3 God asked, “where are you Adam?”, Jesus asks Thomas, “have you believed because you have seen?”.
Why ask these questions? God the Father, God the Son have no need of the answers; God does not accumulate knowledge, He has no need to seek answers. He is omniscient, all knowing, immutable, unchanging.
We face questions from God because they cause us to think. That is to be our approach when teaching one another or when dealing with the unbeliever.
“What is it you believe and why do you believe it?.
If you’re approaching dialogue by making assertions, seeking to get your point across that you might persuade someone of the strength of your argument then you are missing the point.
Pastor mentioned the other week, ‘proof is different to persuasion’. You can offer irrefutable evidence of the biblical truths, display your encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible, but that will not change the mind of the unbeliever. Would it not be more productive to get him to think through the issue, wrestle with it intellectually?
You ask the questions, allow God to do the persuasion, It is He who does the drawing, John 6:44, we simply proclaim the gospel.
And that brings us back to Thomas. He had heard Christ say during his public ministry “believe in me”, moreover, these men and women whom he knew and trusted, with who he had shared hardship, persecution, sorrows and joys most certainly tried convincing him that they had seen the risen Christ. But he would not believe them.
Why not? Simply ,Thomas has his foundational beliefs, and no amount of evidence was about to change them. Consider this:
Thomas is a devout Jew immersed in the Scripture. He had been with who He understood was the Christ, Messiah, Meshiak Matthew 16:16. The Scriptures were on his heart and rooted in his mind. He knew they spoke of liberation from oppression. God had repeatedly responded to the cries of His chosen people. Under the yolk of slavery in Egypt, and Babylon. They were delivered from corrupt judges and bad kings. He knew of God’s covenant with David in 2 Samuel 7 and read King David’s prayer in response :
- And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant. 29 Now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you. For you, O Lord God, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever.” 2 Samuel 7:
This is Thomas’ sure expectation from God’s Word, the Torah and Tonach. From the prophets he reads of the promised fulfillment of the Davidic covenant. He is anticipating a conquering redeemer to restore David’s physical throne. He was in possession of the same messianic chapters and verses we read today: Genesis 3:15, Psalm 2, and 22, Isaiah 7:14, 52 and 53 and many more.
We now know these point to Jesus Christ, to his life, death, burial and resurrection but Thomas cannot see this in the Scripture. The one he had hoped was Meshiak is now dead, ignominiously executed by the Romans and Thomas has no Interest in a crucified Messiah – he is in mourning, grieving for the loss of one he deeply loved.
Listen to this from Dr Steve Lawson: To the Jew, the message of a murdered Messiah was the ultimate scandal. In Roman times, crucifixion was a punishment reserved for the worst criminals. So dreaded was death by crucifixion that no Roman citizen could be nailed to a cross. Such a horrific death was reserved for the notorious enemies of the Empire—terrorists, murderers, and anarchists. When the Jews were told that their long-awaited Messiah had been put to death on a cross, this was a stumbling block to them—literally, a scandal. It was a scorned message of defeat, not victory, that caused them to fall further into unbelief.
And now you have the picture of Thomas. A devout Jew who twice a day would say the shemah:
“Shamah Yisrael Adonai Elo-hey-nu Adonai echad.”
One who had faith in The One God of the Bible, the sovereign creator God, who laughs at the plans of man and when he chooses meets out justice to the enemies of his chosen people. God is not defeated and certainly not hung on trees.
However, Thomas was radically changed. Here is a faithful, devout Jew, who knew the cost to his soul of blasphemy, who knew God’s just penalty for bowing to false gods was death, worshipping Jesus Christ as God. Why? because Jesus Christ is God and we see in this dramatic episode this being revealed to Thomas.
From here we see the consequence of coming to know Christ as Lord and King. Thomas is sent with all authority, we see him later gathered in Jerusalem ready to go to all the known world. He has set Christ apart in his heart as Lord, 2 Peter 3:14 and is prepared to give a reason for his hope.
Thomas will be in ministry for another 37 years, faithfully preaching the gospel of the kingdom, sin, repentance , and faith in the one true and living Triune God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit of the until in AD70, around his mid 50s, Thomas was speared to death at Calamina, a martyr proclaiming Christ.
In these verses in John 20, we see how an encounter with the risen Christ radically changes the man.
Christ says to the new Thomas, “have you believed because you have seen? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Through history Jews anticipated Meshiak, the Messiah. Those who have not seen and yet believed were here blessed by Christ. He is speaking in the past tense, those who have believed. How were those who came before Christ saved? Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David? Was it by works of the law? Obeying the ordinances of the priesthood, the sacrificial system? By no means. The psalmist tells us “a sacrifice I did not desire” Psalm 46:6, 51:16, they have no value for cleansing from sins. Hebrew 10:4, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” Those who had gone before were saved in the same we are: by faith. How does that faith come about? By the eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ who is the author and finisher of our faith, Hebrews 12:2.
In this text, Jesus is blessing those who in faith eagerly anticipated Israel’s Redeemer. On this side of the veil we now see clearly God predetermined plan of redemption. We have now, along with Thomas, seen the Christ. He is revealed to us through God the Holy Spirit, who opens our spiritual eyes, changes our hearts and turn our minds to love for our King, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords son.