Thomas - a truth-seeker meets the Truth

Thomas - a truth-seeker meets the Truth     John 20:26-31  

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.”

They say a week is a long time in politics. It must have seemed an age for Thomas.

He had not been with the others when Jesus had appeared to them and showed them his wounds.  Thomas will not be content until he has seen them too – and, if possible, touched them as well!  From then on, he has been known ‘doubting Thomas’ and it has become a label for every sceptic since.  But perhaps:


1. Thomas is not ‘doubting Thomas’, after all - but ‘disbelieving’ Thomas.

Rationalistic critics sneer at the very idea of resurrection. But Thomas isn’t one of them.

His scepticism may not have been about whether Jesus was alive but how he was alive,

and in what formAfter all, Thomas had been there when Lazarus was raised.

But this was different.  A newly resurrected body would not merely be a resuscitated corpse and if so - then surely the wounds would not still be visible.  Thomas might not unreasonably have assumed that the marks of wounds ought not to be there on the pure, pristine skin of a truly resurrected body.

But Jesus pulled back his cloak and there they were! 

“Thomas wanted faith” – said Spurgeon – “and looked for it, first of all, not to the head once crowned with thorns now crowned with glory but to his hands and feet. Thomas, even in unbelief, is wise.  He turns to his Lord’s wounds for comfort.”

 That’s where we all must start.


So no: Thomas is not so much ‘doubting’ Thomas – not, as has been alleged, ‘the most quoted empiricist of all time’’. He is ‘disbelieving’ – and this is a good thing, for it means he ‘doubts his doubts’.  In any case, all the other disciples ‘disbelieved for joy’ when Jesus showed them his scarred hands and feet (Luke 24:41).

2.  Thomas finds that truth is vastly bigger than proof. 

The truth was dawning on Thomas which he would only later be able to articulate that

the resurrection was not the reversal of an open and obvious defeat but the proclamation of a hidden and unexpected victory.


You see, it is to his great credit that Thomas knows a problem when he sees one.

His doubt is not so much whether Jesus lives but if he lives.  O my - then we do have

a problem!  And it’s a big problem.  Because if the once dead Jesus really does appear

and disappear at will, then we have on our hands a radical reversal of universal laws,

a contradiction of accepted wisdom, an overturning of Newtonian physics and any other physics you care to mention... and if this is so... then the world is a different place than it was before... and we are different people.

Both the world and we humans will have to be defined in another way.

Not unreasonably, Thomas will not give up his three-dimensional world for a four-dimensional one easily. 

He had other options, of course, which many people have taken since and still take today.   He could have simply stayed away from this bunch of Jesus crazies – gone fishing perhaps or played more golf.  That way he would not have put himself in this awkward position. That’s his mistake; he could have just walked away as millions do and left his familiar three-dimensional world intact. But he wanted to be sure.

Or – another option – which is less admirable.

He could have stuck with the group and patronisingly tolerated their slightly weird convictions – he could have gone along with them every week and said the creed but not really meant it, not seriously, not inside his head where he could protect his rational reservations, where he could keep his options open – and he could let the others do the heavy-lifting of his believing for him!


If you want an easy life, what you don’t do is act like Thomas and demand to know the truth...   Because if you do, the Truth may sooner or later catch up with you, slap you in the face and wake you up to a new world.


Yes, I know what Jesus says next: Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

And we are blessed who have not seen and yet believed.

But this is not an evasion - a cop-out from caring one way or another whether this hard stuff about a resurrected body is actually true.  Thomas won’t let you go there!

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’ – believed what?

Believed what Thomas saw - that there was a Risen Body of Jesus, one that could be touched; we are blessed when we believe what Thomas saw but we can’t see – that Jesus is alive again after death in bodily form.  What we believe in without seeing is still a resurrected body!  Not an idea or a fantasy or a feeling. 

Resurrection was something that first happened to Jesus not to the disciples – and it doesn’t get any less real for being unseen by us.  Thomas wouldn’t be put off and nor should we. Thomas pressed hard after truth.  In so doing he discovers that empiricism and empirical science can only take you so far.  He finds that truth is vastly bigger than proof.  And he finds that this truth undermines the very foundations on which, so complacently, we imagine final proof rests.

Seeing the wounds, still on the Risen Christ, shows Thomas and the other 

disciples two things:

(i) His mission, even unto the death of the cross, was not a failure but a success. “These wounds are not simply evidence that I am alive. They are proof that I died for you, that

your debt has been fully paid, and that the power of death over you is broken” (Tim Keller).


(ii) His resurrection is all of a piece with the Incarnation of the Son of God where this Gospel began.  The miracle in the womb is matched by the miracle in the tomb.

Once you accept that, then all things are possible. Creation’s Lord succumbed to death but lives again as the Living God in human form, albeit transformed by resurrection yet recognisably embodied – and still verifiable by human touch and sight.  Resurrection is not an allegory for exalted spiritual experience but the climax of the ‘word who became flesh and dwelt among us’.


Throughout the Gospel of John to see Jesus truly is to see God.

It was to Thomas, after all, that Jesus said: If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.  From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (14:7) 

Now, Thomas makes a full reply: “My Lord and my God!”

“To see the love and the life that the crucified and risen Jesus gives is to see who God is. Therefore, when shown the wounds of the living Christ, Thomas can say, Here I see God.”  (Craig Koester)


In his recent book, written in the shadow of terminal illness, Tim Keller says of Thomas: “The biggest doubter became the greatest believer” (Hope in Times of Fear p.92).


Like Thomas originally, we are late for the party – not one week but two millennia late – and like him we have not seen but rely on the testimony of others.

Unlike Thomas, we do not have the wounds before us – but we have the stories and these stories, if we let them, can reach out and grab our attention and draw us in and evoke our faith and devotion.  And before we know it, we are lost in wonder, love and praise.

So yes, Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

But only because they saw and believed and told us so truthfully.

And that’s why their stories have been written down for us: 

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 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.