Jesus and Thomas — Too Good to be True?

By Susie Frederick

Matt. 28, Mk.16, Lk. 24, Jn. 20 & 21

Has something wonderful ever happened to you — something so good that you had trouble believing it was true? Let us consider the apostles of Jesus around the time of His rising from the dead.

The Jews had been waiting for centuries for fulfillment of the prophecies of a Messiah — a savior — to rescue their nation. They were looking for a political king, though, not a spiritual one who would rescue their souls. Jesus had come to earth, claiming to be the promised deliverer. They were skeptical, but He had backed up His claims with miracles, teachings, and fulfilled prophecies. Finally, many of the Jews believed. Then, before He could be made king, He was condemned as a criminal and executed! What a devastating event in the minds of His followers! Even the eleven remaining apostles, who had been with Him daily for about three years, did not understand that His kingdom was not of this world. They were gathered together mourning His death when the resurrection occurred.

On the day of Jesus’ resurrection, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene. She went to the brethren as Jesus instructed, told them she had seen Him, and what He had said to her. But when they had heard that He was alive, what was their response? They did not believe it.

Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women who went to the tomb with them also saw and spoke with Jesus. Jesus told them to go tell His disciples to go into Galilee, and there they would also see Him. When the women did as He said, how did the disciples respond? They thought it was foolish talk, and they did not believe. Did they bother to go into Galilee to see for themselves? No.

The same day, two of the followers of Jesus were walking to Emmaus, about 7 miles (or 11 kilometers) from Jerusalem. They were discussing the recent events of the crucifixion and the women’s accounts of seeing Jesus alive, when Jesus came near and walked with them. They were kept from realizing who He was. He asked them to tell Him what they were conversing about, and thinking He had not heard the news, they explained. Jesus reminded them of the prophecies, and He reasoned with them about their fulfillment as they continued toward the town. It was almost evening when they reached Emmaus, so the men invited Jesus to stay with them. When they sat down to eat their meal, Jesus was revealed to them, then He vanished out of sight. They were so excited that they went right back to Jerusalem (7 miles, remember) to tell the disciples what had happened. But did the disciples believe these two men? No.

So why do we only label Thomas as “doubting”? Did the other ten apostles believe Jesus had risen before they saw Him with their own eyes? No.

On the evening of resurrection day Thomas was not with the other ten apostles. I have often wondered where he was. Scripture says the ten were shut inside for fear of the Jews. Was Thomas not afraid? Was he sent out on an errand? We do not know, of course, but it makes me wonder.

While the ten (not including Thomas) were eating, and disbelieving the claims of the men and women who had seen Jesus, He suddenly appeared in the room with them and scolded them for their unwillingness to believe. Even after inviting them to touch His hands and feet to prove He was risen bodily, and not just a spirit, “they still did not believe for joy, and marveled.” He actually had to let them watch Him eat, and explain the scripture prophecies — AGAIN — before they finally believed!

When Thomas, the twin (I wonder about his twin, too) came back, the others told him about Jesus’ visit. But he would no more accept their word for Jesus’ resurrection than the ten would accept the word of the other witnesses. He said he would not believe until he saw Jesus and touched the wounds himself.

About a week later, he had his opportunity to do that. The disciples — including Thomas — were in a room when Jesus again appeared suddenly. Again He said, “Peace to you.” Then He immediately addressed Thomas, answering his need. He told him to touch the wounds in His hands and side, then said, “Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Finally, Thomas acknowledged the risen savior, saying, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” That’s me, that’s me! Jesus just gave me a blessing! I want to congratulate myself!

But why should I be proud? After all, it was my sins that caused Jesus’ extreme suffering and death. Should I not rather be humbled, that in spite of my unworthiness, He chose to take my punishment? Rather than being proud of myself — proud that I believe without seeing Jesus — I feel ashamed. Then I feel so grateful that because of Jesus’ death, God has given me mercy. I thank God He has not given me what I deserve. Instead, He has given me life eternal!

When I remember Jesus’ death and resurrection, I go through many emotions. Shame that my behavior caused the sacrifice of God’s only begotten Son. Sadness that Jesus suffered punishment for things I have done. Joy for God’s grace and mercy. A sense of how much God values my soul. Thankfulness for the future I expect to receive in heaven. Determination to do a better job of showing my love for God and man. Hope that my influence will only be for good, and will help others to look to Jesus for salvation and eternal life.

May God help us all to teach and lead souls to forgiveness and eternal life.