He was a loyal and faithful disciple and Apostle of Jesus
For centuries preachers called him the Doubter
Thomas-Didymus like people today loved Jesus. He was a disciple of Jesus. He was loyal to the man he considered the Promised one of God. But Thomas had a problem. He did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God. Yes, he may have believed, as many do today, that Jesus was one of the sons of God just as all of humankind are the children of God. He obviously believed that Jesus was the great prophet promised of old. But Jesus being himself God in the flesh was too much for Thomas, whom John alone calls Didymus. So the one problem, that of believing that Jesus has risen up from the dead is connected to the belief that Jesus is God.
To believe that someone rose from the dead is asking a lot. The Apostles were not naive simpletons. They were men of the world. They knew about life and death. As most of them were fisherman, they knew that fish do not want to be caught, that everyday is not a sunny day, that a person in a boat during a storm was in trouble and that those who sat around wishing and hoping and waiting and watching for a better day were likely to starve to death. The disciples were realists.
All of the disciples had difficulty with the twin issues of Jesus' divinity and his resurrection from the dead. Yes, they were believers. But what did they believe? As Jews, they believed that God was one God and that there were no other(real)Gods. Other people, the Jews knew, might call this or that thing a god, but just because a person calls something a god does not mean that ontologically it is a god. Admittedly, a case can be made that any person's "god" is god for them. However, if I give a telephone pole all the worship, homage, praise and offerings due to a god, those actions do not make the telephone pole actually a god. What it does do is show me to be ignorant of the true God.
The disciples were familiar with the gods of the Canaanites, the Egyptians, the Greeks and Romans. They knew that the Assyrians and the Romans elevated their human kings and emperors to the status of gods. But the Jews rejected all such dieties as false because as monotheists they had only one God and there was no other. So, a case can be made that for the disciples, the idea that Jesus was himself God was something that went against their Judaism.
It is unfair to call Thomas the Doubter, as though he is alone. They all doubted. They all had a lesser view of Jesus before the Resurrection. Throughout the gospel accounts they, themselves, record their moments of doubt.
When the other discipless told Thomas of the resurrection of Jesus, Thomas did not believe it. He thought that such a thing was not possible. Oh, yes, he remembered that Elijah had resurrected the son of the widow of Zaraphath. But Elijah did not raise himself. He remembered that Jesus had raised Jairus' daughter and the son of the widow of Nain, and had called Lazarus from the tomb. But who was there among the disciples to raise Jesus, to call Jesus forth from the tomb? No! Jesus was dead.
So, when the others told Thomas that Jesus was raised and that they had seen him, Thomas did not believe. It must have been a ghost, or indigestion, or a fond dream leading to group hysteria. But Jesus, physically raised from death, no!
When his objections that Jesus was not raised were met with equally fervent affirmations that it was true, Thomas uttered the now famous challenge, "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails,and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will not believe."
This is the same challenge today. It is not a challenge as to whether there ever was a Jesus. Thomas states the fact clearly. He knew that any resurrected Jesus had to have in his body the marks of that crucifixion.
It was not that Jesus' spirit lived on in the afterlife. Thomas, like the Jews of his time, believed in a spiritual life after death in Sheol, (the place of the dead.)
Rather, it was the challenge asking if Jesus was powerful enough to have raised himself from the dead. As this blog points out, the other resurrections, before and after Jesus, are all effected by someone else. But Thomas knew there was no one to do it. If Jesus was physically alive again, then he either had never died and was merely resuscitated; Or he had to raise himself.
Yes,there is the theological nicety of saying that God could do it. That God could send the angels to roll away the stone. That the angels could then act as agents for raising Jesus from the dead. Such a mechanistic theory of spiritual power may comfort some.
Or it could be that some, who want to deny Jesus divinity, say that God just acted directly by sending an earthquake to remove the stone, and then a cosmic ray to energize the dead body of Jesus. Either of these theories, or others that have been proposed are not any less miraculous and requiring of belief. The non biblical explanations have one thing in common. They all want to deny the key idea that the Bible wants to affirm, namely, that Jesus is himself God in the flesh and that Jesus raised himself from the dead, because Jesus has the power over life and death. Indeed, only God has that power and Jesus is God.
We can only imagine what happened during the eight days that followed, but when Jesus appeared again to the Apostles, he knew what had happened. He knew it was Thomas. He faced Thomas directly and offered the invitation that is Jesus' answer to Thomas' challenge, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand and place it in my side; do not be faithless but believing."
Thomas believes and his confession is also a profession, "My Lord and my God."
Jesus then speaks to every believer. His words cascade down the centuries. When you and I hear them today, we are joining the billions before us who have heard them. I believe that Jesus' knew it and therefore he spoke to you and me individually, personally.
He said, " Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen me and yet believe."
The Bible is full of great people of faith who doubted.
When Abraham was told he would have a son in his old age, he doubted. And when his wife Sarah was told, she laughed out loud.
When Moses was told to go to Egypt to free the Israelites from slavery. He doubted his ability. Moses even argued and told God that God had better chose someone else.
When Gideon was promised that he would lead Israel out of the control of the Midianite, he doubted. He demanded a sign as proof. And then he demanded another sign to prove the proof.
Elijah doubted. He had stood up against the king. He had overcome the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel but then he doubted. He became afraid and he ran away.
When Jeremiah was told to speak the prophesy of God to the King, he doubted because he was only a youth.
Many people feel that God and the things of God are too fantastic to believe. Many doubt. But the Bible illustrates repeatedly that doubt is not the absence of faith. Rather, doubt is the reverse side of the coin of faith. They go together. Doubt is not a sin. It is the evidence of a thinking, reflective, realistic mind that is not fooled.
The best thing for people to do when they doubt is to reveal the doubt. Lay it out there for yourself to see. Examine your doubt.
To ask someone to believe that any human person is also true God is asking a lot. Even if a man can heal blindness, make the lame walk, feed the thousands, stop the wind and still the wave. Even if a man can approach the grave of another man who is bona fide four days dead and who now smells from the rot; And even if this man can call out and raise the dead man whole and fully restored; all of those things are proofs of great power but do they prove that Jesus is God in the flesh?
In our day it is academically acceptable for our grade schools, high schools, colleges and universities to deny that Jesus was anything more than an ancient Martin Luther King Jr. This writer finds such teaching indicative of the narrow minded and dognmatic approach of modern academics.
Jesus is first, so he would be the inspiration. Obviously, MLK could not have inspired Jesus.
A lot of people want to say that MLK is Doctor,(Dr) MLK. Okay, good, but that begs the truth.
MLK is properly understood as THE REVEREND DOCTOR Martin Luther King. Jr.
The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Christian pastor who lead a congregation and then a movement and then a nation.
And on what grounds did he do it?
He did it upon the basis of his faith in Jesus the son of God, the savior of the world. He did it upon his faith that the God of the Christians was the true God of the universe. And he did based on his faith that "This Jesus whom you crucified, God has made both Lord and Christ."
Just read his speeches. Just listen to his words in Washington about the justice that will flow down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.
Please let us not persecute this prophet as other generations have persecuted the prophets before him by denying the faith that was inside him. Let's not allow non Christians to deny the fundamental fact that The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Christian prophet and not just a good civil rights promoter who used biblical poetry to good effect.
Let not those who pompously and publically claim to take upon themselves his mantle, dare to defame him by denying the central Christian core of what he believed and the Lord Jesus he served.
Jesus said to Thomas that Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.
Scholars may claim that the apostles invented the story of the resurrection. Some may claim that it was wishful thinking and group hysteria. Others may claim that the disciples went to the wrong tomb, entered the wrong part of the garden, and imagined that Jesus was risen. Such scholarly fantasy requires faith in their conjecture. It requires faith in spite of the clear testimony of the eyewitnesses.
Thomas wanted to see the nail holes that held Jesus' hands to the wood of the cross. He wanted to see the naked side where the steel spear cut his skin apart and pierced his lungs.
And when he does, he need not reach out and actually place his finger there. He knew it to be Jesus who had died and now was alive again.
It is the death and resurrection of Jesus that convinces the apostles that Jesus is actually God in the flesh. They were so convinced of it that they left everything behind and spent the rest of their lives preaching of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Savior, the Son of God.
They were not fanatical religionists. They were not terrorist zealots who wanted to destroy the western empire of Rome. Rather, they were men on fire with the knowledge that they had seen the impossible. They had seen Jesus die and they had seen him risen, and they were willing to go to the ends of the earth to tell others about it.
People do not give over their entire lives and that of their families for a mere dream. The Apostles had eaten by the sea of Tiberias with the risen Jesus. They had seen him ascend into the heavens. They had experienced the kenetic power of the holy Spirit at Pentecost and they had the same electric experience through use of Baptism, Holy Communion and the community of the Church.
Theirs might have been the twin doubts of God in the flesh and a man rising from the dead. But theirs was the twin response of faith and life.
James the less