Have you noticed the wide variety in personalities among people today? Some are extremely outgoing, and talkative, while others are shy. For some people the glass is always half full, for others it’s always half empty. While some are optimistic and positive, others tend to be negative, skeptical and pessimistic.
Personalities were different in Jesus day as well, including among His followers. Peter, for example was extremely outgoing, positive and optimistic. On the other end of the spectrum was Thomas, whose name is often prefaced by the adjective “Doubting….” Peter Marshall labeled Thomas “the Galilean from Missouri.”
Even today some people are extremely positive, and for them life seems filled with joy, one blessing after another. Their theme song might be “Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before!” Others are more like Thomas, skeptical, sometimes disbelieving, tending to question things rather than accept them.
Scripture presents several snapshots of Thomas, and each one illustrates his personality. While Thomas is seen as skeptical, pessimistic and doubting, at times we see glimpses of trust
In John 11, when Jesus told the disciples that their friend Lazarus has died and that they needed to return to Jerusalem, Thomas blurted out “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” While the pessimism in this statement is obvious, there is also an element of trust present, a commitment to stand with the Savior no matter what the risk.
Then, in the upper room the night before Jesus was crucified, when the Savior explained, “I am going to prepare a place for you, and where I am going you know, and the way you know.” (John 14:3,4) Thomas responded “Lord, we do not know where you are going, and how can we know the way?” (v. 5) instead of criticizing this statement of confusion and disbelief, Jesus simply clarified, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.” (v. 6)
The final snapshots from the life of Thomas, the ones with which we are probably most familiar, were taken on resurrection Sunday and the following Sunday. On both occasions the disciples were inside a locked room, when Jesus miraculously appeared. On the first occasion, Thomas for some reason was not present, and we are not told why. However, when the other disciples told him “We have seen the Lord!” his response was classic disbelief: “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!”
Thankfully we know the rest of the story! The following Sunday, Thomas was present with the disciples when Jesus reappeared. The Savior, after greeting the group, immediately turned to Thomas and invited this skeptical follower to place his finger in the scars on His palm and his hand in Jesus’ side, and stop doubting and start believing!”
While we may never have struggled with doubts to the degree Thomas did, there may have been times when circumstances drove us to discouragement, doubt, or even despair. We may have questioned our Christian faith, doubted God’s ability to heal or meet a need, or struggled with the betrayal of a friend or family member. If so, the lesson from the life of Thomas for us today is clear.
Stop doubting, and resume believing!
That’s exactly what Thomas did, when he replied, “My Lord and my God!”
May we respond as Thomas did to the Savior whenever we are tempted to doubt or disbelieve.