“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” (My accent)
Thomas is perhaps best defined by his interaction with Jesus at the end of John 20. Like Peter, Thomas strikes me as an individual who tended to live his passions on the outside of himself. He seems to me to be one in the group who tended to speak what others were thinking. However, in this scenario, the others in the group had an advantage, as they had seen Jesus when he appeared after the resurrection. Thomas had not been present.
So one can understand Thomas might be demanding visual proof that the others did not. They had already had it!
The commentary I read about Thomas pointed out something I found very apt. It stated that doubt was not a way of life for Thomas; meaning, it was not his state of being. We see that when Jesus tells the disciples his life is in danger and Thomas says in Luke 11:16, “Let’s also go, that way we may die with him.”
No. Doubt, for Thomas, was the beginning part of his process for making decisions. Doubt allowed him the option to question things. And that is part of the wonderful ability God gives his children to reckon the experiences of life with Him, learning about Him in their own stories.
I have many people in my life who are much wiser about theology and, I would venture to surmise, are far more understanding about the ways of God. I am grateful for their input into my life, as they have helped grow me dimensionally. However, I am not interested in having the same walk my siblings or my parents have with God. My journey is different from theirs, and I have never been a person who enjoys going along with a crowd just to be part of something. I want the experiences in my life to be real and to have meaning. Otherwise I don’t see the value in them. And if I have to have a God who can only be defined by someone else for me…
Then quite frankly, I won’t have a whole lot of respect for Him. See, I am a doubter. Straight up. I question everything. And a God who cannot handle my questions is really no God at all, at least not one I can count on to weather the storms in life.
I have looked death in the face too many times and have had to do it alone every time. So to have to depend on someone else to define for me who God, is unrealistic. And to be honest, He has shown himself in such rugged, searing ways to me while I was hanging over a cliff of one type or another, that I would not suggest someone who has not experienced a lifelong battle with mental illness must experience Him in the same way. The rescue for me will be different than the next person.
I think the place where people get hung up in the scenario with Jesus is when Jesus says in verse 29, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Does this statement negate the fact that Jesus loved Thomas so much he made a point of going to him and giving Thomas the exact proof Thomas needed to put a period at the end of the sentence rather than a question mark?
There is lots of room for opposing views about this text. You must ask God what he would have YOU get from the story. That is the living part of the the process of reading God’s Word and asking him to breath through it into your own life. For my part, I can rather easily see the admonishment. I am not knocking established church structures by an means when I say what I’m about to say next.
I grew up in a church setting. I have the solid understanding of the workings of Christianity due to that upbringing. I think that it is easy to blame a church for making us too “religious” or “indoctrinated,” when the fact is that with a church body it is more likely we become lazy and sedentary, like we are being chauffeured through our journey rather than being an active part of the adventure. What I found some years ago was that if I did not question things; if I accepted someone else’s teaching without asking God about its value in my life, I became susceptible to being disillusioned.
As a child I was instructed in church about Thomas and how bad it was to doubt. And I carried that around with me my whole life. Thomas was a bit of a loser because he doubted and did not receive blessing because he did not believe without seeing. That was my inherent understanding of this story.
I have come to realize through my own journey of doubt and struggling with belief, not with believing that God is real, as I have always known that. No, the struggle has been in believing the second part of the scenario with Jesus and Thomas.
I struggle with believing that when I am not measuring up; when I am not believing without seeing, that He still loves me and that His blessing is waiting for me. He comes to me in a way He knows only I will understand and shows me the thing about Himself I need to believe.
The end goal is to believe automatically without having to see. When we can do that we are far more prepared to face the battles coming our way. We are able to allow God to work swiftly and mightily in our lives, but that does not mean we will not be blessed if it takes us longer to get it. The walk is about trusting God so much we immediately step from our precipice of doubt off into belief without the stuttering transition that requires proof.
I have been memorizing Hebrews 11. I am just a few verses shy of having that goal accomplished. I cannot tell you how much God has used that section of scripture in my life over the past few months. I have learned, for myself, that the scripture is a sword set aflame by the Holy Spirit.
I tested it. I know it to be true.
I doubted. I asked, and God sent this process for me to learn.
Had I believed from the start, I think the blessings would have come sooner, but they are not diminished by my doubt. My understanding of God has changed fundamentally because of what I have learned through my doubt. I have come not to see him as “The Father,” some stern being, brandishing a flaming torch and a big stick. I have come to see Him as my beloved parent. He is my Abba, Yashuea, my Rescuer. I never would have learned who He is in me and for me had I not asked questions.
Thomas is a character who was so important he ended up being encapsulated in the longest standing text, ever. There is a reason for that, and I do not believe it was just to define him as “Doubting Thomas.” He was just as complex and dedicated as the other disciples, but he did struggle, it seems, with reconciling the tangible with the intangible, believing without seeing. I have no doubt the lessons Thomas learned, once learned, became so concrete they could not be moved from his life with a sledge hammer.
I see myself in the story of this man, and I find I want to defend him. But he does not need me to defend his life. Even his death attests to a life lived so completely in Christ. He was stabbed with a spear in India while establishing a church. My goal is to remember that doubting is valuable for anything the world would throw at me, and unnecessary for that which Yashuea would.