Perhaps the best known passage from the Bible that Thomas features in is the Gospel of John chapter 20 verses 24 to 29. It was that amazing resurrection Sunday and the Lord Jesus had appeared to the disciples. Thomas wasn’t there but when the disciples told him that they had seen the risen Lord he was deeply sceptical and told them, “Unless I see . . . I will not believe” (verse 25). Thomas had plenty of other evidence that the disciples spoke the truth but, despite this, he became entrenched in his unwillingness to believe.
- He had the words of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thomas had heard the Lord promise the disciples that “the Son of Man must suffer many things . . . and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31). Over and over He had spoken similar words (e.g., Mark 9:31 and Mark 10:34), clearly laying out to them that He would be mocked, scourged, spat on and finally killed, but that He would rise again. Thomas had seen all the other things happen so why doubt the resurrection?
- He had seen the power of the Lord Jesus over death. In the Gospel of Luke chapter 7 we read of the Lord Jesus raising back to life a young man who was en route to the cemetery to be buried, while chapter 8 of the same Gospel tells us that the Lord Jesus raised a 12-year-old girl from the dead. The Gospel of John chapter 11 gives the record of the Lord Jesus calling Lazarus back to life; he had been dead for four days and came out of his tomb. Thomas saw this and heard the Lord declare, “I AM the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).
- He ignored material evidence provided by the witness of the empty tomb. Early that Easter Sunday the Lord Jesus had risen from the dead and left His grave clothes behind in the tomb still wound in their original convolutions. If His body had been stolen away by the disciples, as was rumoured, surely they would not have taken the time to unwind and rewind these linen cloths. In truth, the disciples were alerted to the fact that the tomb was empty by Mary Magdalene who visited it earlier in the day and heard the angel say, “He is not here, but is risen!” (Luke 24:6).
- He had the eye witness account of his friends. Later the same day, the Lord Jesus had come to where His disciples were and spent time with them, showing them He was truly and fully alive. They recounted the experience to Thomas but he refused to believe them even though he knew what calibre of men they were. In fact, his decision not to believe was so intense that the force of what he said can be translated, “Unless I see . . . I will never believe” (John 20:25 ESV).
Thomas showed a tragic unwillingness to believe despite compelling evidence. His heart and mind were closed to the truth and his will was trapped by doubt. What power could release Thomas from his faithlessness? It took the appearing of the Lord Jesus eight days later. He graciously came again for the benefit of Thomas, despite his unbelief. As Thomas looked at the wounds of the risen Lord Jesus Christ, his heart was melted and his iron will of unbelief was broken. He could do nothing else but bow before Him and confess, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). He uttered the words that give us the first post-resurrection declaration of the deity of the Lord Jesus:
- “My Lord” – Thomas put Him on the throne of his heart;
- “My God” – Thomas put Him on the throne of the universe.
While Thomas was undoubtedly blessed by his new-found belief in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, the Lord Jesus told him of a greater blessing that is available to us. He said, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). We have all the same evidence Thomas had, written down for us in the New Testament: the sinless life of the Lord Jesus Christ, His death and His resurrection. We cannot see Him with our physical eyes but physical seeing is not always necessary for believing. If we have the “eyes of faith” and the willingness to break free from unbelief, and trust the Lord Jesus who died and rose again for us, we will know the great blessing of Romans 10:9-10, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation”.
The testimony of those who are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ is this: “whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith – the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9).