Have you ever had a moment in your life that gave you a reputation that you can't shake? A moment that everyone associates with your name? It might have been something from your childhood that you pass off as a joke now. Maybe it was something from High School, College or your first year of marriage. Sad to say but I have had several moments like that. Praise God that he does not remember the sins of our past like people do. Thankfully he is one who forgives and forgets.
Every Easter there is one person I feel bad for because of this reason of reputation. When you hear the name Thomas what pops into your head? No, not Thomas the Tank Engine but Thomas the disciple of Jesus. We refer to the poor guy as Thomas the Doubter. You think it's bad that you haven't shaken your reputation in 20 or 30 years? How about 2000 years?
Thomas wasn't present when Jesus first appeared to the disciples after the resurrection. He wasn't there to see with his own eyes what they were telling him and because of it he uttered these words that are forever stamped upon his name:
“First, I must see the nail scars in his hands and touch them with my finger. I must put my hand where the spear went into his side. I won’t believe unless I do this!” (John 20:25)
Thomas didn't believe his friends. Would you? Jesus was tortured, nailed to a cross, died and then buried. Would you believe your friends a few days later when they told you "We have seen Jesus"?
Now before we come down too hard on Thomas let's remember that the only reason the other disciples believed is because they had seen Jesus. When the women came back from the tomb and told them that they had seen Jesus alive, Peter and John had to run to see for themselves. Even though they had been told, when Jesus did appear they were shocked and afraid. And who could blame them. They were still without the Spirit and had no spiritual discernment.
If it had been Peter in Thomas' sandals I am certain he would have had a similar response. It is only that Thomas was articulate in expressing his doubt. He declared that it was not until he could actually see and touch the wounds. Why the wounds? Because an impostor would not have any wounds. Now consider how God accommodates our doubt.
A week later the disciples were together again. This time, Thomas was with them. Jesus came in while the doors were still locked and stood in the middle of the group. He greeted his disciples and said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and look at my hands! Put your hand into my side. Stop doubting and have faith!” (vv.26-27)
There is nothing indicating that Thomas actually touched the wounds. The only reaction that we see from Thomas is the same one we would have had:
Thomas replied, “You are my Lord and my God!” (v. 28)
Jesus did bring correction to Thomas but I am sure that each disciple took that correction to heart for themselves. The correction also made mention of us:
Jesus said, “Thomas, do you have faith because you have seen me? The people who have faith in me without seeing me are the ones who are really blessed!” (v. 29)
Sounds great, right? We are blessed because we have faith without seeing. But look at those words again. It is not just that we have faith that Jesus is real, alive and our King. "The people who have faith in me", is saying that we trust what Jesus has said is true. Jesus is saying those who take him at face value, who act on what Jesus taught, who live the promises that Jesus gave, are blessed.
Now I want you to think about that for a moment because we live in an age where we gloss over or excuse away much of what Jesus taught. We accept the moral values, the "does and don'ts", the right and wrongs but we set aside much of the spiritual walk that we are suppose to be on. We have been told to live by the Spirit but most of us don't even know what that means. When we say that we "have faith" what we are really saying is that we believe Jesus is real. We are not saying that we trust Jesus enough to do the impossible things he has commanded us to do.
We say that we "live by faith and not by sight" but we are lying to ourselves. We are worse than Thomas. At least Thomas was brave enough to articulate his doubts. We gloss over our doubts with a fake perception of faith and live our life according to our own personal beliefs. We pray over the sick and nothing happens. We speak to mountains and they do not move. Because we don't really believe. We don't really understand faith. We think that morality is all there is to God and that the impossible of which Jesus speaks was a period of time, even though the Word puts no time restrictions on what Jesus declared. Funny the excuses we come up with to hide our lack of faith.
Love, trust and obedience should be the guiding code of our lives. If Jesus said it, we should believe it and allow it to shape our thoughts and actions. We should be living according to every single word of Jesus, never doubting, always trusting, empowered by the Spirit to do God's will, just like Jesus was. Let's not judge Thomas because he had the guts to speak what we can't even bring ourselves to admit. Instead, let's examine our own hearts and ask the Spirit to show us what Jesus meant by "faith in him".