The Followers of Jesus – Thomas the Twin

Posted: 14 November, 2010 in Messages given in church
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Like most of the Apostles, we know very little about Thomas.  What we do know about him is pretty much all fort the wrong reasons.  If we know him as Thomas we probably know him better as Doubting Thomas.

The question is, was his doubt from disbelief or from a sort of healthy scepticism?

In John’s gospel, chapter 11, Jesus is told of his friend Lazarus’ illness.  Jesus does not just drop everything and go buy delays for a couple of days.  It must be remembered that Lazarus lived at Bethany, only a   short distance from Jerusalem and on Jesus previous visit to Jerusalem he had come close to being stoned by the religious leaders for what they thought to be blasphemy or even demon possession .   Whit this in mind we make some sense of the passage that says, “Thomas, whose nickname was “Twin,” said to the other disciples, “Come on. Let’s go, so we can die with him.”

This to me points not to disbelief, for who would risk harm for something they did not believe in.  It is more a comment of someone who is earthed in reality but determined enough to have the courage of his convictions.  Thomas is loyal to his teacher and prepared to follow him even into danger.

In another conversation with Jesus, Jesus is being a  bit obscure about where his is going that the disciples cannot follow.  Thomas says, “Lord, we don’t even know where you are going! How can we know the way?”  Jesus’ answer is the he is the ‘way’.

It would appear that Thomas is a very practical, down to earth, ‘when I see it I’ll believe it’ sort of bloke.  It is not so much that he is a doubter for the sake of doubting but someone who needs some good evidence before he commits to something.  He is possible a bit like Eeyor out of Winnie-the-Pooh; a firm and loyal friend but a perhaps a bit fatalistic and depressive.

So it is that we come to the passage that tells us more about Thomas than any other.  It comes from the 20th chapter of john’s Gospel, after the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Jesus had come to his disciples in the private and locked upper room only Thomas wasn’t there at the time.

John tells it like this:

John 20:24-29   … Thomas the Twin was one of the twelve disciples; he wasn’t with the others when Jesus appeared to them.  (25) So they told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But Thomas said, “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!”  (26) 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 (27) and said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and look at my hands!  Put your hand into my side. Stop doubting and have faith!”  (28) Thomas replied, “You are my Lord and my God!”  (29) 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!”

This is not mere doubt.  This is unbelief.  The only thing going for it is that it is honest and passionate.  It is not the sort of unbelief that says, “So what, I really don’t care all the much.”  It is the voice of one whom, when told something as incredulous as ‘Jesus has risen from the dead and was here among us; the real live Jesus!’ says with absolute honesty, “unless I put my fingers in the nail holes; unless I put my hand where the spear went I cannot believe.”  And it is said with the passion of one who wants to believe.

In our passage it is to this passion and honesty that Jesus speaks.  He appears among them and greets them and then turns and addresses Thomas.  “Put your finger here and know my hands.  Plunge your hand into my side and know my wounds.  Stop unbelieving and believe!”

“You are my Lord and my God!” Thomas the honest and passionate doubter, Thomas the unbeliever, now makes the most passionate and most definitive statement about who Jesus is.  You are my Lord:  I bow before you as the one who I must obey.  You are my God: I kneel before you as the one who I must worship.

There is nothing wrong with doubt, so long as it is honest, so long as it is not an excuse, so long as doubt needs to be solved.  You must not become comfortable and complacent in doubt; resolve it.

There is nothing wrong with unbelief.  There is something wrong with persistently continuing on in unbelief.    Resolve it.

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