First, a confession. This little devotional is basically ripped-off from part of a sermon I heard this morning. I found it so helpful, though, I had to steal it. I think the pastor who preached it would be OK with that, though. Also, being that tomorrow is the eighth day after Easter, I find it to be timely.
Of all the disciples, I think Thomas (alias, Didymus, or “the Twin”) gets a bad rap. Of course, we all know him as “Doubting Thomas”, and that term is still used in the vernacular to describe any skeptical person. But if we take a close look at the text surrounding the events where he is having trouble believing, I think it becomes clear that he wasn’t a guy who was known for waffling.
First a little back-story. Thomas is mentioned four times in the Gospel of John. The first is in John 11 when Mary and Martha send word to Jesus that their brother Lazarus is very sick. Jesus actually knows that at the time He gets this message Lazarus is actually dead. He loved Lazarus greatly, though, and because of this, He plans to go back to Judea so He can raise Him. Going back to Judea, though, means He would be going back to the place where the people recently tried to stone him. The other disciples, realizing this fact, basically tell Jesus, “are you serious?!” This is where Thomas speaks up. Thomas says, “Let’s go, too—and die with Jesus.” This does not sound like a doubt-filled man. He was willing to lay his life on the line for Jesus when others were second-guessing Him.
So fast-forward to John 20:24-29. We read about this interchange between Jesus and Thomas:
One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin),was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”
Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.
Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”
So, let’s not forget, Thomas was not there when Jesus appeared to the disciples the first time. We aren’t told where he was. Perhaps he was simply too devastated to join up with his companions. Perhaps he was just at the end of his rope. Wherever he was, though, he needed to see Christ for Himself to be brought back to a place of belief. And the thing is, Jesus understood this. Jesus didn’t condemn Thomas for doubting. I believe there was a smile, not a scowl, on Jesus’ face as he welcomed Thomas. His beloved disciple has seen Him, and that has restored His faith. Jesus says to Thomas, “Peace be with you.” In other words – “Thomas, come back into the Shalom of my presence”.
So perhaps we too find ourselves in a dark place. We find ourselves in a post-Easter world, but we simply can’t see Jesus. Perhaps our faith is beaten down and we are to the point of despair. We are far from Shalom. I believe that in these circumstances, hopeless as they seem, Jesus will still speak Shalom into them if we let Him. Letting Him means facing our doubts head-on. It means being honest with Him. And it means being honest with ourselves. I believe we’ll find that when we do things Christ will turn and breathe on us.
Peace by with you.