UNLESS I SEE…
So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘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.’ (John 20:25 NIV)
The resurrected Jesus appears to his disciples. He says, “Peace be with you”. He shows them his wounded hands and side. He is the Jesus who went to the cross! The disciples declared that they have seen the Lord!. He is risen. He is risen indeed!
However, Thomas is not in the room when Jesus appears to his disciples. He cannot bring himself to believe that Jesus is risen from the dead. ‘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.’ (John 20:25 NIV)
Thomas has historically had bad press because of his refusal to believe in the eyewitness accounts of the other disciples. He is traditionally known as “Doubting Thomas”. How can I believe my friends? This is humanly impossible. Can a human being become alive again especially when he has been dead for 3 days? I wonder, how do Thomas’ friends, the other disciples of Jesus respond to Thomas’ doubts? Even more so, how does Jesus respond to Thomas’ doubts?
The friends of Thomas, the disciples of Jesus Christ, do not expel Thomas from the group after he says that he cannot believe that Jesus appeared to them. The Gospel of John is silent about how the other friends of Thomas respond to him. I like to think that they are still trying to figure out if all this is true. This says something about how we as a church community treat those who express doubts in our midst. We embrace them just as Thomas’ friends embraced him. We all have doubts in our lives. The community of Jesus is a community who helps one another seek God in our lives.
In our Summer Sermons, we read through the Psalms. The Psalms are actually Israel’s hymnbook. As Israel met in worship, they would sing the Psalms. These are the words that start Psalm 22: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? (Psalm 22:1 NIV)
My God, why have you forsaken me? Most Bible scholars tell us that Jesus quoted this verse on the cross. If we take the premise that the book of Psalms is Israel’s hymnbook, then I find it amazing that as Israel worships their God, they bring their doubts into that worship experience. Psalm 22:1 is not the only doubt expressed in the Psalms. There are many others. I wonder if that is what God wants us to do. As we worship God (i.e. bow down to God), God wants us to bring our doubts to him.
Jesus appears to his disciples a week later. This time Thomas is there. Jesus specifically shows his wounded hands and side to Thomas. Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ (John 20:27 NIV) Thomas was not ostracised by his friends after he says that unless he sees the nail marks in Jesus’ hands and put his hand on Jesus’ side, he will not believe. He is there with them when Jesus appears to his disciples a second time. Because he is there, Jesus is able to show him his hands and side. Thomas’ final response to this Jesus is, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28 NIV)