Remarks by Marie Wise
Based on John 20:19-31
Last week we celebrated Easter or the resurrec<on of Christ. We heard that Mary Magdalene was the first witness of our risen savior. She was not looking for that though. She had gone to the tomb to tend to Jesus’ dead body. Mary was alarmed when she found the door open, and his body gone. She ran back to tell the disciples and they all came running. They too saw the empty tomb and the burial shroud folded neatly on the ledge. John tells us that they did not stay long and returned to their homes. Mary, on the other hand, stayed. She took another look inside. She saw angels. She cried to them, asking where they had taken Jesus’ body so she could get it.
Then she heard a voice behind her. Perhaps she was looking out from the tomb into the bright light of day and could see only the silhoueNe of the man she thought was the gardener. But, when the man spoke, calling her by name, the way he had a thousand <mes before, she knew immediately that it was Jesus. Then she went straight back to tell the disciples she had seen him.
I cannot imagine what the disciples’ first reac<on was to Mary’s news but they did not have to wait long for proof of her words. That very evening as all but one gathered together, Jesus paid them a visit. He showed them his hands and his side and they were overjoyed to see him. He then forgave them and bestowed them with the Holy Spirit.
The one disciple that was not in aNendance was Didymus, also known as Thomas. There is no explana<on for why he was not there. Perhaps he was off grieving in his own way. Can you imagine the exci<ng conversa<on they had when the other disciples finally caught up with him and told him they saw Jesus?
“Didymus, where were you? Oh my God, you missed him! He was here!” “Missed who?
“Jesus! He was here!”
“Aw, cut it out, guys. That’s not funny.”
“No, it’s true! He showed us his wounds. Nail holes and all!”
“Yeah, right. I’ll believe when I see it. I’ll believe it when I can put my finger
in the nail holes.”
Ten men witnessed Jesus’ resurrected self but Thomas did not believe them. He wanted proof! 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 it.” (Jn 21:25)
I had to stop right there because I was star<ng to have ques<ons. How long had Thomas been with Jesus that he couldn’t believe? What did he see in that length of <me? Was he really the only doubter?
First of all, when Jesus returned from the wilderness ader his forty days of tempta<on, he began to assemble the disciples. Thomas was one of the first chosen, this means that Thomas was with Jesus for at least two years.
In the first year, when he was popular, Thomas would have witnessed Jesus performing all sorts of miracles; calming the sea, cas<ng out demons, healing the sick and infirmed, and even raising the dead.
In the second year, Jesus’ popularity began to wane. Thomas con<nued to witness the power of Christ as he con<nued to heal people, walk on water, and feed the mul<tudes.
Besides all of that, Jesus has warned the disciple on at least three occasions that “the Son of Man was going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They would kill him, and on the third day he would be raised to life.” (Mt 17:22-23)
So, Thomas saw all this and heard all this but s<ll had trouble with the validity of the resurrec<on. He wanted prof. He had to see for himself and touch the wounds to really believe that Jesus Christ did what he said he would do. It wasn’t enough for ten other people to tell him what they saw.
Now, Thoms’ faith has been called into ques<on. He’s acquired the nickname, Doub<ng Thomas. But did he deserve it? Was he the only one to doubt Christ?
Do you remember Peter? He also demanded proof when Jesus came walking on water. He called to Jesus, “If it is you, tell me to come to you.” Jesus called him and Peter began to walk on water. Then he began to sink when he turned his aNen<on to the wind and waves around him. Again, he called to Jesus to save him, and he did. But Jesus rebuked him saying, “You of liNle faith, why did you doubt?” (Mt 14:22-23)
Then there was Philip. When Jesus was telling the disciples how to get to the Father, it was Philip who said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus rebuked Philip also saying, “Don’t you know me ader all this <me?” (Jn 14:8-9)
These are but two examples of others doubt so, you can see Thomas was not the only one. He just became the one we remember most. Fortunately, his doubt did not last long because a week ader the other disciples saw Jesus, Thomas too was a witness to the resurrected Christ. Jesus showed him the wounds and told him to touch them. Jesus knew what Thomas needed.
So, who is Thomas. What made him so special? He is flee<ngly men<oned in the books of MaNhew, Mark, and Luke. It is not un<l we get to the gospel of John, where he is men<oned twice, that he becomes a more important figure.
Like several of the first chosen disciples, he was most likely an ordinary fisherman; just and everyday kind of guy.
He had immense loyalty to Jesus. When Jesus wanted to go to Jerusalem to raise Lazarus from the dead, it was Thomas who reminded him that the Jews wanted to stone him. Jesus s<ll wanted to go, and Thomas said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us all go and die with him.” (Jn 11:16)
And just maybe, Thomas wasn’t doub<ng the Lord when he said he’d need to touch the nail holes. Maybe he was doub<ng the words of the disciples.
One author I came across claims that Thomas was speaking honestly when he requested proof that Jesus had risen. He states that “sincere faith does not prohibit sincere inves<ga<on.” I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” It is at these <mes we must ask ques<ons and get to the truth of the maNer.
Jesus, on the other hand, already knew what Thomas needed before he even arrived. He offered the proof, telling Thomas to put his finger in the wounds. He knew what Thomas needed to believe and he provided the evidence. “Jesus loving
met Thomas at the exact point of his need and guided him back to faith.” (GotQues<ons.org)
We cannot see Jesus as Thomas did but that does not maNer. Jesu said, “Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (Jn 20:29) This message applies to all of us.
Friends, have you ever been doubmul? Have you ever ques<oned the reality of it all? Ques<oned Jesus or God himself or what he can do for you? It is alright. I certainly have had my doubts at <mes. Some<mes I’ve started my prayers with, “Lord if you can….” (You can fill in the blank here.) There should be no “Ifs” in my prayers because the Lord can!
Can we rid ourselves of doubt? Of course, we can through prayer, Bible study and faith. Will doubt return? Yes, it probably will but we can beat it with Jesus’ help because he knows what we need.
In the end, Thomas was loyal and faithful to Jesus. There are no more men<ons of him doub<ng. He took the word of God to Parthia which we call India where he was eventually martyred for his faith.
Let us pray.
You have set before us the example of Thomas. You have shown us that though we some<mes have doubt, you s<ll love us and will guide us back to faith. You have told us that though we have not seen you and s<ll believe in you that we are blessed. We are blessed because believing without seeing is the very defini<on of faith. Lord, we thank you for your love and the guidance you have provided
through your word. We pray to be ever faithful in our belief, our words, and our ac<ons un<l wee meet you face to face.
In your name, Jesus, we pray. Amen
L. Marie Wise
Chilmark Community Church 4/16/2023