“One of the disciples, Thomas, 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.” John 20:24-25
Doubting Thomas. That is what the church calls him today and, as far back as I could find, it has been so.
Perhaps Adam Clarke, one of the commentators I most respect and often refer to, explains best why Thomas might have responded in this manner and so I share what he said.
He writes, “by absenting himself from the company of the disciples, he lost this precious opportunity of seeing and hearing Christ; and of receiving (at this time) the inestimable blessing of the Holy Ghost.
Where two or three are assembled in the name of Christ, he is in the midst of them. Christ had said this before: Thomas should have remembered it, and not have forsaken the company of the disciples. (or if he had not forsaken but was absent of necessity, he should have remembered what Jesus said… my words).
What is the consequence? – His unbelief becomes first of all, utterly unreasonable. Ten of his brethren witnessed that they had seen Christ, but he rejected their testimony. Secondly, his unbelief became obstinate: he was determined not to believe on any evidence that it might please God to give him: he would believe according to his own prejudices, (or sight) or not at all.
Third. His unbelief became presumptuous and insolent: a view of the person of Christ will not suffice: he will not believe that it is he, unless he can put his finger into the holes made by the nails in his Lord‘s hand, and thrust his hand into the wound made by the spear in his side.
Thomas had lost much good, and gained much evil, and yet was insensible of his state. Behold the consequences of forsaking the assemblies of God‘s people! Jesus comes to the meeting – a disciple is found out of his place, who might have been there; and he is not only not blessed, but his heart becomes hardened and darkened through the deceitfulness of sin. It was through God‘s mere mercy that ever Thomas had another opportunity of being convinced of his error.”
Sound a little harsh? Maybe, but Mr. Clarke makes a serious point.
Thomas did, for some reason, after all, reject the testimony of 10 trusted co-workers in favor of his own uninformed opinion. He did for some reason insist that nothing could make him believe except the criteria he himself established.
I believe this is the lesson we are to gain from this account in the gospel. At the same time, I wonder how many of us would want to be remembered for all time only for a moment of failure?
We should also remember that Thomas was one of the 12 chosen Apostles. History tells us that he was a fearless evangelist, carrying the gospel both to India and China faithfully until his death, which historians also tell us was in India, where he was put to death for preaching the gospel by four soldiers armed with spears
Pastor David M. Grey
Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church