What Jesus Says to Every Doubter
More than any other Bible figure, many of us are like doubting Thomas. We don’t typically associate ourselves with the skeptical disciple, since Thomas gets such a bad rap. (After all, what other Bible figure was nicknamed for their worst fault? We don’t commemorate “Mumbling Moses” and “Petrified Peter.”) But Thomas is much more like us than we’d care to admit.
Have you ever felt let down by God, confused and frustrated by the way he chooses to work? Thomas was expecting Jesus, the long awaited Messiah, to conquer the Jews’ oppressors and bring victory to the nation. Instead, Jesus was killed in the most painful, humiliating way. If God really was at work in Jesus, surely it wouldn’t have ended like this.
Has your heart ever been broken, causing you to question God’s goodness? Thomas was hoping that Jesus would end the Jews’ suffering. Isn’t that what a fair and compassionate God would do? Instead, Jesus took on the worst kind of suffering, dying in weakness and shame. If God really cared, surely he wouldn’t have left us.
Thomas wanted to believe, but his hope was shattered, and his heart was broken. So he did what many of us would have done: he doubted. Even when ten of his friends run up to him, thrilled about what they had just witnessed—“We have seen the Lord”—Thomas’ response reveals his broken heart: “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe” (John 20:25 ESV).
What Jesus says to Thomas is what Jesus says to every doubter. It’s what he says to us when we are confused and frustrated by the way he chooses to work. It’s what he says to us when our hearts are broken, and we question his goodness.
Jesus’ answer to our doubts, however, is not what we think. It’s not explanation; it’s revelation. Jesus doesn’t first respond with an answer to our questions but with a sure glimpse of who he is.
Our faith is anchored in an event, not an explanation
Eight days after Thomas expressed his doubts, Jesus appears in the room full of disciples and looks straight at the skeptic: “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe” (John 20:27). Sensing Jesus’ deity, Thomas falls prostrate before him and says, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus doesn’t really address the substance of Thomas’ doubts. Instead, he confronts Thomas with the fact of his resurrection. He invites Thomas to touch the scars in his hands. And this was more than enough to take Thomas from wandering doubt to unwavering faith.
The Christian movement was started not by the irrefutable arguments of the apostles but by the undeniable resurrection of Jesus Christ. As one pastor says, “Christianity didn’t begin with people who believed something, but with people who saw something.”
Ask yourself this question: What would happen to your doubts if you encountered the resurrected Jesus? Would you be willing to suspend your need for answers to all of your questions if you were convinced that Jesus really was the Son of God?
We can know that Jesus raised from the dead
You may be saying, “Well, if I were Thomas and got to see what he saw, I’d believe, too.” It’s true that Thomas got a privileged view of the resurrection. But it’s equally true that we have more than enough evidence to also know that Jesus raised from the dead.
What else but Jesus’ actual resurrection could explain the behavior of the disciples and the events of the first century?
Just consider a few popular alternate theories:
Maybe they didn’t really see Jesus, but they had hallucinations caused by grief.
This could be a reasonable explanation if we were talking about one person. But how do 500 people hallucinate the exact same thing at the exact same time, claiming to see the risen Jesus, eat with him, talk to him, and hear from him (1 Corinthians 15:6)?
Maybe the apostles lied.
Sure, people lie all the time. But they do it to avoid pain and gain approval. What would the apostles gain from making this lie up? Year after year, they embraced a life of suffering to spread the gospel. In the end, all but one of them was killed for their testimony. Do we really think the apostles, who ran scared when Jesus was arrested, would suddenly become beacons of warped courage afterwards in the service of a known lie?
Maybe the apostles’ claims about Jesus got exaggerated.
Some suggest that over time, the apostles’ stories about Jesus as a great teacher were exaggerated so that he was eventually considered divine. This often happens, after all, with great religious teachers. Here’s the problem with this theory: The books of the New Testament were written entirely too close to the events for legends like that to have sprung up. Legends take centuries; the New Testament was written within a couple decades, while the apostles were still alive. Any false legend about Jesus would have simply been rejected by those who were there.
It’s not compelling to say the apostles were lying. And it’s unconvincing to say that the resurrection was a legend added later. The only alternative, the only explanation for the early Christian movement, is that Jesus really did raise from the dead.
If you are a doubter, Jesus says to you what he said to Thomas: “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Take a serious look at the resurrection, and like Thomas, you can know that Jesus raised from the dead. Like Thomas, you can encounter the risen Christ. And like Thomas, at the sight of Jesus, your doubts can turn to worship.