Thomas has the ignoble reputation of being “Doubting Thomas.” I wonder who first gave him that epithet. Certainly, it’s not in scripture, and yet it may not be without merit. It’s obvious that the Lord rebuke, however gently, Thomas to failing to believe even though he didn’t see. For doubting.
John 20:24-29 NKJV
Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
What’s interesting is that Thomas hadn’t dropped to a level of faith any lower than any of the other disciples. In fact, all he lacked was their same experience. The Lord had already appeared to them! So, the expectation wasn’t that all of the disciples were required to believe without seeing. There must be something else, then, in this account. Perhaps Jesus’ seeming admonition wasn’t an admonition at all, but rather a teaching lesson, one aimed more at those of us who would follow.
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
The word “blessed” means happy or fortunate. To me, that doesn’t make sense? How can not seeing Jesus make someone happy or fortunate? How is it fortunate not to actually see Him, to actually touch Him?
What does it mean to not see and yet believe? Hebrews 11:1 may give us the answer and the Living version, while still a paraphrase, says it very plainly:
“What is faith? It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead.”
Also 2 Corinthians 5:7 (NKJ): 2 Cor. 5:7: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”
Even though we cannot see it, it is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. We walk by faith, not by sight.
To not see and yet believe is to have faith, to trust. And there is so much in the Bible on faith! It must be very important to God.
- The just live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17)
- Our sins will be forgiven because of our faith (Matthew 9:2; Luke 5:20)
- We will be healed because of our faith (Matthew 9:22, 29, 15:28; Mark 2:5, 5:34, 10:52; Luke 7:50, 8:48, 17:19, 18:42; Acts 14:9)
- We can move mountains with faith (Matthew 17:20, 21:21)
- What matters to God is faith (Matthew 23:23)
- Fear will be gone; faith is the opposite of fear (Mark 4:40)
- God will take care of our needs because of our faith (Luke 12:28)
- We can move trees with faith (Luke 17:5)
- We can pray for others and they will be healed because of our faith (Acts 3:16)
- We can do wonders and signs because of our faith (Acts 6:8)
- Salvation comes only through faith (Romans 1:5, 3:22, 25; Eph. 2:8)
- We are justified by faith (Romans 3:28, 30; 5:1; Galatians 2:6, 3:11)
- Our faith is accounted for righteousness (it takes place of having to be fully righteous within ourselves) (Romans 4:5, 9)
- Salvation was offered to us, as the Gentiles, because of faith (Romans 4:16)
- We are strengthened because of faith (Romans 4:20)
- We have peace with God because of faith (Romans 5:1)
- We have access to God because of faith (Romans 5:2; Eph. 3:12)
- We can use our gifts (of the Spirit) because of faith (Romans 12:6)
- We stand (persevere) because of our faith (2 Cor. 1:24)
- We are supplied the Spirit by faith (Galatians 3:5, 14)
- We are blessed because of faith (Galatians 3:9)
- We are sons of God through faith (Galatians 3:26)
- Christ dwells in our hearts through faith (Eph. 3:17)
- We are unified, brought together, through faith (Eph. 4:13)
- We can quench Satan’s darts with faith (Eph. 6:16)
- We are righteous through faith (Phil. 3:9)
- We are raised with Christ through faith (Col. 2:12)
This is an amazing list! And it’s certainly not meant to be complete, but it does illustrate the importance of faith. It also shows us why we are blessed when we have faith, for without faith, we would have none of this. This all comes when we are willing to trust God without seeing! Unfortunately, we are people who like to see, who like to have things proven to us and even then we sometimes don’t believe. And when we demand that God prove Himself or His love to us, I think we place ourselves in the position of losing out on these many, many blessings.
When we are content to trust and not to demand evidence, when we are content to believe and not to doubt, we have access to all of this. And faith, like love, isn’t a feeling, but a choice. We choose to trust; we choose to believe. Or we choose to doubt.
We always believe something. When we doubt the Lord, it is because we are believing something else, usually either our own emotions or thoughts, or the circumstances around us. And yet we know that our senses can lie to us. They aren’t trustworthy.
Have you ever just eaten and you know you’re full? But then you go buy a hamburger joint and things smell so good and you have this craving?? Your sense of smell is lying to you. You aren’t hungry, but your sense of smell is so strong that it makes your brain say: Eat! Eat! Eat!
Or have you ever looked at an optical illusion? You just know that the picture is one thing, only to discover that your eyes lied to you and the picture is actually something else.
Our senses–and our brain interpreting those impulses–can lie to us. We can think that something is one way only to discover that the truth is quite different. So when we trust, believe, have faith in our circumstances as being the truth of God, we can actually be believing a lie. God calls us to trust Him because He’s trustworthy. He calls us to have faith because it is through faith that the conduit to believing Him and allowing Him is opened. The Spirit is freed to work in our lives when we have faith.
Now does that mean that He will necessarily change our circumstances? No. Hebrews 11:39 tells us that even those great ones in the Old Testament who had faith didn’t receive the promise. Why? Because God had something even better planned! When He leaves our circumstances alone, it is because He is doing even a greater thing. We need to trust that His plan is far better than anything we can imagine.
I think that Jesus admonished Thomas, not to rebuke him, but rather to teach us about faith, to give us that promise! Rather than being Doubting Thomas, perhaps he is rather Thomas the Example. Thomas is like us, wanting to see, rather than to believe, because seeing is easier. But Jesus calls on us to believe because having faith is far better than seeing . . . at least in this life.