John 20: 24 -31.
How could Someone who claimed to be the Son of God be grossly humiliated and tortured, and finally put to death as a common criminal? Jesus’ disciples and followers were undeniably traumatised at His gruesome crucifixion. It was a profound disappointment that went to the heart of challenging His message that they had heard for the past three years or so. In fact, nobody was expecting His resurrection. The disciples were so fearful of a Jewish persecutory backlash that they got together and locked themselves in a safe house following His death. On the evening of the third day after the Passover (the Jewish day started at sunset), Jesus walked through the door of the house, shocking everyone inside, and spoke with His disciples, but Thomas was not among them.
Doubting Thomas! Could anyone blame Thomas for questioning, given the circumstances of their Saviour’s demise? As a good Jew, he had wholeheartedly chosen to embrace the Gospel message of Jesus, leaving Judaism behind, but like all of His followers, their worldview did not encompass a crucified Messiah. For a whole week after Christ’s first appearance, the disciples attempted to convince Thomas of their Saviour’s reappearance. They turned over repeatedly all the inscrutable sayings of Jesus that they had heard but never really understood. Peter and John, and the women’s testimonies of an empty tomb, with angelic beings, and Mary Magdalene’s meeting with the Lord were recounted ad nauseam for Thomas’ sake. Evidence from the two on their way to Emmaus further verified it. He was not a gullible person nor one with little faith (c.f., John 11:12-16), as he sought for concrete evidence that the Lord whom his fellow disciples said was alive, is the same Person who was crucified and died. No amount of persuasion would convince him! Invariably, for anyone else, doubts and excitement would intermingle with uncertainty and fears of unbelief, but did Thomas for a single moment struggle inwardly as a result of the overwhelming evidence proffered by his compatriots and fellow-disciples?
On the eighth day, perhaps in the same house with its doors shut, Jesus again reappeared before His disciples, and on this occasion, Thomas was present. After greeting them, as if the Lord was cognizant of what transpired after His last visit, He turned immediately to Thomas and said, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side…” It was exactly what Thomas had categorically stipulated earlier when he challenged the disciples’ claims of the Lord’s return: “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” Thomas reached out to corroborate the evidence personally. A palpable sense of regret overwhelmed him as his confidence in himself collapsed. He fell to his knees and confessed, “My Lord and My God.” The sudden realisation of divinity standing right before him shook Thomas to his very core.
In the context of the resurrection, when Jesus said to Thomas,”… do not be unbelieving, but believing,” did He mean the basis for his faith was to believe despite incredulous testimony or an absence of evidence? Faith is certainly not established on the origin of one’s subjective personal choice (c.f., 1 Cor 15:1-19) nor expressed in a vacuum. In Scripture, faith is predicated on the authenticity and trustworthiness of the object of one’s faith, as having confidence in the truth or trusting in a person. It is a learning process, challenging our sin and rebellion, our moral blindness and self-centeredness, to abandon ourselves to trust God in whatever He had said or prescribed in His Word (c.f., Rom 10:17). Scripture, the ‘living word’ (Heb 4:12), encapsulates the witness of historical Biblical events through which God had chosen to disclose Himself, including the monumental redemptive incidents of the crucifixion, the resurrection and the ascension of Christ. Hence, the intent of these space-time testimonial records is so that “you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have faith in His name” (John 20:30-31). Consequently, the Apostle Luke can conclude that there is no longer any excuse when God declared to all men that all people everywhere should repent (Acts 17:30).