Doubting Thomas?

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How annoying is it when people around you are excitedly recounting something they have experienced which you have missed?

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Bible passage John 20:24-31

Jesus Appears to Thomas
 24Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!"
      But 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."

 26A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 27Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."

 28Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"

 29Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

 30Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

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The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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Assessing Thomas
Today it’s the turn of Thomas to take centre stage. ‘Doubting Thomas’ we say, but I wonder if that is fair? Put yourself in his shoes as the disciples gather together and tell him: ‘We have seen the Lord!’ Thomas simply wanted to see for himself, which seems fair enough. He is no different from the rest of them who only believed once they had seen.

Maybe he was a bit of a pessimist (John 11:16), but he was brave and true and faithful and when, a week later, Jesus did grant his wish, he uttered the most direct human affirmation in the whole of the New Testament of who Jesus is: ‘My Lord and my God.’ Not much doubt there.

Faith struggles
You and I are amongst those who Jesus called ‘blessed’ because we have believed without seeing. But sometimes it feels a bit of a struggle, and we long for a sign, some certainty. If that is how you are feeling now, bring your doubts into the open without shame or excuse.

You may long for certainty but ‘dead certainty’ brings brittle belief that tends to crumble at the first serious challenge. By contrast, honest doubt explored with integrity will lead us into a deeper faith that will stand the test of time. Can you say: ‘My Lord and my God’? That is more than enough!


‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’ (Mark 9:24).

David Bracewell

Deeper Bible study

‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ (Mark 9:24)

I have a lot of time for Thomas and I think it’s unfair that so often he’s referred to as ‘Doubting Thomas’. The New Testament never calls him that. (By contrast, when Judas is mentioned, the tag ‘who betrayed him’ is nearly always added.) It’s interesting that John’s Gospel, the only one that tells us more about Thomas, was written to bring unbelievers to faith. Thomas shows himself to be somewhat pessimistic by nature. In John 11:16 he said to the other disciples ‘Let us also go [to Lazarus], that we may die with him’. In suggesting that they go to Judea, Thomas is showing ‘not doubt but raw devotion and courage’ (Mark 9:24, NRSV). His question to Jesus ‘How can we know the way?’ elicits from Jesus the glorious reply ‘I am the way and the truth and the life’ (John 14:5,6). We meet him later when he went fishing with Peter (John 21:2).

There is a world of difference between doubt and unbelief. Thomas doubted, but he just wanted to see for himself what the others claimed they had seen. Wouldn’t you, if you were in his shoes? Jesus responded to his need. (How did he know that Thomas had said that he needed evidence? Was he there, invisible, at the time?) Convinced by what he saw, Thomas was the first person ever to declare his personal allegiance to his Lord and his God. He ‘spoke better than he knew: his words have become a clarion call to would-be disciples, after the resurrection, to take up their cross daily and follow Jesus.’2 It is unbelief, such as that shown by the Jewish leaders in this story, not doubt, that is the opposite of faith.

Annabel Robinson


1 DA Carson, The Gospel according to John, Pillar Commentaries, IVP, 1991, p410
2 Carson, p410

Bible background: Thomas

● One of the twelve chosen by Jesus to be his closest associates (Matthew 10:2–4; Mark 3:16–19; Luke 6:14–16), he spent time with Jesus, learning from him.

● His name comes from the Aramaic word meaning twin; John uses the Greek translation Didymus in John 11:16; 20:24; 21:2.

● He showed considerable courage in going with Jesus to the tomb of Lazarus, encouraging the rest of the twelve to go despite the threat of death at the hands of the Jewish leaders (John 11:16).

● When Jesus spoke about leaving his disciples and preparing a place for them (John 14:1–4), Thomas responded, highlighting his inability to understand (John 14:5). Although John does not say so, it seems from the context that the others thought in the same way.

● He is best known for his questioning of the resurrection (John 20:24,25). This has given rise to the description ‘Doubting Thomas’, but this is unfortunate. His uncertainty is perfectly natural and Jesus doesn’t condemn him. It becomes part of a journey to a new and deeper faith which emerged when he later met the risen Lord (John 20:26–29). He recognised Jesus as divine in a way that is unique in the Gospels.

● He was with other disciples fishing in Galilee when Jesus appeared and Peter was restored (John 21:2).

● The last record we have of him is with the other disciples praying in Jerusalem (Acts 1:13).

● There is a tradition, but no firm evidence, that he travelled to India, spreading the good news. Some churches in India still trace their origins back to his ministry.

Bible in a year

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Judges 19,20

Psalm 44


Doubting Thomas is an inspiration to us all! He struggled to trust what he had not seen for himself, and yet his lack of faith in this one area did not exclude him from God’s plans. Jesus met with him personally and he wants to do the same with us… Reflect on this quotation.



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  • Russell Nimmo | Tuesday, 18 April 2017

    Somehow, I doubt that Thomas ever needed to place his fingers in the holes in Jesus' hands, or his hands in his side. I suspect that he was greatly humbled by Jesus'attention to his need, that this was sufficient for him to make this bold worshipful statement... "My Lord and my God' Jesus has a way of breaking through to the heart of the matter... He knew Thomas better than Thomas knew himself. I think it can be like that with us too. We might hope for a particular spiritual experience, but Jesus knows better, and reaches our real need. Thank God for that.

  • Rachael Hampton | Tuesday, 18 April 2017

    Thank you RUSSELL, and welcome. This was a momentous occasion; the risen Jesus with His extraordinary body meeting with His friends for the first time. It seems grossly unfair to come when Thomas was not there. Why did He do that? Was it for us, that we might hear those precious words from Jesus in v29 Blessed, and happy and to be envied are we who have never seen Him, yet believe in Him. There was no reprimand for Thomas. Rather, they all got a roasting for refusing to believe what others had testified about seeing Him. Mark 16:14. He reproved and reproached them for their unbelief (lack of faith) and their hardness of heart, because they refused to believe those who had seen Him. Lord, when doubts and lack of faith shake us, please help us to choose to believe what others say is true, even if it is not true for us - yet. Thank you that you may reprove us, but you never reject us. Amen.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Wednesday, 19 April 2017

    The type of faith that Thomas operated in was human, or natural, faith based on what he could see. Jesus said there was a greater blessing to be obtained. That greater blessing comes from using a supernatural, God-kind of faith based only on God’s Word. Human faith has to be based on physical evidence. It cannot believe what it cannot see. However, God’s kind of faith, which has been imparted to every believer (Rom 12:3), is evidence enough (Hebrews 11:1). Only twice in all of Scripture did Jesus marvel, once at the centurion’s faith and once at the Jews’ unbelief. The centurion believed that the spoken word of Jesus was sufficient to produce his miracle. He didn’t need Jesus to come to his house. He had faith in Jesus’ word. The person who simply believes the written Word of God is operating in a much higher form of faith than the person who requires additional proof. I like your prayer at the end of your comment RACHAEL.

  • Angela Munday | Wednesday, 19 April 2017

    Deeper: "His (Thomas's) words have become a clarion call to would-be disciples to take up their cross daily and follow Jesus." ......My Lord and my God I thank you for beautiful, helpful words that give us strength and for those that You supplied from Anne and Philippa yesterday; You saw my need and joyfully I received. Amen.

  • Adam Julians | Wednesday, 19 April 2017

    I like the way that WL has put this across today. "Doubting Thomas" is often used in a derogatory way ad Thomas can be viewed. But doubt isn't the opposite of faith, certainty is. For with certainty there is no need for faith. I'm always suspicious of someone in church who looks like they have life all figured out. What need for Christ do they have? And how much more pleasant is it to be around people who know they are not perfect?

  • Adam Julians | Wednesday, 19 April 2017

    Gilvin - isn't it interesting that among his own people, Jesus was amazed by their lack of faith but with a Gentile "dog" he was amazed by his faith? What implications do you think that has for the church? There's nothing new under the sun - right?

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Wednesday, 19 April 2017

    I don't know what the implications are ADAM. 'The Church' is made up of 'allsorts' . I wouldn't be suspicious of someone in church who looks like they have life all figured out. I'd want to chat to them. I expect it has a lot to do with attitude. Someone may look as if they have it altogether and have lots going on in their life that they wished they hadn't but have put their total trust in God?

  • Elizabeth Sadler | Wednesday, 19 April 2017

    #Doubt.At my last church,with the agreement of the bishop, we invited the "Mar Thoma " church to worship with us, and share our church facilities. These lovely people,mostly of Indian origin,traced their beliefs back to the apostle Thomas, and his ministry in India;they stood strong in the face of both Islam and Hinduism. Many now live overseas ,but maintain their own way of worship and church structure,including a bishopric.Shared meals with the Mar Thoma fellowship became a wonderful mix of curry and pizza!

  • Oakley Bookworm | Wednesday, 19 April 2017

    Just because others, in church, may not display their doubts, fears, family worries, physical and mental health for others to observe and comment on doesn't, necessarily, mean their life is peachy. Whether appearing to need support or looking like all the 'is' are dotted and the 'ts' crossed, I ask - Are they humble? Are they forgiving? Are they generous of Spirit? Are they peaceable (which is different to peaceful)? Do they praise the Lord? These are some of the hallmarks of Christ, whether in triumph or despair, rejoicing or grief.

  • Ian Pitt | Wednesday, 19 April 2017

    I like David Guzik's commentary where he notes: Thomas is a good example in many ways. He refused to say he understood when he didn’t, he refused to pretend to believe when he didn’t. And when he did understand and believe, he went all the way and properly called Jesus Lord and God.

  • Derek Forster | Wednesday, 19 April 2017

    Standing on the promises that cannot fail, When the howling storms of doubt assail, By the living Word of God I shall prevail, Standing on the promises of God.Standing, standing, Standing on the promises of God my Savior; Standing, standing, I’m standing on the promises of God.

  • Kath Prior | Wednesday, 19 April 2017

    Most of my doubts are about myself, it seems the same is true of Thomas, I don't think he doubted Jesus, but his exclusion from the meeting with the others makes him say "unless I" "I won't believe". When Jesus meets personally with him he responds in glorious faith "MY Lord and MY God", i.e. he doesn't say "OK, I believe the resurrection happened" but "I believe in YOU" and as we know his life proved that faith by all that he is recorded as doing for the kingdom. I pray my faith will be more than head certainties and will be such trust in Jesus that I follow him as faithfully.

  • Teresa Ballard | Wednesday, 19 April 2017

    'My Lord and my God': give us the faith behind these words, Lord, that we may submit in all areas of our lives to your leading, and in all our ways bring glory and honour, worship and wonder to your name, our God. How amazing that we can also know you as Father and Friend. How amazing is your love!

  • Philippa Linton | Wednesday, 19 April 2017

    Angela - bless you! Elizabeth, thanks for sharing that. I love the honesty of Thomas, and the fact that he makes such a powerful declaration of faith: 'my Lord and my God'. Mark 9:24 is also one of my favourite verses in the gospels: I love that father’s honesty too. Very helpful insights today from all the WordLive writers – and everyone else! I like that quote from George Macdonald (a Scottish preacher and writer who was a big influence on CS Lewis). Doubt which is faced honestly can lead to a breakthrough and a maturing in faith, as in Thomas’s case.

  • Adam Julians | Wednesday, 19 April 2017

    Gilvin yes that's kinds what I was getting at with what you talk of with attitude and as Oakley expressed well being humble, forgiving, generous, peaceful and praising God. So, not to assume that things are as they always appear and there may be some who might be expected to have faith in abundance that have little faith and others who may be expected to have little faith that have an amazing faith. Therefore what Jesus experienced among his own people might be what we experience unexpectedly in our own circles whether that be church or other Christian environments. I have learned over the years that just because someone carries the label "Christian" it's not healthy (or safe) to assume Christ likeness. And, as you say, there is the importance to be putting on the armour of God and therefore keeping the heart guarded in obedience to Jesus.

  • David Chipchase | Wednesday, 19 April 2017

    Adam, thank you for that clarification.

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