“Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!'” (ESV – Read the chapter)
Thomas has been affixed for centuries with the rather unfortunate moniker, “Doubting Thomas,” because of his entirely justifiable disbelief of the other disciples when they reported to him that they had seen the risen Lord Jesus. He is held out as a model of the kind of doubt-filled faith that believers should want to avoid. Nobody wants to be like Thomas. And yet, given the trajectory of his life and confession from that point forward, perhaps that is not such a fair assessment as he actually deserves. Consider the evidence. The whole idea of Jesus’s resurrection didn’t compute for anybody before it happened. None of them believed that’s what He really meant when He said to them over and over again that He was soon going to be captured and killed by His enemies, but on the third day He would rise again. This wasn’t because they didn’t believe in the concept of resurrection, but rather because they believed in it in very specific terms and on a very specific timeline–terms and a timeline which were rather wildly violated by what Jesus was proclaiming.
As a point in fact, no one was waiting outside the tomb, ready with a countdown on Sunday morning. The only people who believed His body might possibly not be there were the very religious leaders of the Jews who had engineered His death in the first place. And they didn’t think He’d come back from the dead, but only that the disciples would steal His body and try and trick everyone into believing He was alive again. They had a great deal more confidence in the faithfulness and capacity of the disciples than they should have had. As a result, the only people who might possibly have been witnesses to the resurrection were the soldiers who were sent to make sure the disciples didn’t try anything funny, and they all passed out from fear when the angel showed up and missed the whole show!
So, when this group of disciples, excluding Thomas, first heard from the women that Jesus was alive again, none of them believed it either. Their doubt wasn’t recorded as being expressed in such a dramatic fashion as his and so isn’t quite as memorable. But, none of them really believed until they saw Him with their own eyes either. They just got to see it first.
As for Thomas, put yourself in his shoes for a minute. The group of ten disciples all start telling you that this thing which all of you thought entirely impossible only a few hours before actually wasn’t impossible and had in fact happened. You tell them to cut it out and that’s not funny. You’re all still hurting from His death and it’s not okay for them to gang up on you in a mean-spirited prank like this. They keep insisting on it past the point where the joke becomes cruel and so what do you say? “Unless I see the holes in His hands and feet and put my hand in His side I will never believe something like that happened!”
Perhaps this wasn’t an expression of doubt at all so much as an expression of hurt, frustrated exasperation on the part of a man who was tired of feeling like he was the butt of a mean prank. Perhaps Jesus had a twinkle in HIs eye when He finally revealed Himself to Thomas. Perhaps His gentle admonishment, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe,” was offered with a wry smile and a subtle wink (and was in no ways an affirmation of a blind faith as too many wrongly believe today).
Either way, Thomas’ final statement and state of mind is not one of doubt, but rather one of faithful confession: My Lord and my God! Perhaps, as my New Testament professor, Craig Blomberg, observed on multiple occasions, we should call him “Confessing Thomas” rather than “Doubting Thomas.”
The question and challenge for us here is not whether or not we will avoid doubt all of our lives–we will very likely not–but rather, will we shed our doubt and confess Jesus as Lord when He is presented to us? We will almost certainly not be able to stand and feel Jesus’ wounds as Thomas was. Our reception of Him will have to come on faith and not sight. This just means the blessing for faith Jesus pronounced can be ours.
But, it can only be ours if we are willing to follow Thomas’ example and confess when confronted with the evidence of the risen Lord. It will come only when we are ready to cry with him, “My Lord and my God,” when we behold Him however He happens to present Himself to us. As it turns out, Thomas is exactly the model we should follow, not the counterexample we should avoid. And indeed, Thomas went on to plant churches in India and beyond which still persist to this day. So, not only is his confession worth emulating, but so is his example of putting his confession into action. Strive today then, to be more like Thomas: Be a confessor who lives your confession in a way that changes the world.