24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called The Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail prints in His hands, and put my finger in the nail prints, and put my hand in His side, I will not believe.”
Thomas takes his place in the resurrection events of the life of Jesus as the one who doubts. This is a description of his character that remains connected to him until today. A “Doubting Thomas” is one who seems skeptical of things. But, is Thomas the only one who is confused by what is happening?
Remember Mary Magdalene sees Jesus is not in tomb and she doesn’t immediately rejoice because he is risen! She runs back and tells the disciples what has happened. Peter and John run back to the tomb and they see it is empty, too, but they don’t understand all that this means, either. Finally, Mary goes back to the tomb and sees Jesus.But, he doesn’t look like he did before he died, and so she doesn’t even recognize him. It is only after she hears him speak her name and gives her a message for the other disciples, that she realizes Jesus is risen. Then she can give this eyewitness account to the rest of them.
18 Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.
Well, the disciples aren’t all in on this believing stuff either. Where does Jesus find them when he appears to them for the first time?
They are hiding behind locked doors, afraid the Jewish authorities will arrest them. But if Jesus is risen from the dead, if he is the Messiah after all, why are they still afraid?
You see, it isn’t only Thomas who is having a problem understanding what is happening in all of this.
What is fascinating here is that John is giving us such personal insight into the personalities of the people involved. The disciples really come alive in John’s gospel. When we remember this, we start to understand that Thomas does need a bit more convincing. We have seen this before from him.
When Jesus is telling the disciples they know about the way where he is going, Thomas interrupts him.
5 “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Skeptical? Confused? Yes. But, is Thomas inferior because he doesn’t believe Jesus raised from the dead like the other disciples?
Hardly. Thomas is not he only example of seeing is believing. The author of the gospel, John himself has already admitted that he personally needs evidence. as well.
It takes seeing the empty tomb and the folded grave cloths for John to believe. Earlier in this chapter we read,
8 Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed— 9 for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead.
Thomas wasn’t there when Jesus first appeared. So, you can’t fault him too much. After all, even the disciple’s description of Jesus’s first appearance must have been confusing.
Jesus walks through walls. He passes between the heavenly dimensions and the earthly dimensions interchangeably. But, he is not a ghost. He has a physical body with physical scars on his hands and on his side.
If Thomas is confused, it is because what is happening is confusing. Never in human history, has something like this happened before.
Christian tradition has Thomas being the first disciple to reach India and start Christian communities there. Do a bit of research on that.