“Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
This conversation between Jesus and Thomas took place eight days after the Lord had risen from the dead.
On the evening of the resurrection day Jesus met with His disciples behind closed doors, but Thomas was not with them. That the disciples were gathered together behind closed doors, we are told, was because of fear of the Jews. Why they feared the Jews we are not told. We can only surmise that they had concluded that what had happened to Jesus at the hand of the Jews, would also happen to them. That they were gathered together that resurrection evening was, no doubt, to discuss the events of the day. Some had reported that they had seen the risen Lord, others heard rumors that He was risen from the dead. With the crucifixion of Christ their hope had turned to despair; but now that He was reported to be alive, their hope was rekindled. That Thomas was not with them, was due to the fact that he would not believe what he had heard with his ears until he had seen it with his eyes, and handled it with his hands, The other disciples had reported to him: “We have seen the Lord.” But he said unto them: “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Because he so expressed himself, he has acquired the name Thomas, the Doubter, or, Doubting Thomas.
But why make this harsh judgment of Him? Was it not true that the rest of the disciple group should also be called doubters? Do we not read of them that when the women had reported to them that they had seen the risen Lord, their words seemed to them as idle tales? Was it not also true that, when they heard from faithful witnesses that the Lord was risen, and when he suddenly appeared to them behind closed doors, they had great difficulty in believing that He was indeed the risen Lord? Does not Luke’s gospel inform us (Luke 24:37-43) that when He appeared unto them and said “Peace be unto you,” they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed they had seen a spirit? And did not the Lord find it necessary to eat before them, and show them His hands and feet, before they would believe? Indeed, they also doubted, and would not believe until they had seen with their eyes what the Lord was pleased to show them in His appearance. Surely, if Thomas must be called the Doubter, then consistency would demand that all the other disciples should also be given this appellation.
Thomas is not a doubter, an unbeliever, but he is one who will believe only what he can see with his eyes, and handle with his hands. But such an one, so long as he remains such, can never taste the blessedness of seeing the unseen.
That he might become an eye-witness of the resurrection, as the rest, the Lord appears unto him eight days later as he is now assembled with the rest of the disciples.
Directly the Lord goes to Thomas and exhorts him to “reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and not be faithless, but believing.” We do not read that Thomas responded by touching Him, and we suppose that he did not. Immediately he exclaims “My Lord, and my God.” Thomas believed what he saw very plainly, namely, the appearance of the resurrected Lord.
“Then Jesus saith unto him, Thomas because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are those not seeing, and believing.”
Concerning Thomas we know very little. When the names of the apostles are mentioned, his name appears among them. He was also called Didymus. That was his Greek name, which along with his Hebrew name Thomas means “little.” But that tells us very little about him. Perhaps from birth he was small in stature. From those instances when the Scriptures speak of him in particular, we gather that he was one of so many who always looked on the dark side of things. Perhaps we could say that he was also of a stubborn disposition, one who would defend his point of view until he knew that he could not any longer maintain it. But at the same time he reflected a certain warmth in his character, and certainly he must have loved Jesus with a very deep love. He, too, along with the others of the apostle group evidently misunderstood the Lord and His mission, believing that He had come to set up an earthly kingdom.
We become a little acquainted with him for the first time in Perea where Jesus had gone with His disciples because the Jews had lately threatened to kill Him (John 11). There Jesus had received word that Lazarus, His friend, was sick. He did not respond immediately to the message, waiting two days until He knew Lazarus had died. Then Jesus announced to His disciples that He must go to Bethany. His disciples warned Him that He had left the area because the Jews had threatened to kill Him. But Jesus insists that He must go because Lazarus sleepeth, yea, was dead. It is at this point that Thomas says: “Let us also go that we may die with Him.” Two things are to be noted here: not only the profound love of Jesus which he showed in his willingness to die with Him, but also the gloomy aspect which this disciple had for the future. Evidently he meant to say this: If Jesus dies and is killed, everything which we had hoped for will also be finished, that is, the hope of an earthly Kingdom. If Jesus dies, this hope will perish with Him; and therefore we might as well be dead also. There is no hope for anything beyond Jesus’ death.
A little later we read of Thomas again (John 14). After the Lord had instituted the Lord’s Supper and then announced that He was about to leave them to return unto the Father, He seeks to quiet and comfort their sad hearts by saying, “Let not your hearts be troubled, ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you, and whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.” But Thomas said unto him, “Lord, we know not whither Thou goest, and how can we know the way?” Jesus said unto him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Here also it appears that Thomas could see no farther than an earthly Jesus. If Jesus would go, that would be the end as far as the disciples and Thomas were concerned.
Now we find him again, a week after the resurrection. Jesus had suffered and died. He had gone the way of the cross. He had suffered, and died, and was buried. With that death and burial of Jesus, as far as Thomas was concerned, everything else was buried. True, that was the thinking of all the disciples, but of Thomas it was especially true.
For Thomas the resurrection was an impossibility. O, Thomas was not a Sadducee. Like Martha, the sister of Lazarus, he believed in the resurrection in the last day. Nor could he deny that Jesus had the power of the resurrection, for he evidently was also a witness of the miracle of the resurrection in the case of Lazarus. But that Jesus would rise from the dead, that was farthest from his thoughts and understanding. For him the cause of Jesus was lost with His death. And this explains why he was not gathered with the rest on the evening of the resurrection. This also explains why he answered as he did when the disciples announced to him that the Lord was risen from the dead. It made no impression on him except to push him down further in his state of gloom, for he would not believe until he had seen for himself.
Thomas, you have seen Me, and therefore you have believed!
Your faith, wherein you now rejoice, has come up in your soul and has overwhelmed your heart because you have seen Me with your natural, earthly eyes.
Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed!
What the disciples could not do when the women brought them the message that they had seen the Lord, what Thomas hesitated to do when the disciples informed him that Jesus was indeed risen from the dead—that thousands upon thousands would indeed do, namely, believe what they had not seen.
Presently the apostles would go into all the world bearing the good tidings that they were eyewitnesses of the fact that Christ was truly risen from the dead. And upon their testimony an innumerable host would believe and be saved.
Yea more, long after their decease, through their word empowered by the Holy Spirit and inscribed in the Holy Gospel, the truth would echo and re-echo in all the world through the lively preaching of the gospel by the faithful church. And many will rejoice with joy unspeakable in the resurrected and glorified Redeemer.
And that faith shall give greater joy and richer blessing than that which Thomas experienced when he saw with his natural eye the appearance of the risen Saviour.
Greater blessedness it is, because of its deeper and spiritual cause!
This faith, which has no need of seeing the risen Lord with the physical eye to be convinced of the truth of the resurrection, has a much deeper cause, and much richer content. This faith which embraces the testimony given by eyewitnesses and incorporated in the Holy Scriptures is wrought in the heart by the testimony of the Spirit of the risen Christ. For, you see, the risen Christ is exalted to God’s right hand where He receives the Spirit without measure, and that Spirit He pours out in the church and in the hearts of all them who are ordained to eternal life. And they do not need to see Him with their natural eye, for He takes up His abode in them. And they believe what they do not see. Blessed are they, indeed!
But there is more!
Thomas could not believe in the resurrection, because he did not understand and believe in the cross. To him the cross was the end of all his hope.
But blessed are they who see in the resurrection the efficacy of the cross! Christ is risen from the dead as a signal of their justification through His humiliation and descent into hell. As Paul later expressed it: “Who was delivered because of our offences, and raised again because of our justification.” Not was He raised to justify us, but because we were justified in His deliverance for our offences. This is what faith believes, that which can not be seen with the natural eye. And that is blessed, indeed!
Still more! As Peter also later expressed it in these words: “Who having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” This is the blessedness of which the Lord speaks in the text.
Marvelous indeed! We see Him not, for He is in heaven; yet we love Him. Though now we see Him not, yet believing, we joy with joy unspeakable.
Faith which believes that in Jesus we have the very God of our salvation. Which believes that the resurrected Lord by the power of His Spirit and Word has given unto us the power of a new life, implanted in our hearts by regeneration which is resurrection life that cannot perish. Which also believes that the good work He has begun in us He will also finish, so that even our bodies which must presently be laid in the grave, shall also rise again. Which believes that in the regeneration of all things we shall see Him, Whom now we cannot see—face to face. And we shall abide with Him forever.
What shall we say then?
Thomas, when for a small moment he was privileged to behold an appearance of the risen Lord, exclaimed, My Lord, and my God!
When we shall see Him, Whom now we cannot see, but then face to face, we shall glorify and praise Him forever!
In the meantime, we walk by faith, not by sight.
And this is blessedness, par excellence!