Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in His side, I will not believe.” Eight days later, His disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.” Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to Him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.
John 20: 24-31
(From the Ninth Eothinon Gospel)
Christ is Risen!
I love how the Bible is filled with stories of people who had great flaws but later became great saints. And one of my favorite Bible people is Thomas. Many people call him “Doubting Thomas”, in an almost disparaging way. I would call him “Honest Thomas” or “Faithful Thomas.” Because if we are honest, we’ve all had moments of doubt. We’ve all had moments when we’ve felt like Thomas. Like, “is God real?” and “if He is real, how come He lets all kinds of bad things happen to people, especially me?”
On the evening of the day Jesus rose from the dead, when the Disciples were gathered together, Thomas was not with them. Jesus came and appeared to the Disciples, commissioning them to loose and retain sins. After this encounter, the Disciples went and told Thomas that they had seen the Lord. Rather than being overjoyed at this news, Thomas as skeptical. He even challenged the other Disciples that if he could not see the marks of the nails in the hands of Jesus and place his hand in the side of the Lord where He had been pierced with the lance, he would not believe.
Before we go criticizing Thomas too badly for his lack of faith, let’s be honest, we’ve all felt like this. We’ve all wanted more proof. Here is where I think Thomas is admirable. We know that Jerusalem was still a very hostile place towards the followers of Jesus. That’s why the Disciples were still gathering behind locked doors eight days after the Resurrection. Thomas could have run and hid, or ran far from Jerusalem, if he was so riddled with doubt. But he didn’t. He stayed with the program. He stayed with the disciples. He “stayed” with Christ.
When Jesus appeared eight days later, Thomas was with the group. Jesus told Thomas to see His hand and His side and to believe. And then Thomas made the “highest confession” of Jesus Christ that is in the Bible. He said to Him, “My Lord and My God.” In no other place in the Bible does someone make a confession of Christ as both Lord and God. Only Thomas. And just like with so many other stories of redemption, Thomas is restored and honored. Thomas, by the way, took the Gospel all the way to India.
I applaud Thomas for staying with the program. He is really an inspirational figure. Because his doubts did not overwhelm him or discourage him enough to drop out and leave the followers of Christ. He stuck with the program and his faith was rewarded.
When you have doubts about your faith that is the time, not to drop out, but to stay with the program. Get around people of faith and allow them to encourage you. Get involved in acts of charity and practice loving others. Increase your effort in prayer and scripture reading. Go and ask your priest questions about the faith. Whatever you do, stick with the program. Don’t leave Christ or the Church. Work through your doubts. Don’t run away from them. Thomas doubted, but Thomas stayed. And today he is honored as a saint of the church. These opportunities—to stick with the church when in doubt, and to lead a life which leads to holiness and sainthood—are open to all of us.
On another note, this passage concludes by telling us that the Gospel is not an exhaustive description of the earthly ministry of Christ, but that the purpose of the Gospel is to testify that Jesus IS the Christ and that believing, we may have life in His name.
O Life, You rose from the sepulcher, even though the tomb was secured with a seal, O Christ God. And though the doors had been bolted, You came to Your disciples, O Resurrection of all. Through them You renew a right spirit in us, according to Your great mercy. (Apolytikion of Thomas Sunday, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Stay with the program, in times of confidence and especially in times of doubt.