“[Jesus said] ‘Stop doubting and believe.’ Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (John 20:27-28)
I don’t think there’s anyone in the Bible who gets a bum rap quite as unfairly as Thomas does. He has gone down in history as “doubting Thomas” thanks to his refusal to believe the disciples’ word about Jesus’ resurrection and the Lord’s subsequent seeming rebuke: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
Of course, we tend to ignore the fact that every other disciple had also fallen victim to exactly the same spirit of despair and unbelief: “But [the disciples] did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense” (Luke 24:11). We also ignore that the world in general feels the same way regarding the message of the resurrection – that it pretty much sounds like nonsense: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
So what does it take for a skeptical, worldly-wise heart to believe in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and all the promises that go with it? It takes the same thing that prompted one of the greatest confessions recorded in Scripture from the lips of Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” It takes the same thing that opened the eyes of Cleopas and his companion on the road to Emmaus, causing their hearts to burn within them for Jesus’ sake. Belief in the Gospel requires the hand of Jesus Christ acting in our lives, opening our hearts through the Holy Spirit and His Word. Thomas is a hero of the faith who demonstrates the appropriate response to Jesus’ command: “Stop doubting and believe.”
This command and promise is for us as well. We all – like the disciples – struggle with doubt, despair, and unbelief. Sometimes we need the example of bold heroes of the faith like Thomas to give us the strength to follow Jesus despite danger and hardship. Yes, you heard me right: “Doubting Thomas” is the same man who only shortly before Jesus’ death walked willingly with Him into the hands of vengeful enemies, saying to the other disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16).
What a phenomenal testament of courage and faith on Thomas’ part! And yet even a bold warrior like this could soon after have his belief and devotion overshadowed by fear and doubt. So how much more do we need the powerful command of Christ Jesus: “Stop doubting and believe”? We also, like Thomas, need to encounter the risen Lord personally in His Word, seeing Him face to face and being assured that His promise of salvation is fulfilled in the cross and the empty tomb. We too need to be strengthened in faith through Holy Communion by His body which was broken on the cross and His blood which was poured out from His hands, feet, and side.
By His saving Word, the Lord Jesus comes to us through the locked doors of sin and unbelief. We seek him there in times of doubt or despair. We reach out for His precious body and blood. And strengthened by these gifts, we are able to confess Him as “My Lord and my God!”
“Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1:21)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, dispel my doubts and fears through the power of Your Holy Word and Sacraments. Give me strength and courage to follow to You, even in the midst of Your enemies, that they too may see the message of the cross and turn to You in faith; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, my Lord. Amen.