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Resurrection faith (1)

What kind of a child do you think Thomas was? Did he somehow get locked into that developmental stage where children ask a million questions about everything?  Was he the kid at the synagogue who always had his hand in the air when the teacher was talking, wanting to know "why" or "how?"  Did his parents lay awake at night in the quiet of the midnight hour looking at each other through the splashes of moonlight quietly mouthing the words, "This is isn't from my side of the family."
Or maybe rather than DNA, it was his parents.  Maybe Thomas' dad worked as an auditor for the JRS (Jerusalem Revenue Service), his mother worked for Snopes.com or was an investigative journalist, and Thomas never had a chance of being anything but an arch-skeptic.

Or, was there some grand disappointment, some traumatic event in his life that caused him to become reserved about who and what he trusted in? Did he lose one of his parents or a sibling at an early age? Did he have his hopes dashed in some other way? These are questions for which we have no answers.

We don’t know much more about Thomas as an adult. He was called Didymus, which means "the twin." After Lazarus died, Jesus spoke of returning to Judea to "wake him up" (John 11:7,11). The disciples reminded Him that He had almost been stoned the last time He was in Jerusalem (11:8,10:22ff). When it was evident He wouldn’t be dissuaded, Thomas said, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him," (v. 16). From what we know of the disciples, it was usually Peter who said this type of thing. But on this occasion it was Thomas who was the first to turn away from the other disciples and toward Jesus.

On another occasion, when Jesus cryptically spoke of leaving to prepare a place for them, Thomas said, "Lord, we don’t know where You are going, so how can we know the way? (14:5). He is mentioned several other times in the New Testament, but it is never more than to list his name as one of the disciples or to note his presence. So this is what we know about Thomas: he wasn’t afraid to ask questions and on one occasion he was willing to follow Jesus to his death. While these are two important qualities of a disciple, they aren’t much to go by in trying to reconstruct a picture of who Thomas was.

So as we approach the one story about Thomas we all know, we do so without anything to really temper or help us interpret it. We don’t really know if it is representative of Thomas’ personality (as we are usually led to believe), or it just shows him in a weaker moment --- perhaps dealing with his grief in a different manner that the other disciples. What we do know is that Jesus used this episode to say something profound to Thomas and to us.

In the story we see that Thomas was:
not with the disciples (20:19ff, 24-25) --- All of the disciples except Thomas were huddled together on evening of Jesus’ resurrection. We can only attempt to imagine what their mental and emotional state was like due to all that had transpired since the arrest of Jesus on Thursday evening. They had seen their master crucified, their dreams dashed, and were in fear for their lives. The doors of the room they were meeting in were locked. It was at this time that Jesus appeared to them and said, "Peace be with you," (v. 19).
Where was Thomas? Why wasn’t he there? We don’t know the answer. Maybe it was just all too much for Him. The One he had followed for three years had died. Now there was this nonsense that Mary and other women had started that Jesus was alive. Peter and John were chiming in as well. No, if the rest of them wanted to live in denial that was fine. He was going to own the truth that Jesus was dead and live in the real world.

hard-headed (v. 25) --- After Jesus appeared to the ten other disciples, they told Thomas. Their testimony, along with the testimony of the women should have at least moved him to consider the resurrection as a real possibility, but he was having none of it. Jesus had rebuked the ten for not believing the women (Mark 16:14), and the two traveling to Emmaus for being slow to believe what the prophets had said (Luke 24:25). Thomas should have believed but didn’t because he was stubborn.

not closed-minded (v. 26) --- While Thomas was obstinate, he wasn’t totally closed to the truth. If he had been, then even Jesus appearing to Him would have made no difference. He still had enough fairness about him that when the conditions he had laid down for believing were met by Jesus, he didn’t hesitate to embrace Him.

not hard-hearted (v. 27-28) --- In fact, Thomas doesn’t even need to touch Jesus’ wounds to know that He is real. There’s a difference between not wanting to be disappointed and not wanting to believe. Thomas clearly belonged in the first category.

not with the program (v. 29) --- So you have seen and believed the Master says, blessed are those who believe without seeing. There it is. To believe after seeing is fine, but it’s the normative human response. It’s what all but the most prejudiced would do. But to believe without seeing, well, that’s another thing. That’s what Jesus calls Thomas to do. It’s what He calls us to do. It’s where He places a blessing.

Thomas wasn’t with the program in this regard. He had seen more than enough of Jesus to believe in the resurrection. He had seen Him raise Lazarus from the dead, feed the multitudes, walk on the water, and still the storm. He really had no reason not to trust Him. He had no reason not to but he wouldn’t believe until he had seen.
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