“If God came down right now, I’d believe. If He showed up in all His Godness and proved Himself to me, I’d bow down and worship. I won’t believe if I can’t see, hear and touch Him – but if He appears, I’ll believe.”
Have you ever said that? Or thought it? Well, that’s Thomas’ question.
“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.” (John 20:25)
Thomas wasn’t there when Jesus had appeared to the other disciples the week before. And he doesn’t believe the eye-witness testimony of the apostles. He wants his own proof. Tangible, in your face, see it, touch it, taste it, feel it, proof.
But he is knocked off his feet when this proof comes. Verse 26:
“And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.” (John 20:26-27)
Thomas had wanted to see these wounds. He demanded to see these wounds. And so Jesus gives him more than he bargained for. He even invites Thomas to thrust his hand into His side! Incredible.
Jesus seems proud of His scars. He displays them as badges of honour, because these wounds carry a scar story that beats every scar story ever told.
All scar stories have a certain shape: I was travelling along quite nicely until I encountered… a dog / a ball / a car / a fist / the force of gravity. It hurt a lot, but I’m ok now. And I have the scars to prove it.
Jesus’ scar story goes something like this: Things were fine until I encountered… planet earth. They did their worst to me, and it hurt immensely. But I’m ok now. And I have the scars to prove it.
So there is Jesus confronting Thomas with His war wounds – the marks of His suffering love. And in verse 28 Thomas can’t control himself any more: He exclaims to Jesus, “My LORD and my God.”
It’s one of the mountaintop declarations of the Bible. And what has prompted it? The wounds of Jesus. This is not a cowering response to the strength of Christ’s resurrection. This is worship elicited by the sacrificial love of His death. Thomas understands the scar story. He sees that Jesus has come to our aid and stuck up for us in the only fight that really matters. And He’s won. In gratitude and praise, Thomas cries out “My LORD and my God.”
Not simply, “The LORD” but “my LORD”. It’s personal.
Is it personal for you? Or are you still something of a doubting Thomas?
But perhaps you’re thinking, “It’s alright for Thomas. He got to see Jesus. What about me?”
That’s why Jesus answers with verse 29:
“Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
Blessed are people when they are not like Thomas. Blessed are we when we don’t see and yet believe. How is that possible? John’s Gospel continues:
“And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” (John 20:30-31)
We can have a more blessed experience than Thomas. How? We can trust the written, eye-witness testimony. And Jesus says that these Scriptures (of which John’s Gospel is a part) are better than a one-off resurrection experience.
How could that be true? Well just imagine that Jesus appeared to you tonight at the end of your bed. Imagine you saw His wounds and heard Him say ‘Peace’ to you personally. That would give you a spiritual high for days. Weeks, even!
But fairly soon you’d start to wonder whether you’d dreamt the whole thing. People would ridicule you for your claims and pretty soon you’d need another appearance.
If you have ever asked for an extraordinary appearance of God, you are asking for something that will impress you today but will ultimately make you doubt more than believe.
It is more blessed – it is better – to go on the eye-witness testimony of the Bible. Because with the Bible, it’s there in black and white for all time. At three in the morning when I have doubts. When loved ones die. When I’ve lost my job. I can always see Jesus, by opening my Bible and seeing Him in the sacred story.
If I had physically touched the risen Christ twelve years ago – by now my memory would have faded. Instead I met Jesus in the pages of the Bible, and I am seeing Him more clearly today than when I first believed. As I go deeper into the Bible His wounds are more vivid, His scar story is more real, His love seems more profound – all through the pages of Scripture.
All of us are a Doubting Thomas at various times and to various degrees. But the Holy Spirit has given us an antidote:
“These are written, that ye might believe.”
If that’s true – how should we read our Bibles? Answer: Expectantly. We should seek a more blessed encounter than the Upper Room. We should desire a coming of Christ, a sight of His war wounds and a response of worship – “My LORD and my God.”
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