Famous last words.
Dozens of articles have been written about the humorous, ironic and often sad last words of those the world counts famous.
What if your last recorded words were, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” That’s what is written in John 20:25 from the lips of Thomas the disciple of Jesus. The story of John could have ended on those words, but thankfully the resurrected King Jesus appeared to Thomas and changed both his words and his heart.
Let’s read about it today in John 20:24–29 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 mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”  Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, 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 disbelieve, but believe.”  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 have believed.” (ESV)
What can we learn from this passage?
It’s now one week after the resurrection. During the week Jesus has appeared to many of His disciples, proving that He is alive. But Thomas was not with the other 10 disciples when Jesus had appeared to them. Why not?
Some have named him “Doubting Thomas.” I get that, for his recorded words “I will never believe” really are the gloom and skepticism of doubt. However, I think there is more than just doubt troubling Thomas.
He was the one in John 11:16 who said about Jesus to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Thomas was ready to follow Jesus to death. When Jesus talked in the upper room about leaving His disciples, Thomas replied to Him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (John 14:5). I hear in these words perhaps gloom and pessimism, but I also hear resolve, loyalty and love for Jesus. Thomas was a man prone to pessimism and doubt, but he was also a man prone to loyalty and deep love.
Have you ever thought that people can be very complex? It’s true! Because Thomas exhibits true faith and love for Jesus, I don’t think it’s fair to keep labeling him a “doubter.” Nevertheless he said some very strong words: “I will never believe.” It’s at this point where, if I were one of the other disciples talking to him at that time, I would seriously be fearful for Thomas. How can he say that? What will the Lord say and do?
We read what the Lord did. He appeared to the disciples again the next Sunday, again saying “Peace be with you!” and immediately went to Thomas. Jesus urged Thomas to touch his hands, and to reach out to the place in His side where the spear had pierced Him. He commanded Thomas, “Do not disbelieve, but believe” (20:27).
And you know what the last recorded words of Thomas in the Bible really are? “My Lord and my God.” One of the most famous skeptics in the New Testament is also one of the first to rightly worship Jesus as God.
The Lord Jesus is still working in us complex people. He knows at times we’ll feel depressed, see the glass half-empty, wonder if the promises about Jesus are really true in this complex and messed-up world. To us Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen yet believed” (John 20:29).
- Do you identity with Thomas as I’ve represented him? What are the times when you feel gloomy, sad or see the worst of life?
- One of the tendencies Thomas had was pulling away from the community of God’s people during a time of deep sadness and grief. I understand personally the tendency to isolate and get away from people as a more introverted person, but I’ve learned the important life lesson that I need the body of Christ to help me in times of grief. As hard as it is for us to involve others sometimes, we need to be open to their love and care during hard times. Especially during times like these when we’re very isolated. We may just miss a blessing.
- Best of all is that assurance of Jesus, that we today are blessed when we worship Him even though we don’t yet see Him. He knows the challenges we face to believe, but He gives us faith and encourages us to keep believing on His word.
Lord Jesus we confess we are prone to doubt, to pessimism and skepticism. We think often of the negative things happening around us and to us. We often read more news headlines than we spend time in your Word. Forgive us. Please cleanse us and help us to believe; to hold fast to Your words. Grant us the blessing of belief in You as our Lord and God. Amen.