William G. Bass was engaged in a meeting with a local church, working in the neighborhoods of a small town in southeastern Florida. He and I had been asked by someone (and my, how you never seem to know just who) to find time to visit a recent convert who had been worshipping with a digressive group in town, seeking perhaps an encouraging word.
Many Christians believe that God requires them to have “blind” faith in Jesus. I recently saw a television show where a person challenged a proclaimed Christian to prove that there is a God and that Jesus raised from the dead. The proclaimed Christian’s defense was simply that she felt that there was a God. But this is foreign to the scriptures in regards to a person knowing if there is a God. As we will notice in this article, the apostles demanded “hard proof” before they would accept that Jesus raised from the dead.
We come to the scene to which the apostle Thomas is most remembered. In John 20:19 we read that the disciples were gathered together on the first day of the week. Jesus came to them and said to them “Peace be with you.” Verse 20 says, “After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” Notice that Jesus showed the disciples his hands and his feet to prove that he was not ghost or a figment of their imaginations (Luke 24:37). Lukes gospel records that the women who saw the empty tomb and the angel at the tomb told the apostles all the things they saw and heard. Luke 24:11 says, “But these words seemed like nonsense to them, and they did not believe the women.” The disciples did not immediately believe the words of the women.
When Jesus appears to the disciples, however, we learn that Thomas was not with them (John 20:24). It is odd to read that Thomas is missing and we wonder why Thomas would not assemble with the disciples. Perhaps Thomas was still in hiding and fearful for his life. In any case, the disciples tell Thomas that they have seen the Lord.
Thomas responds, “If I dont see the mark of the nails in His hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe!” (John 20:25). Thomas response is really not any different than the rest of the disciples initial response. When the women told the disciples that Jesus had risen, they did not believe. When Jesus appears to them, they did not believe, rather thinking they had seen a ghost. Only when the other eleven disciples saw the pierced hands and side did they recognize that what they were seeing was not a ghost but the risen Lord.
Thomas is simply asking for the same proof the disciples needed for them to believe. The women needed to see the evidence to believe in the resurrected Lord. The eleven disciples had to see the evidence to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. Thomas needed to have the same evidence to believe as well. Thomas needed to see it for himself. But when Thomas had the evidence by seeing the risen Jesus, Thomas proclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus replied, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
I have often read those words of Jesus and assumed that he was referring to the rest of his disciples. But now that I have looked at the text again I see that Thomas required the same amount of evidence to believe as the rest of the disciples. Jesus was speaking about all the others would not have the advantage of seeing with their own eyes the risen Lord. They would be blessed by believing though they could not see.
We are allowed to be realists when it comes to our faith. The disciples needed hard evidence to believe Jesus had risen from the dead. They were not going to merely accept the word of those that were the most uncredible witnesses in the first century. If the first century writers were try to commit a hoax, trying to make people believe that Jesus rose from the dead when he really did not, they would not have written down that the women saw it first. They would not have said that women saw the empty tomb and would not have said that women spoke to the angels because the testimony of women in the first century had no value.
I believe all of us at one time or another have a doubt that crosses our minds. There are occasions where I contemplate whether there is truth behind what I am doing. Is there really a God? Will there be a judgment? I suppose that some kind of questioning like this happens in all of our minds. So what are we to do when there are moments of doubt? What should we do when we become a little unsure about the things of God?
I think we ought to be like Thomas and look again at the real evidence. The more I study the more I become convinced that there is a God and the Bible is Gods revealed will. I am astounded at the number of times scholars have attempted to disprove Jesus and the existence of God, only to find through honest investigation that the evidence is overwhelming that there is a God. Josh McDowell, in the late 70s and early 80s, attempted to disprove the claims of the Bible concerning God and Jesus. He ended up taking the evidence and believing. Now we has become a world renown defender of the biblical claims, writing a powerful book Evidence That Demands A Verdict. Lee Strobel is a journalist for a Chicago newspaper. He also embarked in the same effort to disprove the Bible. He became a believer in the claims of the Bible and Jesus, writing books The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, and The Case for the Creator. Both of these men were antagonistic to the Bible and tried to find it false. In their efforts, they found the claims of the Bible to be true and reliable.
Rather than sit back and be shaken when we question the Bible claims, we simply need to go examine the evidence again. Thomas did not sit back and say that since the other disciples believed that he would believe as well. The apostles did not believe just because the women said so. They looked for evidence as a foundation for their faith. I do not want you to believe in God because I say that there is one. I can say there is a God and you can say there is not. How can we know who is right? We only can know by looking at the evidence. Unfortunately, I do not have the space in this article to go through the evidences that prove the claims of the Bible. I would encourage you to read the previously mentioned books by McDowell and Strobel if you want more evidences.
But the gospel of John ends by encouraging us to look at the biblical evidence. “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31). John says that the things written down were recorded so that we could believe. We are not expected to have faith without evidence. Those who saw the Lord recorded the things they heard and saw so that we can have faith with proof.
Do you want to know one of the biggest reasons why we doubt? We doubt because are not reading the recorded evidence in the Bible. People are not reading the Bible. People are not studying the claims of the Bible. They have not read it to see the continuity of the scriptures as written over thousands of years by over 40 different writers. I can tell you the evidence, but the evidence will not have an impact until you see it for yourself. It is up to us to investigate the evidence if we desire to have a true faith in Jesus. Someone can speak about their faith and the reasons why they believe, but that does not create faith for another. You have to take the evidence and decide for yourself. Thomas did not accept the claims of the other apostles. The other apostles did not accept the claims of the women. All of them wanted to investigate the evidence for themselves.
Thomas was not a doubting Thomas but a committed realist. The evidence was so overwhelming that Thomas would give his life for the things he saw. Foxes Book of Martyrs records that Thomas preached in Parthia and India, where through preaching the gospel, he excited the rage of the pagan priests who killed him by thrusting him through with a spear. God has given us enough evidence, overwhelming evidence, to become committed realists. It is up to us to investigate the evidence and then be willing to follow Jesus wherever he goes.