In the weeks after Easter, when we read accounts of Jesus’ post resurrection appearances, one cannot avoid the story of “doubting Thomas.” I have come to believe Thomas was branded unfairly (the name “doubting Thomas” is nowhere the Bible). Of course, he wasn’t faultless either. None of the disciples were. Thomas was honest. When he was presented with the incredible story of Jesus’ resurrection, he had his doubts – and he wasn’t afraid to say so.
Faith wasn’t always easy for Thomas – and the simple reality is that it isn’t always easy for us either. When the Risen Christ suddenly appeared to the ten disciples and blessed them, Thomas wasn’t there. When Thomas joined them later, they explained to Thomas what they had seen – but Thomas was skeptical. Who wouldn’t be? Before he believed he needed to see with his own eyes – perhaps even touch the places where Jesus had been wounded.
And the truly awesome thing is that Thomas got his proof. We sometimes miss that fact. Eight days later, Jesus came and stood among the disciples again and invited Thomas to touch his wounds. It doesn’t say whether Thomas actually felt the wounds or not. Thomas simply exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” It was almost as if he were seeing Jesus for the first time.
This particular scene led Fred Craddock, the famous Disciple preacher and teacher, to describe Thomas as the “Last Convert” in the Gospel of John. I’ve always thought that was a pretty good description of Thomas. It didn’t matter he was already one of the twelve. Thomas had reached an impasse. Because of his doubt, his faith had ceased to be a living, growing thing. But Christ met him where he was at – doubts and all – and Thomas, the disciple, was transformed into something new.
There’s something very comforting to me in the knowledge that Jesus’ last convert was already a disciple. That says to me that just because you have already made a commitment to Christ doesn’t mean that’s where you stop. Contrary to what some people might think, when you become a follower of Jesus Christ, and make your Good Confession, you are not automatically “there.”
Faith isn’t a decision that you make one time and then put away. Faith is a perspective on life – in which there is even room for doubt. It is a way of approaching life in which every decision you make is tempered in some way by your faith in the living Christ. Thomas doubted – it’s true. But it was his doubts that lead him back to faith. Jesus didn’t abandon Thomas because of his doubt – he met him where he was at and started from there.
When the Risen Christ comes into your life, you too will change. There’s no getting around it. Faith is a two way street. It involves not only seeking a first-hand experience of the living Christ, but also a conscious decision to do the kinds of things that Christ would want you to do. Just as you asked God to come into your life, God asks you to take that same love into the world and into all your relationships.
Thomas was branded “Doubting” Thomas. I personally think Thomas deserves better than that. Tradition tells us that Thomas became the first missionary to India. There are ancient missions there that bear his name. He is also said to have died a martyr. Believing in and serving his living Lord was as natural for Thomas as breathing – and it can be for you as well. Just ask for an awareness of the Living Christ in your life, as he did, and then don’t be surprised when it comes. After that, just do what comes naturally.