“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.'” John 20:25
Sometimes we wind up eating our own words. I think this wound up being one of those times for Thomas. It’s so easy to get this idea of how we expect things to go, of how we expect others to respond, of how our circumstances ought to turn out, or what they should look like. But that’s just the problem. It becomes all about me and my ideas. And my ideas and Your ideas, Lord, are not the same.
Now, I have no idea what Thomas was doing when the other disciples were blessed by Your appearing with them in the upper room. All I know is that Scripture says he was not with them when You came. And the other disciples told him the extraordinary news. But Thomas didn’t believe them. Now, I’m not so sure that the problem was just that Thomas didn’t believe. Because the other disciples didn’t believe Mary’s testimony. But Thomas’s response seems to come off as harsher and, well, a bit defiant.
What was Thomas saying? “You guys have absolutely no discernment at all. Now, me on the other hand, I would not be duped. I know what to look for. And when I see it, I will know. And if I don’t see what I’m looking for, I absolutely will not be fooled.” Now, I’m not Thomas, so I really don’t know what was in his heart. But what was he looking for? Here is a risen Savior. Was Thomas looking for a risen Savior or was Thomas looking for the physical representation of his crushed dream to rise again?
All I know is that Thomas was looking for something he could feel, and touch, and see, and understand. He was looking for what he understood already. He was looking for something he could explain. And if it didn’t come his way, if he couldn’t explain it, couldn’t put his finger on it, couldn’t control it, then he wasn’t going to believe it.
And that’s the thing about believing. I’m such a creature of habit that I do the same thing, even after You, Jesus, have changed my habits. When I’m not careful, I slide back into them. And as I slide back into them, I am deceived by them. And then I find myself living in a lie without even realizing it. But the glorious thing is that you won’t let us remain there. You have a way of showing us the lie.
So here is Thomas, and it could as well have been me, wallowing in my own pity, wanting things my own way, yes, even as a believer. My world is falling apart around me and I am trying to fix the pieces myself and put them back together my way. Because who likes it when their world falls apart? It hurts. Everything is turned upside down. Who wants to wait and stay in that state? Only, what if it’s not a mistake or an accident or a tragedy after all? What if it is part of God’s design to bring me to the point where I actually glorify Him? What if this awful moment had to come so I could learn what I need to learn about You and about my self?
Eight days passed and I doubt Thomas was bringing himself any closer to the resolution he wanted. Now, I wish the Lord would bring resolution to me in eight days! I’ve just been going through something probably for more than a year with a Thomas kind of attitude. That’s painful, painful in the sense of being a real waste of attitude and time and testimony. And it’s not that I absolutely am not believing in You, Jesus, but it’s just as terrible to not trust in any particular area. And sometimes we don’t even realize we have this kind of attitude. Sometimes we want everyone else to change and don’t understand that I’m the one that needs to take the sunglasses off.
So, eight days after Thomas makes his declaration, You show up when he is in the room. And You, Jesus, turn directly to Thomas and feed him back his exact words and his desire from eight days ago. “Put your finger here, and see My hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Now, I wasn’t there, but I don’t think Thomas followed through on any of those actions that he had desired before. I think in that moment, Thomas realized how foolish and blind his words were. What was his response now? “My Lord and my God!”
Now listen to Jesus’ words. I need to listen to them too. “Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Thomas saw Jesus. Jesus, You didn’t say that he touched You. He saw You. You were gracious and answered part of his “bossy” request. But what if Thomas had remembered Your promises through Scripture? What if he had so believed in them that he had decided to not believe in the physical evidence? What if it hadn’t mattered to Thomas what the circumstances looked like because he had determined to trust in Your word no matter what? Could that be what You, Jesus, are talking about here?
Maybe the most tremendous blessing from You comes to those who are most willing to trust You on the basis of Your word. Because maybe that’s when we’ve stopped putting You into our perspective and lining You up with our desires and dreams. Maybe that’s when we absolutely really begin to acknowledge that we don’t have the answers but You are the answer. Have I believed because I think I’ve narrowed You down to a person who acts in particular ways and then I can manipulate those ways to my advantage? Or have I believed because I can’t narrow You down. You are above me and Your ways are above my ways. Have I come to the point of just acknowledging, “My Lord and my God!” To get there, first I have to stop being my own lord and god.
Well, this speaks to the heart that hasn’t trusted yet, who hasn’t believed yet. But as a believer, I know that this can still speak to me. Because it’s easy after I have surrendered my life to my Lord and Savior, to take it back up again and start being my own lord and savior again. So, believer beware, lest I be caught up in this lie again.
So, I think I’ll end today with a prayer. I’d like to pray for you and me. This is from Paul, and it’s in Romans 12 :1-3. Lord, by Your mercy, may we present all that we are, body, soul, spirit, as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to You. This is spiritual worship. This is what You do in us and make us capable of. Keep us ever mindful that our purpose is to glorify You, that our purpose isn’t to be served, but to serve, and that our purpose is to sacrifice our selves just as Jesus, for the sake of others. So, when we try to walk away from the alter of sacrifice, and we do, draw us back and remind us of our purpose. And as You teach us what true spiritual worship is, conform us to Your image, not the world’s. Renew our minds by the power and knowledge of Your word which is truth for eternity and power. Use it to transform us so that we are no longer what we were. Make us new creations in You. Teach us to test everything that passes before us according to Your word and not ours so that we can discern Your will in the midst of everything and anything. You are the Author of everything good and acceptable and perfect and only You can show us those things. And by Your grace, keep us from thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought. Let our high thoughts be in You and in Your grace to work through us. And may we concentrate on the way that You have assigned us each to act in Your faith, looking to our own faithfulness, and keeping our focus on You. And in our faithfulness, may we live lives that compliment the faithfulness of our brothers and sisters in Christ.