The Saviour is passing by, he’s walking by, not in a hurry, he walks gently and slowly, he has time and he would have us to reach out to him, to stop him, to touch him. The lady reached out and touched the hem of his garment, the people called out to him. Gently and slowly he walks among us, no haste he is with us, and he says, “reach out to me, I am here for you. I am not going to pass you by,” he says, “I’ve come for you.” Reach out, touch him, receive from him.
John 20 v 19-29 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” Now Thomas, one of the twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though 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; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!“ Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Unlike most of the disciples and followers of Jesus, Thomas was not around on the day of resurrection. He wasn’t there to see the deserted grave clothes that lay in the empty tomb. He wasn’t there to hear the words of the angel, “He’s not here, he’s risen.” He didn’t hear those words. He wasn’t present on the evening when Jesus came and stood amongst the disiples and breathed on them. He wasn’t there to experience the joy and the wonder that the others knew. We don’t know where he was,the bible does’nt tell us. We don’t know what he was doing but, something we do know, he missed it!
Life can be like that at times, “if only we had been there,” “but we weren’t,” and “we missed it!” A church meeting, Sunday morning or Meeting at work, all Heaven breaks loose and “we missed it!” Don’t miss it! Those that do not attend are left thinking, “I’ve missed it!”
That must have been how Thomas had been feeling when those that had seen the evidence told Thomas that Jesus was alive again. There’s not even the slightest sense of a miricle, all he stated was, “I don’t believe it!” “I won’t believe it, I can’t. The only way I am going to believe this is if I see for myself.” The scars, the marks in Jesus hands, not only just to see but feel as well, put my finger in. He needed to see, and for Thomas, like so many others in society today, seeing is believing! I will not believe, I cannot believe until I see! Thomas is the sceptic and again there are so many who would surround us in society, even in church life we can find ourselves at times being sceptical to the things that we hear. Hearing reports of wonders or miracles and people would say, “Ah yes, that’s nice,” whilst inside they wonder just how real it all was. Thomas was not able to believe until he saw. Hearing people other times stating, you know I believe in God, if only he would give me a sign. If God was to give me a sign then I know that he exists. God HAS given us a sign, he sent us his son, the cross is a sign to the world, the empty tomb is a sign to the world. God sent a sign, his son and still the world does not believe.
Really, seeing is not believing for us as Christians, believing comes first and the seeing comes after. It is a matter of faith, a matter of belief.
Woody Allen the well known comedian stated, “I would believe in God if God sent me a sign such as, making a large deposit in a bank account under the name, Woody Allen.” I think we would all believe in God! There is nothing new in this desire to have a sign from God, even in Jesus day the people wanted conformation for the things that they believed and were asked to believe and Jesus recognised, and in John 4 he says; unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe. Thomas was among this crowd, in order to believe he needed to see. Hearing what the other disiples had to say, wasn’t going to be sufficient for him. There was no way hearing what others said was going to move him, from the place of doubt to the place of belief. For him to get to that place he had to see with his own eyes, the tangible evidence, nothing else would do. Unless I see nail marks in his hand, and put my finger where those nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe, I will not believe!
The disciples were not the only ones to have heard Thomas’s words, because there in that room, was the silent listener! An unseen listener! Remembering today that there is a silent listener, to every conversation, nothing we say goes unnoticed by God. The words of faith, the words of doubt, and not only the words but the thoughts of faith, and the thoughts of doubt. Even the faintest cry is not unnoticed by God. And that day the silent listener, the unseen yet resurrected Christ, witnessed Thomas statement.
There are times we all doubt, doubt sometimes what God has said to us, doubt what God has done in us, through us, for us. We doubt what God has promised. Times when we have been in that place where Thomas was, “Until I see, I‘m struggling to believe.” I can’t see it, how its going to happen. One reason we doubt, is because we don’t always understand what is happening and more than that, why it is happening, doubt comes in. God makes us a promise, and with the passing of time now, things seem to be happening and then we begin to wonder, “Did god really say?” The first line of the old testament bible, did God really say? It causes us to wonder and very soon that wondering could cross the line into doubt. It’s OK to wonder, but when we cross the line it is a different game. Thomas wasn’t just wondering, he was doubting. Doubt begins to take over and we disbelieve what God has said, we don’t believe it, it isn’t possible. We speak those words. God wants to lift us from the place of doubt to a place of belief in our hearts. What God wanted to do with Thomas, “Unless I see, I do not believe.”
Quite a statement, quite a challenge, quite a demand, and in many ways it is as if Thomas is throwing down the gauntlet. Thank God, Jesus came and picked it up. He showed himself to Thomas.
We don’t have the right to make such demands on God, but praise him he does understand our doubt, and he cares about us as we struggle about our doubts. Walk in faith the path of belief, when everything around you seems to be going in the opposite direction, its not easy to walk the line of faith and belief, we struggle. Thomas struggled to walk that line of belief. God knows us better than we know ourselves.
When the Lord stood and dealt with Thomas, there was no condemnation. As the Lord stands with us where ever we may be as we journey through life, and we try to walk that path of faith, he understands our doubt. What did he do to Thomas? He came near, and what he wants to do for us, come along side us and help us with various things in various places of doubt.
The first appearance of Jesus, minus Thomas, was on the evening of the ressurection, and when we think about Thomas and his statement of doubt, it would have been very easy for the Lord to just suddenly come and say;- “Come on Thomas, here I am.” Put him out of his misery, let him see. But Jesus didn’t, he made him wait. It was one week later, Thomas had heard the reports of the disciples, he had seen their joy, seen their relation, one week later. Notice God wasn’t in a rush, God took his time and made him wait. When we think about our own lives, situations, circumstances, God's not in a rush, God takes his time. One of the things we know with God is his timing is always perfect, and when God deals with people, he has his own timing.
We could sometimes plan Gods agenda for him, this is how you should do it, when you should do it, and we have it all planned out, even the promises that God makes us, this is how it should happen, this is when it should happen. God has his own programme worked out, and his own plan. He's never too early and he's never too late. For seven days Thomas had to reflect on his own words, not a very happy week in Thomas’s life. Perhaps actually the worst week of his life, day after day hearing more from the other disciples. They were over the moon, “He’s alive!” Thomas would have had to have sat and listened to them, he would have had to have watched their exuberance and excitement and their joy.
One of the most infuriating things in the world is to be with joyous people when you are miserable. Long days for Thomas, turning the issue over and over in his mind, he’s in that place where he’s just trapped between hope and fear, doubt and belief. Would he ever be able to share the joy, the something that the others had. Many of us think like that, will we ever be able to enter into that something that they seem to have. A lot of people want to believe, but they find it too hard, too difficult. Help is on its way! Jesus came! Peace be with you!
Lock yourself into his presence and come out different. What did Jesus say to Thomas? Thomas; come and see. Here are the nail prints, here is where the spear went in my side, come and see, come and feel, come and find out for yourself. Jesus wanted to help him to believe, to move from the place of doubt to the place of belief. Jesus was on his side, he is on our side, he’s on your side. Do what you need to do in order to come to the place of belief, there is an invitation from the resurrected Christ who stands amongst us, he wants to show you so we can move from that place of doubt to the place of belief.