Today is the first Sunday after Easter Sunday, and if, instead of sitting here in this building today, we had been among those first disciples on the first Sunday following the resurrection, we would have had Thomas, the twin, with us, of whom we read earlier in the Gospel. And, he would not have been a happy customer, as we say in our day. We would have been excited about the resurrection of Jesus, while he was not. But that would shortly change. Jesus would have appeared in our midst and dealt with Thomas’ doubts and we would have heard Thomas’ famous confession of faith: “My Lord and my God!”
But Thomas is not known today as “Confessing Thomas,” is he. No. He’s known as “Doubting Thomas” because of how he had given into his doubts about the resurrection. Why did Thomas doubt so much? Many have attributed his doubts to his temperament. In the few places in the Gospels where we read of something Thomas has said, he seems to have had a serious mind about things; one of those personalities that tends to see the gloomy side of life. Well, his temperament may indeed have had something to do with his doubts, but we can all have our doubts at times, can’t we; whatever our constitution….
And because there are enough things to trouble us and tempt us to have doubts about our faith in this world, we certainly do not need to be doing the kinds of things that Thomas did which made his doubts worse. We find three things that Thomas did – or didn’t do – that aggravated his doubts:
1) he did not assemble with the disciples on the first occasion when Jesus appeared to them;
2) he would not believe their testimony about their experience of the resurrection, and
3) he stubbornly presumed upon the Lord’s kindness.
Let’s consider these things for a moment.
First of all, if he had been with the disciples on the day of the resurrection, that would have settled things once and for all and he would never have been called Doubting Thomas. He would have seen Jesus the same time everyone else saw him.
Now, we have no idea why he was not with the disciples, though, if we want to refer again to an apparent gloominess of mind, he may have been too depressed to meet with them. But that would have been the very problem, wouldn’t it. How many people will not come to church and assemble with God’s people in worship because they are depressed or don’t feel like going, when that is the very thing they need to do to feel better?! How many blessings, how much encouragement, how much spiritual strength do we miss, how much do we weaken our faith and aggravate our doubts like Thomas did, because we absent ourselves from the assembly of the saints?
For a long time in my own walk with God I thought the way to get close to God and to grow in my faith was to spend more time alone with God in prayer. But then I was confronted with the plain command in Hebrew 10, that we are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, but instead we are to be engaged in helping each other on to heaven. On top of that, I found in Scripture that there are a lot of things that are important for our spiritual health that we cannot have in our lives by staying home and being alone. That is why C. S. Lewis says that the New Testament knows nothing of solitary religion.
But one of the main things that has helped me see the importance of regularly attending services with God’s people is Jesus’ promise: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst.” If I really want to be close to the Lord, I need to go where the Lord is, and he says that, in some special way, he is with His people.
In a special way, Jesus was with his people on that first Easter Sunday – and Thomas missed it because he simply didn’t show up. If we don’t want to trouble ourselves like Thomas did, and aggravate our doubts, we need to meet with the Lord’s people.
The second thing Thomas did not do that he should have done was listen to his fellow disciples about their experience with the Lord. They told Thomas, “We have seen the Lord!” But he refused to believe them.
Now just think about this. Who is telling him that the Lord is risen? These are sterling people that he has known for years. And they told him with one voice: the whole fellowship, everybody was telling him this. He should have been able to trust these people and to believe what they had told him, but, instead, he made his doubting worse.
Earlier I mentioned that passage in Hebrews, chapter 10, about not forsaking the assembly of the brethren. One of the things Hebrews 10 tells us we are to do when we meet together is to encourage each other’s faith. As it says in the Philip’s translation, “And let us not hold aloof from our church meetings, as some do. Let us do all we can to help one another’s faith, and this the more earnestly as we see the Final Day drawing ever nearer.” (p. 175)
The Lord intends for us to be helping each other to not doubt His truth and goodness to us in Christ. We are to help each other’s faith. We are to tell each other, like the disciples tried to tell Thomas, about the things the Lord is doing in our lives. But for this encouragement to work, we have to listen to what we say to each other. If we don’t listen and believe what we share with each other – for whatever reason: perhaps we like our pouting and the attention we are getting, for example, or we are too proud to admit something – well, it won’t do us any good.
There are many of us believers who could tell some profound stories from their own experience about the Lord’s ability to sustain us in times of grief and loss. Grief and loss will come to us all. Do you have doubts about your ability to get through these rough times in our lives? Then listen to the stories your fellow disciples can tell! The Lord is utterly dependable. To paraphrase the songwriter, Jesus really does give us more grace when the burdens grow greater; he really does send us more strength when the labours increase; to added affliction he really does add his mercy, and to multiplied trials, he really does give us his multiplied peace. Don’t be like Thomas and turn your ear away from the encouraging words of your fellow believers, because of your pride, or self-pity or whatever. Listen to their true testimonies and send your doubts packing.
Lastly, Thomas troubled himself by tempting the Lord, by presuming upon Him. “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.” That is to say, “Jesus has got to do what I want him to do or I’m not going to believe.”
I once had a fellow down in the Caymans say the same kind of thing to me one day. He said, “I’ll believe in Jesus when he appears before me and shows himself to me,” as if the Lord had to give him some special attention. Our Lord, after his resurrection, appeared to lots of people a lot of times, and those appearances were recorded for all history, so that we would know that he had done so. He therefore doesn’t have to appear for every single person for them to believe in him. This idea of, “I’ll not believe unless God does something special for me that he’s not doing for anybody else” is nothing but stubborn pride and presumption. Jesus did not behave that way before God, did he? He prayed, “nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.” But Thomas and this other fellow down on the island demanded that God must do what they wanted him to do, or else.
Friends, sometimes we trouble ourselves because we have an idea of what God ought to do about something and then, when he doesn’t do it, we doubt his faithfulness. We doubt that he hears our prayers and that he wants what is best for us. When we do this, we are aggravating our doubts, because we are presuming upon the Lord’s goodness and it’s all our own fault.
But how did the Lord respond to Thomas’s misbehaviour? Did he condemn him for not having been there on that first Easter Sunday? Did he condemn him for not listening to the other disciples? Did he condemn him for his presumption? He could have, because he should not have been acting like that. But, no. He turns Thomas’ attention away from his doubts to himself. That was all Thomas really needed; and the Lord knew it. Thomas had failed the Lord, but the Lord did not fail Thomas – he never did. And He never fails any of His children. Jesus is the Author and the Finisher of our Faith. He knows our weakness; he knows our faith will never be perfect in this life, and so He continues to show Himself to the eyes of our hearts and renew our trust in Him.
Here friends is the best answer to all our doubts. Look away from them, and turn your eyes upon Jesus. If we are looking at our doubts, our faith will be shrink. But if we look to him, our Faithful Saviour, our faith will be inspired. Jesus is the same He has ever been and ever will be – the absolutely dependable God. Keep your eyes on Him. Amen.Feel free to share this post