As a believer in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I have tremendous respect and appreciation for honest doubters. There may be more hope for a sincere skeptic than for the shallow believer who is too easily swayed by any wind that blows.
It is not unusual to hear some preachers and Sunday School teachers criticizing the Apostle Thomas for his lack of faith. “Doubting Thomas,” they call him. On that first Easter following the resurrection of Christ, he was the one of Jesus’ disciples for whom the empty tomb was not proof enough of the resurrection.
But instead of being a worse doubter than the other disciples, perhaps Thomas was simply displaying more intellectual honesty. Earlier there had been occasions when he seemed to have a more courageous faith than the rest of the 12 apostles.
When Jesus was determined to go to Bethany where He would raise Lazarus from the dead, the other disciples were fearful that the trip would be too risky, considering the increasingly hostile sentiments against Jesus in the area. They tried desperately to dissuade Jesus from making the trip - but not Thomas. This sometimes doubter bravely challenged his brethren, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” John 11:16. That was real faith.
A short time later Jesus spoke to his disciples concerning the place in heaven He was going to prepare for them. Not a one of the 12 fully understood what Jesus was saying, but only Thomas was truthful enough to admit it. He responded, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”
That wasn’t doubt; it was honesty. Because Thomas was willing to risk looking ignorant in order to ask an honest question, we have Jesus’ unforgettable answer, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6.
On the evening of the resurrection Jesus presented himself to only 10 of his apostles. Judas was dead; Thomas was nowhere to be found. Wherever he was it is certain Thomas was confused, disillusioned, and demoralized – full of doubt.
Later Thomas told his fellow disciples he could not believe in the resurrection until he personally touched the wounds of the crucifixion. In eight days Thomas got that opportunity. With faith renewed he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God.” John 20:26-29.
For Thomas, a sincere questioning doubt became the foundation of an unshakable faith. He became a missionary and carried the gospel to Parthia, Persia (Iran), and finally to India. The indigenous Christian Church in India today can trace its beginnings to the ministry of Thomas in the first century. Mount St. Thomas, near Madras, memorializes his name.
The proof of Thomas’ faith came when as an old man in India he died a martyr’s death. His life was not taken because he shared the beauty and wisdom of Jesus. No one objected to that. But it was Thomas’ insistence upon the resurrection of Christ from the dead that incited his murder. So resolute was Thomas in his faith in the risen Lord that he would rather die than recant.
The transformation in Thomas and the other apostles is to me the greatest proof of the resurrection. With them Christians everywhere echo the prayer, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.”