John 20:24-20 – “Faithful Thomas”

Thomas was not with the disciples when Jesus first appeared after the resurrection. We are not told why and it may not be important. But while the other ten were locked in the upper room out of fear, Thomas was someplace else. Thomas seemed ready to die with Jesus in John 11, so it may be the case that he is willing to go about his life, almost daring the Jews to arrest him too.

On the other hand, perhaps Thomas experienced a “crisis of faith” when Jesus died. If he believed Jesus was the Messiah and that the Messiah was not going to be crucified by the Romans, perhaps Jesus’ death caused him to doubt everything. He may be in a state of denial, like Peter, but deeper.

Whatever the case, he returns to the upper room the disciples tell him that Jesus is alive. Jesus is “more than alive,” he has risen from the dead to a new kind of life. Whatever the reason, when he is told that Jesus rose from the dead, he refuses to believe without further evidence. Thomas gets a bad reputation as a skeptic for not believing what the disciples told him.

On the other hand, there is virtually nothing in Second Temple Period Judaism that anticipated the death of the Messiah not his resurrection to eternal life. It was something which Thomas was not ready to believe since it was unbelievable within his world view. The disciples are making an extraordinary claim, that the messiah intended to die and rise to eternal life. This will require them to re-think virtually everything that they believe.

When Jesus appears in the midst of the disciples a second time, Thomas believes and confesses Jesus as “Lord and God” (verse 28). Thomas’s confession is a theological statement for the whole book of John. The writer has been slowly revealing who Jesus is through a series of misunderstandings, people hear Jesus’ words but do not fully comprehend his meaning. Even after the resurrection, Mary thinks Jesus’ body was stolen, then the disciples wonder if he ever really died. Even when he appears to them, they still do not confess Jesus quite the way Thomas does in verse 28.

John therefore intends Thomas’s words as a final word on who Jesus is: he is the “Lord and God” of the reader, and that by believing that he is the Lord one can have eternal life in his name (verse 31).

13 thoughts on “John 20:24-20 – “Faithful Thomas”

  1. If I had to choose on Thomas’ reaction to Jesus’ death it would be P. Long’s latter explanation; “On the other hand, perhaps Thomas experienced a “crisis of faith” when Jesus died” (Long). And I don’t blame Thomas, being raised a Jew, doubting his faith in Jesus after his death which appears quite wimpy and not so messianic compared to the savior he was expecting to be conquering and ruling. Another element of Judaism belief is actually seeing. Crowds came out to see Jesus perform miracles because they needed to see it for themselves in order to believe it. They required a witnessing of the miraculous. Which is quite a contrast to what is required for most people today. Of course God is able to do whatever, but if everyone was like the Jews, there may not be as many people coming into relationship with Jesus in our time. The writer of Hebrews says it like this, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). It’s interesting to note that there is a written account of all of the disciples receiving the Holy Spirit except for Thomas. I don’t want to claim that Thomas wasn’t born again, nor do I want to claim that about anyone. It appears as the Holy Spirit is clearly at work in his life following this experience because of the kingdom work he did throughout the Roman Empire. Before the first group of disciples witnessed the resurrected Jesus, there doors were locked for fear of the Jews (John 19:19). It is the same deal with this appearance to Thomas. I’m not sure if this is also because of fear of the Jews or if this was the norm during their time. Although Thomas so often gets singled out, he was no different from the other disciples who are no different from us today. Who knows how long the first group of disciples would have stayed in that room with the doors locked if it weren’t for Jesus appearing to them. It is through Jesus revealing himself to us that results in our desire and zeal to pursue a relationship and to serve him.

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  2. It seems that Thomas has a very human view of what happened. His response of needing proof is something that we as humans do a lot. “I’ll believe it when I see it…” is a typical statement and it seems as that is where Thomas is coming from. That makes Thomas sound like a skeptic but I like what P. Long says at the end in terms of the writer of John is slowly revealing the meaning of the book of John. He is “Lord and God”. The disciples were locked away from the Jews until Jesus comes back and in the same way, Thomas is away as well. Like JCaps points out, the disciples and Thomas are not much different. Jesus reveals himself to them and they believe. Thomas reaction seems as if he is more surprised and amazed that Jesus is risen and therefore would love to see for himself. We obviously do not have the opportunity to “see” Jesus like Thomas or the disciples did but in the same way, this leads to the excitement of having faith that one day we to will see his face.

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  3. I would tend to agree with Clark. The fact that Thomas doubted Jesus’ resurrection seems to fit well with a human response. Thomas does not seem anymore skeptical than the rest of his fellow Jews living in a generation which demanded a sign. Jesus shows Thomas his hands and side and then Thomas believes. In verse 29, however, Jesus says “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”. We fall into this second category of people who must believe without having seen. Thomas’ reaction and approach reminds us to be patient with those who have trouble accepting the Gospel message. (How much more difficult is it to believe in a resurrected Jesus for someone from our current worldview?) This passage is a great reminder as well as an encouragement to Christians. The fact that we can come to a faith in Christ is nothing short of a miracle; the work of the Holy Spirit to soften our hearts and minds.

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    • I really like what Scott has to say about this. ” Thomas’ reaction and approach reminds us to be patient with those who have trouble accepting the Gospel message. (How much more difficult is it to believe in a resurrected Jesus for someone from our current worldview?)” Thomas doubted the resurrection of Jesus just as any one of us would have. It was not until he saw it with his own eyes and touched it that he believed. While this is often looked down upon, as P. Long pointed out, this is a “theological statement for the whole book of John.” Thomas was the first to get it right, Jesus is the “Lord and God”. As Scott said, this is the right reaction and Jesus tells him “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” which is easily directed to today. The truth is, people will always have a hard time accepting the Gospel of the resurrection of Jesus because it does not make sense in a rational worldview. Both today and back then, it was deemed impossible to raise from the dead. Thus, we need to be patient with those who struggle in accepting it. Perhaps it is better that they struggle rather than blindly believe. As Scott said, “The fact that we can come to a faith in Christ is nothing short of a miracle; the work of the Holy Spirit to soften our hearts and minds.”

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  4. I would have to agree with Scott and Andrew that it was Thomas human response to want proof that Jesus had risen from the dead. After Jesus brutal death on the cross I can see why Thomas would want proof and yet I do not understand that he did not believe the other disciples. When Jesus appears to the disciples in verse 27 I like that Jesus tells Thomas to “Stop doubting and believe.” I like verse 29 because Jesus says “…blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Through the reassurance that Jesus gives Thomas that he is Lord it helps me understand and grasp more of who Jesus was. Jesus gave Thomas the proof that he needed and through this scene being expressed in the Bible gives Christians today reassurance that Jesus is Lord. And that though our faith we will be blessed.

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  5. It’s sad that we reduce our view of Thomas into a nickname given to him “doubting Thomas” from the one instance in which he doubts the resurrected Messiah. We seem to do this with many Biblical characters. Jonah is a repentant because he finally goes to Nineveh (but we overlook his attitude following his preaching), David is looked at as such a holy king (but he sinned just like the rest of us, sending someone to die in battle so he could be with his wife), even Judas…some argue that perhaps he could have repented for betraying Jesus, but he is looked at as being evil, a very black and white outlook.

    Thomas is looked at in such a negative light for his moment of doubt. But what if any of the disciples had switched places with him? If Thomas was with the disciples when Jesus had appeared to them, he of course would have been one of the believers. If any of the others had not been there, I would think that their reactions would have been much the same. I think many of us would have reacted the way that Thomas did. The resurrection was a miracle, and a miracle that was not expected of the Messiah. We are so quick to look down on others without really asking ourselves…would we do the same thing?

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  6. I agree with John in that Thomas needed proof. The Jews often needed signs in order to believe; “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom” (1 Cor. 1:22). The Jews needed miraculous signs to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. Thomas was waiting to have proof in order to believe as well. Before this time God used signs to show that He was who He said he was, he used miracles to prove his validity in different situations. After Jesus appears to Thomas and Thomas declares Jesus God, Thomas leads the disciples with the realization of who Jesus really is. “Thomas’s words as a final word on who Jesus is: he is the ‘Lord and God’ of the reader, and that by believing that he is the Lord one can have eternal life in his name,” (Long). I find it interesting that after all this Jesus still does some “miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book,” (John 20:30). I do not fully understand why Jesus would do this after rising from the dead, what more could the disciples need as proof? However, it could just be that I do not understand how they truly required signs in order to believe since I have been born again into the dispensation of Grace.

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  7. I agree with John that even though Thomas gets singled out in John 20, his reaction is really no different than that of the rest of the disciples. John 20:20 says that Jesus showed them his hands and side and then the disciples were overjoyed because they saw the Lord. It is the same for Thomas in verse 27. Jesus shows him his hands and his side and then Thomas believes. Thomas’ claim that Jesus is ‘my Lord and my God’ is a big statement that the author of John wants to emphasize. This shows the certainty of Jesus as Lord and Messiah. Strauss says, “The Gospel which began with ‘the Word was God’ climaxes with ‘my Lord and my God'” (Strauss 327). Thomas’ words serve as a major closing point to the book of John. It represents the point that Jesus is Lord.
    I find it interesting that Jesus mentions that those who believe without seeing are blessed. This is fitting as Jesus is no longer physically present and people are called to believe in his death and resurrection without physically seeing his hands and his side. So now the challenge for us is to believe that Jesus is Lord even though we cannot see him. Although we cannot see Jesus, the book of John is written so that we may ‘believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).

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  8. I’m going to lean on the side of Thomas being less of a doubter and more bold. I think if he was just away from the disciples because he had lost all faith that he wouldn’t have come back at all. And when we look at the other disciples it’s not like they believe with no prof either! When they were told Peter and John ran to the tomb to “see” if what they had been told was true. Thomas appears to want a little more proof, getting to physically touch Jesus but I still think he isn’t given a enough credit.

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  9. I would lean a little to the side of perhaps Thomas having a “faith crisis” after the death of Christ. This may have been a situation in which his thinking goes from, “this guy, Christ, is awesome and powerful” to all of the the sudden being, “wait… he died? what now? There is such a change of what is going on. So when he needs proof after Jesus rises from the dead, it makes sense that he would ask for it.

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  10. I don’t think Thomas was any different than the average believer in Christ. We see that Thomas has doubts with faith in Christ. Every great while I can admit that for stupids reasons I doubt mine. And through finding and and exhausting all the excuses, you find that there is one unbearable truth. The Truth of God, the truth of who Jesus was. And you can see that in the end (in John), Thomas believed who heartily, boldly, and finally that ‘…Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). I don’t think Thomas should be considered a skeptic. You should never be considered an outsider for not jumping on the bandwagon with everybody else. Thomas was waiting to have proof in order to believe as well. I find that a very acceptable excuse. Since in this time most people believed Jesus through what he did and taught and said.

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  11. I really found interesting to read about the possibility that Thomas was bolder than the other disciples, and was being more bold than his peers. It is healthy to explore all possibilities, I cannot know what actually happened to Thomas during the period between Jesus death and resurrection. The fact that Thomas doubted I think is possibly because of his Jewish perspectives, ” If he believed Jesus was the Messiah and that the Messiah was not going to be crucified by the Romans, perhaps Jesus’ death caused him to doubt everything.” I know that I would probably act in the same manner if I was put into Thomas’ position. Out of all the disciples acts of betrayal and abandonment Thomas’ doubting is a human reaction to supernatural things.

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  12. I think that there is a very strong possibility that Thomas really did begin to doubt Jesus. He may not have completely abandoned his faith, but he could have had doubts, especially because he wasn’t expecting Jesus to die. I think that Thomas’ exclamation of, “My Lord and my God!” show his new found faith in Jesus. Strauss also agrees that Thomas’ doubts were turned into faith, not that Thomas had so much faith that he just went about his daily business without being araid of being condemned (Strauss, 327). The purpose of the book of John is for everyone to confess Jesus as Lord and receive eternal life through Christ. I believe that this situation where Thomas confesses Jesus is Lord is shown as an example of what must be done. I think it also shows what must not be done, with the statement in verse 29, that the ones that believe and have not seen are blessed. We have to believe and confess without seeing.

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