MATTHEW 10:3c (part two)
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 10:3c (part two) “. . .Thomas,. . .”
Simon the Leader, Andrew the Usher, James the Thunderbolt, John the Beloved, Philip the Analyst, and Bartholomew the True, are followed by Thomas the Melancholy. In addition to being lonely, devoted, questioning, and missing, he was a doubting Thomas. Unfortunately, this title is his main claim to fame. Our cultural folklore uses the phrase “Doubting Thomas” to describe skeptics.
Since Thomas missed our Lord’s appearance to the disciples on the night of the resurrection, they tried to convince him Jesus truly was alive, but Thomas doubted. He defiantly dug in his heels, “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” (JN 20:25). These were the words of a devastated man. Thomas had been hurt enough. He did not want to get his hopes up again, or face more false expectations. In his defense, we admit Thomas showed no less faith than the Apostles showed when they heard the report of the ladies. Also, he asked for no more evidence than the disciples had already received. Jesus showed them His hands and His side (JN 20:20). This is precisely the proof Thomas requested.
The testimony of the others should have sufficed, but before we criticize, we need to ask ourselves, how much evidence do we require? How often do we read a Bible promise that applies directly to our situation, and yet do not rest in it?
The fact Thomas doubted proves there was no conspiracy among the disciples to fabricate a tale of resurrection and perpetrate a lie around the world. Even the Apostles were slow to believe, but once convinced, they were willing to lay down their lives to attest their having seen Jesus alive. Such testimony was risky.
They had nothing to gain and everything to lose by telling this story. Their belief in Christ’s resurrection cost them persecution, loss, ridicule, and martyrdom, yet none of them ever recanted. The whole fabric of the Christian faith leans totally on the witness of these men. Millions have died for Christ, but the Twelve’s testimony unto death matters most. Thus, if even one had changed his story, the whole nonchristian world would still hold it up as evidence against Christianity.
All religions possess martyrs who have died for their faith, but what sets these men apart is, they died to prove the fundamental event of our belief system. No religion in history comes anywhere close to having this kind of corroborating evidence for its basic tenets. We all become Christians by faith, but it is no fanciful whim nor a leap in the dark. Instead, it is a studied and calculated decision based on sound reasoning and on facts verified by the blood of its first adherents.
After missing and doubting, he became a confessing Thomas. The seven days after Jesus’ resurrection must have been the most miserable week in Thomas’ life. While he was suffering with grief-stricken doubt, the others were celebrating.
When Jesus returned the next Sunday night, Thomas was present. His presence spoke well for the other disciples. Though Thomas had been absent and defiant, the others had not treated him as a derelict, or ostracized him. They handled him as a wounded comrade, not a despised enemy. They sought to help him, and strengthen him. May God always give us a soft heart for Christ’s wayward sheep.
Our Lord addressed Thomas directly, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side” (JN 20:27). Harsh reproof was unnecessary. The doubter would be melted, not humiliated.
It must have been a terrible embarrassment for Thomas to hear his own challenge repeated back to him by Jesus. Though invisible, Jesus had obviously been present when Thomas made his caustic remarks. Jesus heard the objectionable and obnoxious tone in Thomas’ voice, but condescended to grant what the Apostle had said he wanted. To this kind of love Thomas made a quick response.
Confessing Thomas blurted out to Jesus, “My Lord and my God” (JN 20:28). Thomas’ massive wall of doubt dissolved away in the flood of Jesus’ forgiving love. From this moment on, Thomas’ doubt was swallowed up in ecstacy.
For eight days, doubting Thomas had pondered the thought, “What if Jesus really is alive?” The others were celebrating, a state of mind which does not lend itself to deep thought. But Thomas was reflective. Having spent the week cogitating, he knew exactly what this would mean, and drew the only logical conclusion.
His leap of faith was astonishing. In one instant, he bounded from skepticism to an unseen world. Thomas rose to the loftiest view of Jesus ever spoken. His confession remains the strongest testimony to the deity of Jesus ever uttered.
The disciples experienced a huge learning curve with regard to who and what Jesus was. At first, He was a carpenter of Galilee, and then Rabbi, Teacher, Prophet, and Master. Later they called Him Messiah and Son of God. But to Thomas fell the privilege to verbalize their greatest leap of faith upward. When the Jesus who died was the same Jesus standing alive before them, only one conclusion was logical, and Thomas first verbalized it, Jesus was more than human.
To Thomas belongs the honor of being the first to look into the face of Jesus and say, “My God.” He said it and no one contradicted it. He said it and Jesus did not refute or refuse it. He said it and our Master accepted it. He said it and the world has been divided over it ever since. It was a moment worthy of Heaven, and John the Beloved caught the full significance of it. He knew this was the defining moment of Jesus’ life and ministry. Sixty years later, when John was an old man, he could remember the moment. Over half a century later, the awe of it was still a lingering fragrance to his soul, and he chose to make it the climax of his Gospel.
Once the truth expressed by Thomas was verbalized, the lives of the disciples and the history of the world could never be the same. Once spoken, it became the reality that demanded a change in their lives. Things would be different now.
“My Lord and my God”–Thomas acknowledged Jesus as Lord, owner, ruler, someone to control his thoughts and actions. Everyone needs a Lord. Since we are sinners by nature, by choice, and by habit, we are experts at messing up our own lives. It shouldn’t take us long to grow weary of our own control. We need someone outside ourselves to come take charge of our existence. We need to abdicate oversight of our lives to Someone we can trust. Thomas found the Lord he needed in Jesus. Jesus is Lord indeed, the only One who knows what’s best for us.
“My Lord and my God”–Thomas knew he needed God. We all need God, someone to receive our love and worship, someone worth giving our lives to, someone we can trust with our everlasting destiny. Thomas found God in Jesus. All that God is, Jesus is. Therefore, everything that is due to God is due to Christ.
“My Lord and my God”–what makes Thomas’ confession extra beautiful is that he not only put “Lord” and “God” together, but also added the special word that gives the phrase its deepest significance–“My.” Luther said the marrow of the Gospel is in the possessive pronouns. Jesus is Lord and God whether we believe it or not. Saving faith acknowledges His Lordship and Godship over one’s own life.
Thomas seemed to take hold of Jesus with both hands, with one saying, “My Lord,” and with the other saying, “My God.” This appropriation of Jesus unto himself is what made Thomas’ confession genuine. The possessive pronoun distinguishes his statement from one which demons could make. Has the first person possessive pronoun been made a part of your own personal confession of faith?
Lonely, devoted, questioning, missing, doubting, confessing–everything rose to a wonderful climax as he became heroic Thomas. The traditions regarding Thomas are among the strongest pertaining to the Apostles. Once the issue of faith was settled, Thomas developed a missionary zeal that carried him as far east as Paul went west. He spent thirty years starting churches. He started in Babylon, and then arrived at Malabar, in southern India, in 52 A.D. When modern missionaries arrived in India, they were surprised to find there an enclave of Christians, the Mar Thomas Syrian Church, which claimed to have been founded by Thomas.
His successful work in India eventually led to the salvation of Queen Tertia. Her conversion enraged her husband, the King, who immediately ordered his lancer to bayonet Thomas. History says the wound was four and a half inches (half a span) wide, four and a half inches deep. It is fitting a spear wound ended the life of the one who requested to put his hand in the spear wound of his Master. I like Thomas. I like his humanity. He encourages us. God used him. God can use us.