The Apostle Thomas gets a pretty bad wrap. I mean, you ask for proof that Jesus resurrected from the dead once and BAM… labeled a doubter for two millennia. To be fair all of the disciples abandoned Jesus and all of them sat around after his death throwing a pity party, even though He told them it would happen like this and He planned on resurrecting. I mean, they all just saw their beloved Lord die on a cross. Why wouldn’t doubt creep in. To be even fairer, we doubt A LOT more than Thomas and we know Jesus conquered death, but no one is going around calling me Doubting Bruce (or other names that are probably more appropriate, i.e. Selfish Bruce, or Prideful Bruce. Maybe we should start that as a thing and see how it pans out.).
But what if Thomas wasn’t as doubtful as we first thought?
I heard a sermon the other day where the Pastor was chronicling Thomas’ life of doubt and he referenced John 11:16 as one of Thomas’ instances of doubt. I’ll get to what Thomas said in a second, but first let me set up the context. In the previous chapter Jesus and His disciples were in Jerusalem for the Feast of Dedication. As was common, Jesus began to teach and told the Jews there that He and God were one. As you can imagine, any really good Jew would get furious at this notion and would deem it blasphemy, so they did what anyone would do and picked up rocks to stone Him. Ultimately Jesus and His disciples escape the crowd, but then a messenger comes and tells Him that His friend, Lazarus, is dead. So Jesus decides that He is going to go to Bethany (basically a suburb of Jerusalem) and bring His friend back to life. After deciding that, the Disciples remind Him that they almost stoned Him to death, to which Jesus tells them He is doing it so that they would believe.
And that brings us to John 11:16. In that verse, in response to Jesus’ potential forthcoming stoning, Thomas says to the other disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
There are a couple different thoughts on this. One is that the “him” that Thomas was referring to was Lazarus and that Thomas’ doubt so overshadowed his life that he just assumed they were all going to die if they went to Bethany.
The other thought, many think more correctly, is that the “him” was referring to Jesus, but that it was still grounded in doubt. Although he might have been talking about going and dying with Jesus, because many Jews had just tried to stone Him, many scholars believe that this statement by Thomas just revealed his doubt in the miracle that Jesus told them He was about to do with Lazarus.
What if neither of those were the case? What if Thomas statement was actually a declaration of commitment to Jesus because he saw who Jesus was?
It’s possible that Thomas, after seeing Jesus perform miracle upon miracle, was actually, in his heart, willing to follow Jesus to death. I experience this all the time. My heart is completely sold out to following Jesus; the intent of my heart is to be obedient and follow Him, even unto death. Then, out of nowhere, my head (or pride, or selfishness) gets in the way and I don’t follow through. It’s altogether possible that Thomas was so committed to following Jesus, that in his heart he was completely sold out to dying with him, but when the time came for him to resolute in his commitment, he faltered (as many of us do).
I’m not convinced that a moment of doubt, in the face of extreme tragedy, qualifies you for a lifetime title of doubter. What I am convinced of is this: in the face of intense doubt, Jesus will always present His hands and side to you, that you might declare “My Lord and My God.”
Doubt isn’t the same as rejection. Doubt signifies struggle and Jesus doesn’t shy away from struggle. God’s grace is sufficient for your doubt. Jesus died and resurrected to redeem you regardless of and in the midst of your doubt.
How have you handled doubt in the past?