This week we looked at Thomas, the disciple well know for his doubt. But is that fair? Let's meet Thomas, and see who he really is...
This message based on John 20:19-31. To read it now, click here.
If I were to mention the names of certain disciples and ask you to write down the first word that comes into your mind, I would expect to get a variety of answers. It’s unlikely everyone would come up with the same words. Some disciples might get more of you on the same page. For example, if I were to mention the name Judas, I would expect many of you would write down the word "betray" but I’m sure not all of you would. If I were to mention Simon Peter, some of you would write down the word “faith,” or “boldness” but again I doubt all of you would. If I were to mention the names of James and John, some of you might write down the phrase “Sons of Thunder,” but again, I wouldn’t expect all of you to.
But when I mention the name Thomas, I bet the chances of getting the same answer go way up, right? There is little question what most of you would write down. It would be the word “doubt,” wouldn’t it? Is that what you were thinking? So many of us have so closely associated Thomas with the word doubt, we’ve even coined the phrase, “Doubting Thomas.”
I think it’s interesting that the first three gospels don’t mention Thomas at all, except for the listing of the disciples. John mentions Thomas a couple times, it's in his Gospel that he begins to have a distinct personality, but even there, there are only 155 words about him. We really don’t know very much about Thomas. There is not a lot about him in the Bible about him.
When Jesus turned his face toward Jerusalem to go and visit Lazarus, who had already passed away by this time, the disciples thought that it would be certain death for all of them. Last time they were there, the Jews almost killed them. But when they started out to go back, we see this: “Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him’” (John 11:16). That’s a courageous statement, but we don't remember him for that.
We also seem to skim over the part of the story we saw in our reading this morning, where the Divinity of Jesus is very clearly and unmistakably proclaimed. I mean, really, the same story that gives Thomas his infamous nickname, is the story that has Thomas making an earth shattering confession of faith? Verse 28 says, “Thomas said to him, “My Lord, and my God.” Not teacher. Not Messiah. But God! This is the only place in Scripture where Jesus is called God without any kind of qualification. And he says it with such conviction as if he’s just simply recognizing a fact, like 2 + 2 = 4, or the sun is in the sky. You are my Lord and my God! Does this sound like someone who doubts?
But we don’t remember him for that. We only seem to remember the scene before this, where Jesus appeared to the others, but Thomas wasn’t there. Let me share something about this scene. In verse 20, Thomas is gone, Jesus appears to the other disciples, and it says, “After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” So they saw his hands and side, and they believed. Thomas said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” What’s he saying? He just wants to see what the others have already seen! They saw, and now they believe. But nobody thinks of them as doubters. Thomas wants to see, then he’ll believe. He’s really no more of a doubter than the rest of them.
So this morning, I want you to think of Thomas as the one with certainty that Jesus was His Lord and His God. I want to think of Thomas, not as the doubter, but as the one who had an undying faith in Jesus. A disciple who, instead of being filled with doubt, actually had a certainly about who Jesus was. And from there, we’ll look at what that kind of certainty would like for a believer today.
First, I think there are two areas where believers need the certainty of Thomas. First, we need to be certain about who Jesus Christ is. Matthew 16:16 Peter makes the bold statement about who Jesus is when he said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” Of course we know Peter enough to expect such a bold statement from him. And we saw earlier Thomas’ statement, “My Lord, and my God.”
Earlier, we mentioned Jesus’ trip to Judea to raise Lazarus. When he arrived at the house, Martha came out to greet him, and in that conversation, she makes a statement of her own, showing her certainty of who Jesus is. She said, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” How about you? What do you say about Jesus? Is He your Lord and Savior, and will you admit it to others? Are you certain as to who He is?
So we need a certainty about who Jesus is, we also need to be certain about our salvation. Remember Thomas called Him “My Lord.” Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 about how we can be sure of our salvation, “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” How can we be sure of our salvation? God not only promised it, but has already paid the down payment, the deposit, a guarantee, if you will. God’s Holy Spirit in our hearts is the guarantee.
1 John 4:13 says pretty much the same thing, “We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us his Spirit.” That Spirit is the guarantee, the deposit that God will see it through. John also wrote that the reason he writes his first letter, in 5:13, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” John wrote his letters so that we know of our salvation with certainty.
So how about you? Do you know for certain that your salvation is a done deal? Do you believe in Jesus, and do you believe that the Holy Spirit has been granted to you as that guarantee? I encourage you to reflect on that, do you really believe? What do you need to turn over to Jesus so that you can believe more fully? What’s holding you back?
So we can know for certain who Jesus is, and we can know for certain about our salvation. But where does this certainty come from? Let’s take a few minutes to explore that question. First, and perhaps the most obvious, is that certainty is gained through Scripture. The Bible says what we need to know, and we’ve already looked at some of those passages. Peter and Thomas and Martha already wrote about who Jesus is, and we saw their writings. We know what they believed and why they believed it. We can believe it too. So spending time in Scripture will help us to gain this certainty.
Secondly, this kind of certainty is gained through obedience. John says, in 1 John 2:3-5, “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him.” Unfortunately, we as Americans can be a fiercely independent people. And we don’t like being told what to do. But if we will humble ourselves and obey God’s commands, we will come to know him, and will come to know for certain who He is, and our salvation will be sure.
A final way, certainty is gained through prayer. As we pray, we begin to see answered prayers, and we begin to be more certain in our faith. There are certainly a number of passages that talk about prayer, and God’s promise to hear and to answer our prayer. We see a great one in 1 John 5:14-15, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God; that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.”
In his gospel, John wrote another passage about the certainty of prayer, “Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” We can ask for anything in Jesus’ name, and God will do it, to bring glory to God.
Matthew gives a couple passages about prayer that are really good, too. The first talks about praying together, coming together with another believer to lift up a prayer request. Matthew 18:19-20 says, “If two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them.” Most of us are probably aware of that one.
A final example, and most of you are probably aware of this one, too, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to this fig tree, but also you can say this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
So Thomas got a bum rap. He was actually quite certain about what he believed. We can be too. That certainty is gained though scripture, through obedience to Jesus’ commands, and through prayer. Make sure you’re spending time in the Word. Don’t just read it, but do what it says. And pray. And you’ll find yourself becoming as certain about your faith as Thomas was.