The Doubting of Thomas
But he said unto them, 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 — Joh_20:25
The Supreme Importance of the Resurrection
There is no reader of the New Testament who has not observed the supreme importance given to Christ’s resurrection. It underlies all arguments; it inspires all pleadings. It is the mould in which the apostles’ thought is cast; it is the morning star that lights their feet. I do not know that we have kept the accent there. We are so fond of asking what would Jesus do, that we almost forget the most stupendous thing that Jesus did. It calls for a tingling sense that Christ has risen to give us back again the apostolic music. In the Life of Dr. Dale of Birmingham there is no passage more arresting than the page where he tells how it flashed on him that Jesus lives. He had been ministering, preaching, praying, when suddenly, as in an inspiration, there broke on him the sense that Jesus was alive. We need to be touched like that. We need a new faith that the stone was rolled away. We need a new baptism of the conviction of Thomas, when, clasping those risen feet, he cried, “My Lord and my God.”
The Character of Thomas Gives Weight to His Conviction
First note, then that the character of Thomas gives tremendous weight to his conviction. Do we not sometimes wonder at the Master’s choice of disciples? Do we not feel that some of the twelve must have been very uncongenial company for Jesus? Why did He choose them, then? I can understand how a St. John would serve the world. But what service could a man of the character of Thomas render? I think the chief service of Thomas to the world was his magnificent witness to the resurrection. Peter was passionate, impulsive, rash, springing to his conclusions just as he sprang that morning on the waves; but when a great miracle is in the balance, I want the witness of another character than that. And John?—John loved so splendidly, that a loveless world has ruled him out of court. But the world cannot rule Thomas out of court; his character gives tremendous weight to his conviction. For Thomas was a very stubborn man. There was a grim tenacity about him that almost made him dour. Some men have only to see a thing in print to credit it. They would believe anything on the joint testimony of ten friends. But the ten disciples came hurrying to Thomas; and Peter and James and John were crying “We have seen the Lord,” and Thomas knew what truthful men they were, yet Thomas stubbornly refused to be convinced. There was something very dour in that—and it was wrong, as stubbornness generally is—but in the measurements of history it was superb. If that man is convinced, I am convinced. If the man who snaps his fingers at Peter and John comes round, I yield. And the next Sunday Thomas is on his face, crying “My Lord, my God.” Then, too, Thomas was a despondent man; brave but despondent, a more common combination than we think. Do you remember how when Christ was summoned to the grave of Lazarus, it was such a hazardous thing for Him to venture near Jerusalem that His disciples tried to dissuade Him from the journey? “Goest thou thither again?” said one. “Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well,” parleyed another. But Thomas said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” It was the word of a brave but a desponding man; a man who naturally saw the darker side—and we can thank God there was such a melancholy heart among the twelve. It is easy to persuade a merry heart. When I am full of hope, I shall credit the sunshine, though all the sky be cloud. But a melancholy man is hard to turn; and when a melancholy heart like Thomas’s turns in an hour, passes from death to life, accepts the joyfullest fact in the world’s history and worships, I bow the head before the infinite wisdom that set such a man among the twelve.
His Conviction Was Reached by the Dark Road of Doubt
So the character of Thomas gives tremendous weight to his conviction. Now mark, in the second place, that this conviction was reached by the dark road of doubt. I wonder if we could classify this doubt of Thomas? Well, there are some who doubt because their will is biased. That doubt runs down to life and character and is a dishonest, miserable thing. “Ah, if I only believed what you believe,” said one to Pascal, “I should very soon be a better man.” “Begin by being a better man,” Pascal replied, “and you will very soon believe what I believe.” There are those who will tell you they doubt this or that and give you a score of reasons for their doubts, and at the bottom it is a moral question. There is some habit that would have to go; there is some doubtful practice that must cease; there is some little reputation that would vanish, and the cloak of doubt is used to dally with sin. But no man would charge Thomas with that; whatever he had, he had a clean heart. He was a despondent, but not a dishonest doubter. Then there are others whose doubt is intellectual, and this is the prevalent doubting of today. But I do not think that is the doubt of Thomas. I cannot think that a man who had seen Lazarus’s resurrection could be intellectually skeptical of the resurrection of Lazarus’s Lord. His doubt sprang from another source than that. He doubted because he felt so deeply, and that perhaps is the sorest doubt of all. You mail a score of letters in a week, and you never doubt about their safe arrival. One day, you mail a precious manuscript, and instantly the possibilities of some mischance are wakened, and you cannot rest, you doubt its safety so much. It is because you feel so strongly, that you doubt. And Thomas felt so strongly that he doubted too. For the rising of Jesus meant everything to him. His heart was agonized lest it were false. Perhaps there would be more of Thomas’s doubt today if there were more of Thomas’s love.
Thomas’s Doubts Were Dispelled by Christ’s Gentleness
Lastly, these doubts were dispelled by the gentleness of Christ. Thomas set up one test. “Comrades,” he said, “I love you; but it is all too wonderful, and I cannot believe you. But hark, when I see with these eyes the gashes of the nails, and put this hand into the wound which the spear made, I shall believe our Lord is risen.” Then the next Sunday evening Jesus is in their midst, transfigured, beautiful; and He is saying, “Thomas reach forth thine hand, and touch, and be convinced—it is thy test.” And do we ever read that Thomas did it? Never. And do you dream he peered into the gashes? Here was his little test, and he forgot his test. The little particular was swept aside in the overwhelming argument of love. It was the look, it was the tone, it was the love and gentleness of Christ that won the day. Thomas was at His feet crying, “My God!”