A Letter to Doubting Thomas

Photo by Albert Dera on Unsplash

Dear Thomas,

Nicknames are often cruel, and yours is no exception. I want to apologise for my part in the name calling, and extend my apology on behalf of the Church at large. You, Didymus, were one of the original twelve. Just like the other apostles, you walked alongside Jesus. Just like the other apostles, you listened to his preaching and participated in his miraculous ministry. And, just like the other apostles, you were sent out by the risen Christ to begin his Church. Yet, while the other apostles got cool nicknames like ‘the Rock’ or ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’, you got stuck with ‘Doubting Thomas’.

While the other apostles got cool nicknames like ‘the Rock’ or ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’, you got stuck with ‘Doubting Thomas’.

I am sympathetic to the situation which led to this unfortunate nickname. Just in case you’ve forgotten, let me remind you. The man you had (literally) followed for the last three years had just been been killed. You’re not a fool, you know how death works. Once Jesus was dead, it was game over. A few days later, you go out for a few hours and when you come back, your friends appear to have gone mad. They tell you that Jesus has come to them. They’ve seen him, alive. So you say, ‘prove it’. You say that unless you see the nail marks in his hands and the wounds in his side, you will not believe that Jesus has really risen from the dead.

Now, Thomas, I know what I’m supposed to say. I’m supposed to say, ‘Thomas, Jesus told you that he was going to rise from the dead’. I’m supposed to say, ‘Thomas, you saw Jesus do amazing things. You should have believed!’. But, just between you and me, that’s not what I say. I say, ‘fair enough’.

I respect your rationality, your need for evidence. I think you understood what a life-changing claim your friends were making. People don’t rise from the dead. If Jesus rose from the dead, that’s world-shifting news. That’s a broken law of nature. If Jesus rose from the dead, nothing could ever be the same again. It would mean death wasn’t the end. The logical position to take is sceptical until proven otherwise. And, you had it proven otherwise.

Jesus refused to let you remain ‘Doubting’ Thomas. He wanted you as Believing Thomas, Trusting Thomas, Knowing Thomas. Jesus appeared to your group of friends again, with you in the room this time. He walked right up to you, knowing your heart was full of scepticism, and said, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe”.[1]

Your response, Thomas, is why I think your nickname is so unfair. If you had refused Jesus’ offer, your nickname would be fitting. If you had said, ‘Jesus, dead people stay dead. That’s how the universe works, and I’m not willing to have that belief challenged’, then you would be rightly called ‘Doubting’ Thomas. But, that’s not what you said. When Jesus gave evidence that he was the risen Christ, you believed. When Jesus commanded you, ‘Stop doubting and believe’ you cried out, ‘My Lord and my God!’. That’s faith, Thomas. You looked at the evidence before you and believed.

What happened next is my favourite part of your story. Jesus said to you, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’.[2] You see, although I feel sympathy for you, I’m also jealous of you. Thomas, you have seen Jesus. Your doubt was corrected by your senses, some good old fashioned empirical evidence. My doubt is less easily dissolved. I can’t touch the risen Christ. The good news is, Jesus knew that. He knew, and knows, that I must believe even though I do not see. He promises that to be a ‘blessed’ situation. It doesn’t always feel ‘blessed’, it feels hard. How I long to swap places with you, Thomas. In my moments of existential terror, how I long to reach out and touch the risen Christ. And yet, Jesus has the same words for me as he did for you.

Your doubt was corrected by your senses, some good old fashioned empirical evidence. My doubt is less easily dissolved. The good news is, Jesus knew that. He promises that to be a ‘blessed’ situation.

In my moments of doubt, I love to remind myself of the two-fold response Jesus gave you:

1. Compassion

Jesus gave you evidence. He didn’t shame you or expect some great act of superhuman faith. He presented you his body, once dead but now alive. He allowed you to touch it, to test this gospel hypothesis. I thank God that he offers me evidence too. He created us to be rational creatures. And so, he has given us intellectually satisfying evidence that Jesus really lived, died and was raised from the dead. The eyewitness accounts of your friends, Thomas, are some of the most reliable historical documents we have. No other religion is based on a historically verifiable event. That God would reveal himself in such a way is an act of compassion.

2. Command

Thomas, Jesus loved you when you were a doubter but he didn’t want to leave you as one. Once you saw the evidence, he commanded you to have faith. Ultimately, no amount of evidence could convince you to follow Jesus as Lord. Evidence must go hand in hand with faith. On days of doubt, I dig through the evidence; looking for answers. I always find intellectual satisfaction. But, often, the anxious voice of doubt remains loud in my ears. This is when I need to hear Jesus’ voice, ‘stop doubting and believe’. Doubt is not just an intellectual issue, it’s a spiritual issue. If I know there is good evidence, then I must convert that evidence into faith.

Doubt is not just an intellectual issue, it’s a spiritual issue. If I know there is good evidence, then I must convert that evidence into faith.

Thomas, my experience with doubt is often scary, but always humbling. Was that your experience too? Perhaps you should have been called ‘Humble Thomas’, for what apostle knew the weakness of human intellect better than you? Or, maybe ‘Brave Thomas’, because faith in the face of doubt takes courage. My final submission for your consideration is, ‘Obedient Thomas’, because when Jesus commanded you to believe, you did.

You had a moment of doubt but a lifetime, an everlasting lifetime, of faith. One day, we will stand with every Christian who has ever doubted, and worship the risen King Jesus together. We will see his face and finally be completely assured. We will look at one another and say, ‘Why did we ever doubt?’


[1] John 20:17

[2] John 20:29

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