Thomas gets a bad rap in Christian circles. The dude was a disciple. He walked with Jesus. Surely, he brought a lot more to the table than one day of skepticism that has given him the unflattering nickname “doubting Thomas.”
In my opinion, Thomas is one of the most authentic people in the Bible, and he is relatable to today’s culture. We owe Thomas the honor of revisiting his story before we continue to propagate an unfavorable position that throws shade on his legacy.
Examining the Evidence
Thomas saw Jesus die and knew He was buried. He had seen those things with his own eyes. Now, a few days later, others were saying Jesus was alive again. They claimed He had appeared to them. The story Thomas heard confused him. It didn’t compute. It challenged the principles of logic and science.
Of course, Thomas was skeptical! He questioned the claims, and he verbalized his doubts. When he did, Jesus didn’t show up to shun him, scold him, or shame him. Jesus showed up to win him. Jesus didn’t question Thomas’ character or douse him with doctrine. He didn’t tell Thomas to muster up stronger faith and just … trust.
Instead, Jesus moved closer to him. He invited Thomas to scrutinize His scars and touch the holes in His hands as if to say “Look, Thomas; I’m here. I’m real. See for yourself. Doubt your doubts. What you heard actually happened.”
Thomas heard a story that blew his mind: that Jesus had risen from the dead. And in that moment, he thought it couldn’t be logically possible. But after he met Jesus personally—after he examined the evidence—he believed. His actual response was one of the strongest and clearest declarations of Jesus’ divinity recorded in the Bible. You can find the entire account in John, chapter 20. In verse 28, Thomas exclaims of Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”
Serving Skeptics Well
Let’s set the record straight: Thomas isn’t an eternal, present-tense doubter. He is a past-tense skeptic who became a wonderful witness quintessentially qualified to testify to every skeptic everywhere. What a testimony he had! “I doubted it was true, myself! But I’ve buried my hand in His risen side, and I can tell you that what you’ve heard about Jesus is real.”
We live in a culture surrounded by skeptics. The world is filled with untrusting Thomases who need to experience Jesus as true and trustworthy. The church shouldn’t shun them, or scold them, or shame them. Jesus isn’t afraid of skeptical human scrutiny. He doesn’t need to be because His story holds up when scrutinized. It always will because it’s true.
My natural response to skeptics is not very Jesus-like. My first instinct is to pull away rather than move close. Maybe you’re like me. I tend to scoff at skeptics; to pity them, ignore them, or reject them outright. It’s easier to keep them at arm's length than it is to hold out my hands and invite them into my personal space.
We need to remember we are all big Thomases who need to become like little Jesuses.
Christians are (presumably) people who’ve examined the evidence of the gospel and believed it to be authentic. We’re supposed to be people who testify about Jesus to those who don’t know Him. Since we’re the hands and feet of Jesus, we should be hole-y hands for doubters to examine.
I fear that too many of us who claim to represent Jesus are filled with things that are not very Jesus-y. We’ve filled our hands with achievements, statuses, comforts, and appearances. We’re filled with pride, not emptied of self.
In Matthew 23, Jesus called the religious people of His day hypocrites. Fakers. Posers. People more concerned with looking good and receiving honor for themselves than acknowledging their brokenness and falling before God in humility. May this never be true of us! If we’re going to win the world for Jesus, we need to get real with ourselves and others. No more facades. We need to quit critiquing others’ outward appearances and stop whitewashing our own.
As followers of Jesus, we should have friends who are seekers, skeptics, and sinners. In Matthew 5:16, Jesus tells His followers to “Let your light shine before others so that they may SEE …” (CSB). See what? You. Your life. The things you do. The way you talk. The values you hold. The way you treat waitresses and referees. The way you talk about others in the church who disagree with you. The integrity, legitimacy, and authenticity you display as you go about your day. Why? Because when they look at you, they should see Jesus.
When my skeptical, doubting, far-from-God friends look at my life, I want them to see evidence of a broken and hole-y handed man who has been healed by the risen Son of God. Let’s be people who move closer to those who don’t yet know Jesus so they can examine us like Thomas examined Him.
And when they look at our lives, may they see Him in the holes.