Meet Thomas

John 20:25-29

But Thomas, sometimes called the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We saw the Master.”

But he said, “Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.”

Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.”

Then he focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.”

Thomas said, “My Master! My God!”

Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.”

The others had told me that they had seen Jesus. But this couldn’t be. Either they imagined it or they saw His ghost. I saw him brutalized, crucified, and buried, and I knew He was really dead. I was never into pretending, or wish fulfillment. No, not me. When you’re dead, you’re dead. (At least that’s what I thought.)

I remember telling the others that I would only believe them if I could see and feel the scars–the nail holes and the hole in his side. I needed proof, something tangible or solid before I could believe their stories. Part of me hoped it was so, but I honestly couldn’t join the others in their excitement.

Some would call me a doubter–a skeptic.

And maybe I was, but a realist is how I would describe myself. To go along with the others wasn’t going to cut it. They said that they had seen Him and He was very much alive, that somehow, someway He was now resurrected. But for me, I couldn’t believe it. I myself must know it for myself.

Was Jesus alive after all they had done to Him?

We had all gathered in a large room. The door had been locked–we were afraid that the authorities would come for us next. In spite of the confinement, we had some good fellowship that Sunday morning, catching up and sharing stories of the last three years, thinking about all the things Jesus had taught and done.

And suddenly Jesus showed up. Trust me on this if you can–the door was locked, and there was no other way to get in. When Jesus “dropped in” we were completely amazed. He was very much alive–and how can this be? We were all in shock as He stood right in front of us!

Immediately Jesus looked at me, and I looked back–and it was really Him!!

Jesus immediately focused on me, He asked me to come close; He wanted me to touch Him, to inspect and see for myself that He was as real as you or I. He asked me to come and see the nail prints in His hands, and stick my hand in the hole where the Roman soldiers had thrust a spear into His side.

And I was completely undone.

It was really Him, and I couldn’t explain it away. Jesus was real flesh and blood! In a second I went from doubt to faith. How He knew that I had voiced my hesitation out loud I didn’t know. But I now knew for certain Jesus was very much alive. Death was now dead.

“My Master! My God!” was all I could say.

At that moment I became a believing believer. It wasn’t second-hand anymore; I wept and laughed at the same time! I couldn’t explain it, I must believe it. Jesus had overcome death and He was now commanding me to believe.

Immediately I knew, I saw Him for myself.

Looking back I admit my foolishness and doubt; Jesus had sought me out, and somehow He knew that of all His disciples, I needed that special touch. He understood and had come just for me. To this day I realized how much He really loved me–the doubting Thomas.

According to common Christian tradition, Thomas, was killed by jealous Hindu priests of Kali India. He was burned to death in 72 AD. A church is now established there and still recognizes him as an apostle.

Bryan’s note: I can relate to Thomas. I was also one who needed to know for myself that Jesus was really God and that He really did rise from the dead. It was reading “More Than a Carpenter” by Josh McDowell that propelled me into belief. If you need to know for yourself, I suggest you buy this book. (If you want, I’ll buy it for you.)

Art: Caravaggio’s The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, c. 1601-1502, oil on canvas–Verses are from The Message, a translation by Eugene Peterson.

The Blessing of the Children

Luke 18:15-17, KJV

15 And they brought unto Him also infants, that He would touch them; but when His disciples saw it, they rebuked them.

16 But Jesus called them unto Him and said, “Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of God.

17 Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.”

We were wrong (like usual it seems). I guess that we were trying to maximize Jesus’ ministry. We meant well, but He needed organization. That was our “ministry.” We simply felt that Jesus’ time was our concern, and as His disciples we wanted Him to connect with those who really mattered.

The parents were bringing their children to be blessed by Jesus.

“It was the custom for mothers to bring their children to some distinguished Rabbi on the first birthday that he might bless them.”

William Barclay

Jesus made it clear that these children needed to be the focus of our ministry. Our efforts were not to be centered on adults, rather it was misguided thinking that we direct Jesus’ work to be focused and redirected. These little ones were in the way.

Up to now, Jesus’ work was for adults. There were lepers, demon-possessed, paralyzed, tax-collectors all waiting for His ministry. Somehow we overlooked the needs of little children. Again, we were wrong, misguided, and ignorant of the walk of the true believer.

And sure enough, Jesus explained what we were missing. Children were to become our focus. They were the ones who we were to emulate and esteem. The radical thing to us was understanding that these ‘little ones’ were that significant. This was a powerful jolt.

“Let these children alone. Don’t get between them and me. These children are the kingdom’s pride and joy. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.”

Luke 18:16-17, The Message

This was astounding! It was nothing less than another radical thought from our Teacher. Accepting this wasn’t easy, but Jesus was crystal clear. We dare not think otherwise, but to believe this was against all we thought we understood.

Jesus understood that childlikeness was the only way we could enter His Kingdom.

Trust me on this–we believed otherwise. Up to now, we assumed that maturity meant sophistication. It was all about right thinking and good theology that God was looking for. We assumed that being simple wasn’t quite what Jesus wanted from us. Rather we believed the opposite.

Children were now to be our examples. Their simpleness was to be our guide–it was the Kingdom of God’s doorway into true discipleship.

“Part of the exquisite beauty of salvation is its simplicity. Any man, woman, or child can come to Christ with absolutely nothing to offer Him but simple faith-just as they are. Salvation requires nothing more than childlike faith-believing that Jesus Christ died for my sins and accepting His gift of Salvation.”

Beth Moore

Discipleship Can Hurt

Luke 9:57-62, NIV

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”

62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

There’s to be no whitewashing the way of discipleship–there’s no glamour, no special recognition–no acclaim in it. I guess this is the “real” way of being His follower. The path Jesus has for me demands I give Him my whole heart. Heart enough to turn it all to Him. Heart enough to give Him total commitment.

Jesus seems to make it hard–we can see this in His responses to each prospective disciple. His statements to each possible follower seem harsh, difficult, and a bit “unreasonable,” but He doesn’t receive these men unless they do what He says.

Discipleship demands that we give up what we hold dearest.

What happened to these three “would-be” followers? Did they return home dejected and frustrated? To follow in Jesus’ footprints means we give up our personal agendas, and turn our backs on what is closest and dearest. We must renounce everything, and give Him preeminence over all.

These are hard verses with profound implications. But this passage is given to us for a reason. We dare not minimize what it means to be a disciple. We must grasp the plow with both hands, and we can’t look back.

“Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ. Unless he obeys, a man cannot believe.”

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer