John 20:25 - Wounds that Heal!
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 it.John 20:25
Honest doubt. Perhaps you have heard of it, maybe even experienced it. It is supposed to be more of a neutral caution than really a doubt. Honest doubt simply wonders and calmly raises questions. In today’s world, it has become quite respected. Philosophers and peasants alike are encouraged to have it. Thomas however, did not have it. If we would call his doubt anything, it certainly would not be honest. It is, in fact, the opposite – defiant and challenging – fed by anger, frustration, and hurt.
Look at the demands he makes. “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 it” (John 20:25). These are hardly the simple statements of an honest doubter. Thomas will not even be satisfied with seeing the Lord Jesus Christ face to face. He demands to touch Jesus, even to put his hand into the gaping wound in Jesus’ side!
Earlier, Thomas had expressed great pessimism and cynicism about the ways of the man who claimed to be the Messiah. “Let us also go, that we may die with Him (Jesus),” he says bitterly when our Saviour makes it known He will go back to Judea (John 11:16). Since then, the Messiah has died, which only seems to confirm his worst fears. He has hoped in vain, he thinks. It makes his doubt about the resurrection so bitter he thinks he is justified even in putting the Lord to the test and setting the terms and conditions of his own faith! “Unless I see...” he mutters, eyebrows knitted together in defiance. He feels justified in questioning everything: the empty tomb, Mary’s meeting with the Saviour, the report of the two men from Emmaus, and so much more. This doubt is hardly of the neutral honest variety.
Perhaps that is true for us as well. Doubt is rarely, I propose, honest. Doubt is not some neutral questioning, an intellectual exercise, that we go through from a safe distance. It goes much deeper than that. We personally question God’s character and God’s ways. “What is going on in the world around me?” we wonder with a bit of a frown. “Where is God when I need Him?” we mutter with a touch of anger.
That is the kind of thing the serpent led Adam and Eve to do in the Garden of Eden as well: not just to question the Word of God, but to question the very character of God. He convinced them that the LORD God did not really know what He was doing, that He did not have their best interests at heart. Since then we all have been plagued with similar thoughts. We question more than simple facts. We question God’s wisdom, power, goodness, and love.
But look at how the Saviour responds to these rather angry doubts of his disciple! He appears to the disciples yet another time and says to Thomas,
Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.John 20:27
Isn’t the contrast simply amazing? Thomas, the doubting sinner, is defiant and demanding. But the Lord Jesus, the King of the Universe, is gracious and yielding. Thomas does not have the right to make any demands at all. The King of the Universe has the right to make all the demands He wants. Yet, the roles are reversed! The exalted King humbly serves the irreverent servant!
Think of what the Lord Jesus Christ could have done. He could have spoken in a booming voice from the sky that demanded to know why Thomas was being so stubborn. He could have appeared to Thomas in a vision and rebuked him. But here He stands before him, with flesh and blood, and invites the doubter to do what exactly what he has so rashly demanded. The actions of the Saviour alone speak of incredible love and compassion. However, not just the Lord’s actions, but something else does too: those wounds in his body to which the eyes of Thomas turn. Perhaps Thomas had asked to see them to verify that the one who rose really was the one who had died.
But now he sees something else there. He sees the incredible love of a Saviour who was not the victim of a conspiracy, but who laid down his life for the sake of his people. Proud Thomas comes face to face, not just with the simple fact of the cross and resurrection, but with the incredible power and love of the Saviour who has died in his place. His defiant doubts subside immediately. We do not even read whether he did what he had so rashly demanded to do. Instead, he makes the greatest confession yet about the Messiah. “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). Finally, the doubt sown by the serpent is conquered. Here stands the Saviour who deserves divine worship and praise. Here stands the God who ought never to be doubted or challenged.
You and I lead lives dotted with doubts. But I ask you to take a look. What is at the root of those nagging doubts? Is it whether or not events actually happened? Is it whether or not the Bible is true? Or is it “Does God love me?” “Can He be trusted?” “Does He really care?”
Look at the wounds of the Saviour. Look at the scars He still carries which proclaim his great love and his great power over sin and death. Here is your Saviour in whom you can trust! May those wounds on the body of the risen Saviour heal your doubts as well.