Wasn’t St Thomas fortunate to be able to see Christ’s wounds for himself and then believe?  We will never have that experience during our lifetime.  Yet, we believe.

For my 2010 post on this subject, please see ‘Doubting Thomas — John 20:19-31’. Today’s painting of Thomas’s encounter with the risen Christ is by the Danish painter Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834-1890).

The Revd P G Mathew, Reformed (Calvinist) pastor of Grace Valley Christian Center in Davis, California, has several observations on Christ’s appearances to people after the Resurrection, including the apostle Thomas, and what these mean for us today.  Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

From ‘Beware: You Are on Display, Part Two’, Mr Mathew explains:

In John 20 we read of Christ’s appearance to his disciples the day of his resurrection. The apostle Thomas, also known as doubting Thomas, was not with the others for the Lord’s first appearance. In verse 25 we read, “So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ but [Thomas] said to them, ‘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.’”

One week later Christ appeared to the disciples again in his resurrection body and Thomas was present also. In verse 27 we read that he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

What does this tell us? That Jesus Christ, in his resurrection body, still has holes in his hands, made in behalf of those he came to die for. As long as those holes are there, we can say we are engraved on the palms of God. These indelible impressions are impossible to erase, and, in fact, in Revelation 5:6 John writes, “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne.” Throughout all eternity the nail holes will be there. That should tell us that God loves us!

He picks up the theme again in ‘Fear Not: Jesus is Risen’:

Thomas believed when he saw Jesus and touched his hands and feet and side. But Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). Our faith is supported by the evidence of the apostolic witness revealed in the Scriptures. Christ is not asking us to believe irrationally.

But Jesus is not going to favor us with a private resurrection appearance. We are to hear the eyewitness reports and believe. John proclaims, “These things are written that you may be believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31) …

How does anyone believe without seeing Christ? We have the apostolic witness in the pages of the Scriptures. So Peter says, “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, ‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.’ And this is the word that was preached to you” (1 Pet. 1:23–25).

After the Resurrection, Jesus ensured that He spent a considerable amount of time with His disciples.  In ‘Mandate of the Master’, Mr Mathew relates:

The apostle Thomas himself doubted Jesus’ resurrection. He wanted to touch and feel the risen Christ. He wanted to put his finger in his side and his nail prints. So one day Jesus appeared to Thomas and said, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side.” How did Thomas respond? “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:24-28).

Jesus showed himself alive to his disciples on many occasions over a period of forty days, Luke tells us, so they could know that their Master truly had risen from the dead with a physical body. They could look at him and touch him–the risen Christ was not a ghost, in other words. He ate with his disciples many times and appeared to Peter, James, Mary Magdalene, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, seven of the apostles once in Galilee, ten of the apostles once in Jerusalem, all eleven apostles two times, the women at the tomb, and to five hundred at one time in Galilee. Why do you think Jesus showed himself so regularly to his disciples over this forty day period following Easter Sunday? Because they had the responsibility of bearing witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is the fact upon which Christianity rests. They were the ones who must testify to the one who destroyed death by his death and was raised from the dead–Jesus Christ, the Lord of the universe.

So, if He had appeared to them only once after rising from the dead, people could have dismissed this as an illusion, that the disciples were so distraught they only imagined He was alive.  And, various theories abound.  Everyone who saw Him was hallucinating.  Or, Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead; His closest friends went to the wrong tomb.  Or, it’s just a pure fabrication.  If any of these were true, it is difficult to see that Christianity could have lasted as long as it has. In fact, the Church and her true followers will be on Earth until Judgment Day, whatever depravity befalls the world.

From the disciples’ personal experience of the risen Christ as written in Scripture, we are to take our belief:

Jesus’ apostles, therefore, were eyewitnesses of both the resurrection of Christ and the ascension of Christ. They understood who Jesus Christ is, and we must understand also. He is the one who died on the cross for our sins, the one who was raised from the dead, and the one who destroyed death for us. He is the one who defeated the world, Satan, devils, and every power that is against us.

Yes, this is an uphill struggle in a postmodern, ‘rational’ world which puts credence into everything which goes against Christ.  We have idolatry of all sorts: sexual gratification, healing crystals, New Age self-love, Gaia-worship and all the rest. Yet, when it comes to our only Mediator and Advocate, the world says, ‘No thanks. Not good enough for me. He is not someone about whom I wish to know more.’  This is because Christ represents the vanquishing of sin.  Christ isn’t about a wealthy, sex-filled, risk-free, malady-free life. ‘Where’s the magic?’ people say. ‘Where’s the excitement?  Nowhere.’  And the notion of the Cross is abhorrent to many.  Others  worship all-powerful gods or revere violent warriors.  ‘Your guy died a humiliating death on a cross.  My leader killed thousands and amassed countless riches.’

Nevertheless:

Every Christian is called to be a witness to Christ. What do we mean by witness? The word “wit” means “to know,” so a witness is one who not only knows the facts regarding the gospel but also personally knows Jesus and his work of salvation. A Christian witness is a spiritual person who speaks spiritual truth in the Spirit’s power to lost sinners

This Jesus sends us who are Christians to be witnesses to all nations.”As the Father sent me, so send I you,” he said, and then he breathed on his disciples the Holy Spirit. So we must know the Master and the message. We must have an encounter with the living Christ so that we will speak about him as the Savior and Lord of the universe. As Paul said to Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). In Ephesians 1 Paul prayed that God would give the Ephesians understanding. May God enlighten our understanding as well so that we may know the hope of our calling and declare that hope with passion and conviction to a hopeless world.

We think that we are nothing much in this world, and many people don’t hesitate to tell us about it.  But Mr Mathew says that the original apostles, all from Galilee, were viewed in the same light.  Yet, they travelled throughout Asia Minor proclaiming the Gospel:

God chose us–the nobodies, the nothings, the Galileans–to bear his glorious name and to be ambassadors of Jesus Christ to a dark world! And we can be assured that if God chooses us, he will also qualify us and make us competent and strong to stand before the devil and the world. “Fear not!” he says to us. Why? Our Master was dead, but now he is alive forevermore. Our Master holds the keys of death and Hades in his hands …

Just as the disciples were commanded to speak to the people of Jerusalem, including the Sanhedrin, so we can speak to those who are hostile. How? By the power of the Spirit of the living God. We also are Galileans, in the sense of being nothing in the eyes of the world, and yet God also qualifies us, equips us, makes us able, sets us on fire, drives away our fears, and fills us with the third Person of the Trinity so that we might testify before all people the gospel of the our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Then Jesus told his disciples they must also witness in Judea and Samaria. Now, that was another problem. Why? Jews despised Samaritans. They called them half-breeds. But God loves Samaritans, and he commands his people to take the gospel to them.

Not only that, Jesus said, his disciples must take the gospel to the end of the earth. This meant beyond the nation of Israel. This was really a problem for the Jewish disciples, who called Gentiles dogs

So, the apostles knew they would not be well received, yet, they went.  Some were imprisoned or  martyred for the faith.  Many Christians still are today.  The environment will always be hostile to Christianity, even if it didn’t appear so in the ‘good old days’ of the last 150 – 200 years or so.

However, Mr Mathew sees another aspect to our reluctance to spread the Good News.  And that has to do with our own unworthy conduct.  Who but an unbeliever will be the first to point a finger at us and exclaim, ‘Hypocrite!’  So, we must try to do better in our conduct, our personal affairs and our Christian example.  If we’re not righteous, then, that’s something we need to work on.

Declaring the gospel verbally when our lives are disorderly is not evangelism. And perhaps the reason we don’t want to declare the gospel is that we like to sin. But sin–whether it is sexual immorality or greed or whatever else–causes us to be loaded with guilt and we lose conviction and power. How can we have power when we want to practice sin? Proverbs 28:1 tells us “The righteous are as bold as a lion.” Therefore, let us try the way of righteousness and see whether our tongues will declare God’s praises.

Lent has been over for a week.  If we have begun to master a new discipline — self-control and less sin in one area or another — let’s try to work further on that throughout the rest of the year until it becomes a habit.  That frees us up to choose something else either during Advent or next year’s Lent.  These periods of self-denial are part of the sanctification process.  Let’s use them wisely so that we may testify to His greater glory.

Forbidden Bible Verses continues next week