11 April 2010

John 20:19-31

"Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe." (v.25)


There are many phrases and images used in general conversation which are rooted in the writings of the Bible or Shakespeare. They have become familiar and are often said without any particular reference to their original source. One such image is that of the "doubting Thomas", used to describe a person who is full of questions and uncertainties.

The image goes back to today's reading where, on the evening of the first Easter day, the disciple Thomas was absent when the risen Jesus appeared to his friends. Some time later they tell Thomas what he has missed and, not unreasonably we might think, Thomas wants some proof of the story they are telling him.

There are at least two reasons why it is perhaps unfortunate that, from that time onwards, Thomas has been linked with the image of doubt:

  • Firstly, what we know of Thomas previously in the Gospel accounts shows him to be a man of courage and of faith. In John 11:16, for instance, it is Thomas who, when the other disciples are discussing the risk of physical danger from the opponents of Jesus, proclaims, "Let us also go, that we may die with him". Clearly there is more to Thomas than is contained in the description 'doubting'.

  • Secondly, it is clear that Thomas is not totally dismissing the idea of an encounter with the risen Christ - he simply is seeking a first-hand and not a second-hand experience. A week later when he has that personal experience, his affirmation of faith - "My Lord and my God" - is both strong and bold. It is a reminder that although the testimonies of others can encourage us on our own journey of faith, what is really important is a personal relationship with God in response to the invitation to discipleship offered by the risen Jesus.


To Ponder

How can doubts and questions be used creatively to enable faith to grow?

How can we develop a real 'personal relationship' with the risen Jesus in a time when we cannot physically touch his wounds?

Bible notes author

The Revd Chris Blake

Chris Blake is a Methodist minister and principal of Cliff College in Derbyshire. His background is as a biochemist, and he has previously served in Barking and Dagenham as an industrial chaplain, in Dorset in the Wimborne Circuit and as chair of the Cornwall Methodist District.