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Pointers along the way #175

The problem of Doubting Thomas
- Jacob Ninan

The apostle Thomas was not around when Jesus appeared to the other disciples after His resurrection. When they told him about it, he was skeptical, saying that he would first see Jesus before he would believe it (Jn.20:24,25). Soon afterwards, Jesus appeared again, and He rebuked Thomas for his unbelief (v.27). This is how Thomas got his nickname as "Doubting Thomas'.

Why did Jesus rebuke Thomas in this way? To understand this, let us look at another place in the Bible where an angel rebuked Zacharias (Lk.1:20). Zacharias and Elizabeth were an old couple who did not have any children, when the angel Gabriel came to Zacharias and told him that he was going to get a son. Zacharias found it difficult to believe, and got rebuked for his unbelief.

But amazingly, Mary, who became the mother of Jesus, who has similar doubts about how she could conceive as a virgin was not rebuked at all! (v.34).

The answer may lie in the differences in the context. Zacharias was an old and experienced priest of God, and he should not have doubted God when He sent an angel to speak to him. Mary was, on the contrary, a very young woman who did not have that kind of experience with God. She could be excused for having that kind of a question. But Zacharias shouldn't have reacted like that.

Wasn't it the same with Thomas? Having lived with Jesus for three and a half years, heard Him, seen Him and even worked with Him, Jesus expected him to trust Him. Jesus had told the disciples earlier that He would rise from the dead. Of course they did not understand at that time what He was saying, but after He had risen and the other disciples told Thomas about it, he should have believed, shouldn't he?

But to understand this incident as a warning against a questioning mind is not right. I see some people saying that we must 'just believe' and not be a Doubting Thomas. One aspect of the image of God which we are created with is the ability to reason things out. In one place in the Bible God Himself exhorts us to go to Him and reason things out (Is.1:18). Isn't there a great importance given in the Bible for discernment? Will discernment come without the effort of reasoning things out? (He.5:14)

We have to admit that this is a time when deceptions are increasing, along with false signs and wonders. False teachers and prophets are also abounding. Don't we need to be discerning in our mind and heart in order to protect ourselves from being led astray? Let not a wrong understanding of "Doubting Thomas" keep us from developing discernment.