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Proof needed, no doubt

Jesus & Co

An old proverb claims that ‘a man is known by the company he keeps’. If true, the people Jesus met can offer insight into his character and world view, as Nigel Bovey investigates

The honest doubter (John 20:24–29)

Nobody thinks well of ‘a doubting Thomas’

‘DOUBTING’ Thomas gets a bad press. He was a disciple of Jesus who got the ‘doubting’ tag because he was absent when Jesus first appeared to the other disciples after the Resurrection and he did not initially believe that Jesus had been raised. Consequently, he is often scorned. Nobody thinks well of ‘a doubting Thomas’.

The truth is, Jesus did not make a mis­take when he chose Thomas as one of his close followers. Thomas was known as ‘the Twin’ yet his twin is not mentioned in the Bible. It suggests that Thomas was a man who knew his own mind and could make his own decisions – an independent thinker.

He was with Jesus from the start of his three-year ministry. He heard Jesus teach about God’s Kingdom. He saw Jesus per­form miracles – heal the sick, raise the dead.

His loyalty to Jesus was unquestion­able. At one point when Jesus was about to enter a potentially dangerous area, Thomas urged his fellow disciples: ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him’ (John 11:16 New International Version). But he was one of those people who always had questions; who always wanted answers.

When the disciples told him that they had seen Jesus raised from death, Thomas, not unnaturally, found it hard to believe. He wanted proof. He said: ‘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’ (20:25).

Thomas had to wait for the answer. A week later, Jesus appeared again and Thomas was present. Jesus told him to touch his wounds. If you want proof, he was saying, here is proof.

Thomas confessed: ‘My Lord and my God!’ (20:28). He had found what he was looking for. For Thomas, Jesus was no longer simply a good teacher, a social visionary or a miracle worker, but God.

The reality of Jesus depends on our reac­tion to the Resurrection. We are not offered physical proof as Thomas was. But Jesus is neither uncomfortable with nor compro­mised by our need for answers. To honest doubters, Jesus stands up to, and welcomes, honest scrutiny.

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