Today we will be talking about Thomas. Doubting Thomas, as he has been known throughout the centuries. As we read today, I think we will see that Thomas is a perfect example of all of us at times. We all have questions about God, some nagging thought we fear might unravel our faith if we investigate it too deeply, but then we blurt it out at God more as an accusation than a question asked in faith.
So as we study our texts of John 20:24-31 and John 14:4-7, I would like to answer this question, “What should you do when you have questions about God?” As we will see by studying these passages, Jesus doesn’t have a problem with our questions. He has a problem with our doubt. And there is a big difference between the two.
So let’s read John 20:24-31 and then we will back track some chapters and read John 14:4-7.
John 20:24-31 (ESV), “Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
John 14:4-7 (NIV), Jesus said, “You know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to [Jesus], “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
When You Have Questions about God:
1. Do not disbelieve, but believe” (John 20:24-27).
There’s a difference between not knowing and not believing. There’s a difference between having questions and having doubt. Many people feel they must know everything about God to believe anything about God. But that’s just not the case. Jesus doesn’t tell us it’s wrong to have questions. He tells us it’s wrong to have doubt.
In fact, I believe God allows questions to arise in our minds as a way of drawing us closer to him, as a way of maturing our relationship with him. Big questions about God don’t need to be big barriers between us and him. God wants the questions in our lives to be bridges to him. He wants our search for answers to increase our faith, not decrease it. Sometimes without a burning question in our minds, we would never read our Bibles and seek Jesus like we would if we didn’t have these types of questions. So there is zero problems with having hard questions for God, but the problem lies when we ask those questions in doubt rather than in faith.
Sometimes we can mask our accusations with a question mark. “If you are a loving God, why do you send people to hell?” is very different than saying in anger, “If you are a loving God, why do you send people to hell!?” You can feel the tension in Thoma’s words. His problem was not his confusion about Christ and the resurrection, his problem was with his doubt. For example, James 1:5-8 states:
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”
Lacking wisdom is another way of saying lacking answers to questions we have. Here we are told to ask for wisdom to answer these questions. We are told God gives us this wisdom and doesn’t find fault in us for asking. What we are condemned for is having doubt. These verse goes on to say that when we ask a question in doubt rather than in faith, we will not receive the answers and wisdom we need.
So when we have questions about God, we should not doubt and still believe because for one, doubt is a sin, but two, if we ask a question but are already doubting before God even has the opportunity to answer and give us the wisdom we need, we are told we will receive nothing from God. All throughout Scripture faith is the conduit through which blessings and answers flow from God. When people were healed by Jesus, he said it was because of their faith. In most stories, Jesus didn’t heal them to produce faith in them. He often healed people because of the faith that was already in them.
Likewise, when we have questions about God, perhaps God will give answers to us not to produces faith in us, but because we are asking for answers in faith.
St. Augustine put it like this, “Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.”
Jesus said to Thomas in John 20:29, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
So the first thing a Christian should do when they have questions about God is to keep believing God, asking for answers in faith, not in doubt. If we ask in doubt, we won’t find the answers we are looking for. But when we ask in faith, that’s when God begins to enlighten us.
But we can’t stop with “just having faith.” Faith is not blind trust. Faith is being convinced about a conclusion of past or future events (and their meanings) based upon facts you can study in the present. Evidence won’t produce saving faith, but saving faith is not devoid of evidence.
2. Study the evidence (John 20:28-31):
Blind faith is unbiblical (John 20:9, Acts 17:11). Evidence and faith are not enemies. But we need to be careful when using the word “evidence,” which is different than the word “proof.” Proof proves a point with 100% certainty. Evidence supports a conclusion. Thomas wanted proof, not evidence. Jesus encourages us to look at evidence. He said in John 14:11 (NIV), “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.”
We shouldn’t expect God to give us proof right now because if you have proof you can’t have faith. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” If you see something, you don’t need faith. One day Jesus will prove himself to every human, but then it will be too late for them to have faith in him and be saved.
Perhaps like never before in our country, men and women are turning away from the faith because they feel questions about God are unscientific. If you can’t prove something scientifically, many people today won’t believe it. So, for example, people don’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus because there is no scientific evidence to support it.
What’s often neglected about this argument is that questions of historicity are not approached through scientific methods anyways. To answer a question through science, essentially you have to follow the scientific method of observation, forming a hypothesis, run controlled tests, examine the data from those tests, interpreting the data, and then disproving or proving your hypothesis.
Therefore to answer a question like “Did the resurrection happen?” through science, you would have to recreate this scenario. But the resurrection is a question about history. Did this event happen or not? You don’t use scientific methods for questions of historicity because you cannot recreate and test history. To answer these types of questions, you need to use methods of investigation much like you would find in a courtroom. And one of the strongest pieces of evidence to confirm any event that took place in the past is eye witness accounts.
For example, you don’t use the scientific method to decide whether or not the Civil War actually happened, if Lincoln was shot, and if John Wilkes Booth was the shooter. We can’t recreate the Civil War, run tests, and interpret the data. Rather, we know the Civil War happened because we have thousands of documents proving it. We can go to the battle fields and find artifacts. People in our ancestry were affected by it. We know that Lincoln was shot because many people in the theater saw it, and we know Booth shot him because hundreds saw him jump from the balcony where the President lay wounded.
We know these events took place because the eye witness accounts are so undeniable. We look at the evidence and then form an opinion. So what evidence is there for the resurrection? What evidence was there for Thomas before Jesus appeared to him? And what evidence is there for us before Jesus will appear to the whole world?
We have the testimony of Scripture for sure, but we also have eye witness accounts. John 20:25 says, “So the other disciples told Thomas, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
Listen to the emphasis Paul puts on eye witness accounts to help validate his message. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 states:
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”
Paul emphasizes to his readers that out of the 500 whom Jesus appeared to, most of them are still living. Why did he say that? Because he expected his readers to investigate this, to go and ask those witnesses if they all really saw the risen Jesus Christ.
So when Jesus appeared to all of these people after his resurrection, he wasn’t just doing a cool party trick. He wasn’t just passing through walls and going through locked doors just to show off in front of his friends. Jesus was leaving us some of the strongest evidence that there is – eye witness accounts. Jesus was building his case, the case that he expects all of us to investigate over 2000 years later.
Thomas’ words in John 20:25 seem like something you would here now days as you try to talk with your atheist or agnostic friend over coffee, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
And so like Thomas, they demand for a certain type of proof, and won’t believe in Jesus unless they get that exact type of proof. Which is why evidence is not the most important step in this whole process of answering questions about God and fighting back doubt.
I’ve tried to beat people over the head with logic, with apologetics, and with real evidence. And perhaps it will work one day, but I’ve yet to convince an atheist through these methods. I think these methods are more helpful for people who already believe and know Jesus.
So I believe point 3 is the most important point.
3. Seek Jesus personally (John 14:4-7):
John 14:5-7 says, “Thomas said to [Jesus], “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well.”
Jesus said we must “really know” him to know the Father (John 14:7). Jesus said we will come to the Father not through proof, not through evidence, not through blind faith, but only through him. When we have questions about God, no amount of answers will overcome our sinful doubt. At its core, doubt is sin. Jesus is the only solution to sin. Ultimately, we must always seek Jesus Christ. A personal relationship with him is the ultimate way to fight doubt.
Thomas was focused on the where. “Where are you going Lord?” He reasoned that if he knew where Jesus was going, if he had the concrete evidence, he could then figure out the way to get there. He was focused on the external place Jesus was going. He was looking at the evidence. He was focused on the logical explanation.
But Jesus redirects him away from all that and points Thomas back to what really matters, to himself. “You’re missing the point. You won’t know the way to the Father by studying the “where”. You will learn the way to the Father by studying and knowing the “who” . . . me.”
What Should You Do When You Have Questions About God?
What if Thomas would have believed even though he didn’t see. What if he said, “Even if I never get to see Jesus on earth, even if I never get to my fingers through the holes in hands or place my hand into his side, even if he never proves it all to me beyond a shadow of a doubt, I’ll still believe. I believe you Jesus.”
I think if Thomas would have said that the first time, Jesus still would have appeared 8 days later but this time he would have said to Thomas, “Put your fingers in my hands and place your hand in my side, and blessed are you Thomas because you believed even though you didn’t see.”
One day we are all going to meet Jesus. One day we will either hear, “Blessed are you because you believed even though you didn’t see me.” Or we will hear “Depart from me, I never knew you.”
Now is our time for faith. Later we won’t need faith because Jesus will prove everything beyond a shadow of a doubt. It will be too late for faith then. But in the time being, as 2 Corinthians 5:7 states, “We live by faith, not by sight.”