When you consider the message of the gospel, how would you describe yourself? Are you a doubter or a believer? Do you doubt when you hear the testimony that Jesus died and rose again? Do you wonder if it is even possible that someone could be raised to life again? Do you wonder if God even cares if you are a doubter? Or, maybe you are reading this as a believer and are conversing with someone who considers himself a doubter, and you’d like to know how to assure this individual that Jesus is alive. I would encourage you to keep reading because there are answers to each of these questions.
You have probably heard the term "doubting Thomas" at some time in your life. Maybe this terminology has even been applied to you! I’d like to begin by assuring you that God does care if you are a doubter. He cares so much that He wants to convince you of the truth concerning Himself and His resurrection. This care is best illustrated in the story of Jesus dealing with the first doubting Thomas. It is very important to consider this account because it reveals that Jesus didn't reject this man because of his doubts. On the contrary, He sought to convince Thomas of why he should believe. And, if you will continue to read for a moment, I will explain these reasons to you that, hopefully, you might be convinced.
What did Jesus do to convince Thomas of His resurrection? What turned Thomas around to believe?
Jesus reached out to Thomas
The first thing that Jesus did was to specifically reach out to Thomas. If you will remember, Thomas was not present when Jesus first appeared to the other disciples after His resurrection. In John 20:24 it declares; "But Thomas … one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, We have seen the Lord." But Thomas said to the other disciples, "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe" (v 25). This was a very challenging and strong statement of doubt by Thomas.
Then the story continues; "And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them, Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, "Peace to you!" Then Jesus said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing." Then Thomas cried out, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (v 26-29).
The first thing that Jesus did to convince Thomas. Jesus reached out and took the first step in approaching Thomas in his unbelief. This example is very important in understanding how God convinces a doubter. Notice that God is the initiator here, as He reaches out His hand, showing Himself as one who cares enough not to leave this man in his doubt. Jesus could have said, "Forget it. If you don’t want to believe, that’s your problem." But, aren't you glad Jesus didn't just leave him in his unbelief? I’m so thankful that God reached out to help me in my unbelief. This is exactly what He was doing with Thomas. Jesus reassures Thomas, "peace to you," revealing the desire of His heart that Thomas and all men would have peace in their hearts and minds. Remember, He is the Prince of Peace. Jesus is reaching out to help this man out of his unbelief and the emptiness of his soul.
However, this is not the first time that God has reached out to someone in unbelief, and it won’t be the last. When the first man and woman sinned in their unbelief in the garden, God reached out to them too. God came walking in the garden and called out to Adam, "Where are you?" (Gen. 3:8-9). Again, God was here demonstrating His love and care for mankind and His desire to restore our first parents to a right relationship with Himself.
You may be thinking, That was nineteen hundred years ago. How can Jesus reach out to Me today? The answer to that question is this: He still sends His followers to you to declare His "peace to you." I am writing as one of His followers right now declaring, "God also wants to give you peace."
Back when I was an unbeliever, I didn't see those who came to me sharing the gospel as His ambassadors; I looked at them as just a bunch of people bugging me with this message about Jesus. However, today, I see all of those people that handed me tracts or witnessed to me on the beach as God’s outstretched hand to me saying, "I love you. I want to give you peace and forgiveness." These people were sent by God to approach me with a message of love and hope, but I considered it a nuisance. Be sure of one thing. Those of you who are reading this article right now: God is reaching out to you and is attempting to approach you if you will receive it. Jesus wants to prove to you that He is real, that He’s alive, and that He can do what He promises. If you've had people sharing the gospel with you lately, this only proves my point. He wants you to know His peace and forgiveness. He is approaching you and reaching out and saying, "Take My hand. See the nail prints. Look at my side. I did this for you!" This is what Jesus did to convince Thomas and his doubting heart. He is still doing it today!
Throughout the Bible God is revealed as the One who is seeking out lost men and women attempting to persuade them to believe and follow. In Luke 19:10, Jesus said that He came "to seek and to save that which was lost." That’s why Jesus came to this earth. He came to convince all doubters to believe and receive eternal life. His entire mission on this earth was to turn mankind from its unbelief and rebellion. Remember, God made the first approach to this earth. What a demonstration of His love and mercy! His heart is still like this today, which convinces me that He is reaching out to you right now. Will you listen and receive Him?
Jesus invited Thomas to examine the facts and evidence
The second thing that Jesus did to convince Thomas was to challenge Him to consider the facts. Jesus said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side." Why does Jesus do this? What was the purpose of this invitation? Jesus had a very simple strategy. He was inviting Thomas to examine Him in the very area in which he doubted. The Lord wanted him to examine the facts that related directly to his doubts. Jesus even used the very words that Thomas had spoken to describe his doubt in the resurrected Christ. Jesus was revealing that He is all-knowing and aware of our struggles.
What good does this do for me? How can I examine the facts of the resurrection? I can’t examine the holes in Christ’s hands or put my finger into His side. However, you can examine the facts concerning the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Remember, according to Jesus, Thomas believed because he saw the hands and feet of Christ, but He also declared, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29). In other words, Jesus is saying that a person can believe because there is enough evidence without actually seeing His physical body. Let me give you some of the facts and evidence that you should consider.
1. Jesus was a real person that existed in history. Did you know that Tacitus, the first century Roman historian, and Josephus, a first century Jewish historian, both wrote concerning the life and death of Jesus? This is a fact of history. He was a human being that actually existed and lived 2000 years ago. He is not some mythical character that was made up to start a new religion.
2. Jesus fulfilled the biblical prophecies that were predicted concerning the Messiah. He was born in Bethlehem, to a virgin, who was a descendant of Abraham and David to whom the promises were made concerning the coming Messiah. He worked miracles, was rejected, and finally put to death for the sins of the world. However, He also rose again from the grave to prove that He had paid the price for your sin and to once and for all convince His disciples that He was the God of heaven come to earth in the flesh of a man. This is what the prophecies declared. Why not go and check these verses for yourself? Micah 5:2, Is. 7:14, Matthew 1:1-16, Is. 35, Is. 53, Dan. 9:26, Ps. 16:9-11.
The most important prophecy that Jesus fulfilled is in Daniel 9:24-26. This prophecy narrows down to within a specific time period who can even claim to be the Messiah. According to Daniel’s prophecy only someone around 32 AD could have been the Messiah of Israel. The Messiah is predicted to come after 69 "sevens," or 483 years after the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem. Historically, this commandment was given by King Artaxerxes on March 14, 445 BC (Nehemiah 2:1). All you have to do is compute the math to realize that no other man but Jesus can claim to be the Messiah. This also rules out anyone today claiming to be the Messiah or anyone prior to that time.
3. Who moved the 1 ½ to 2-ton stone from the mouth of the tomb? Scripture describes the stone as not just being rolled away, but as being removed from the tomb. In the gospel of John, it declares that the stone had "been taken away from the tomb" (John 20:1). This phrase, in the original language, means to be lifted up and carried away. Why is this important? Archaeologists estimate this stone was 8 feet in diameter and 10 inches thick. If this stone was lifted up and carried away from the tomb, it is clear that no human moved it.
4. How do you explain the empty tomb and that no one has ever found the body of Jesus? Today you can go to the city of Jerusalem and see the empty tomb of Christ. However, the tombs of all of the other religious figures of history are still occupied. Why is this important? Because it means that only one man, Jesus of Nazareth, rose from the grave. All the others are still dead.
5. Why would the Roman guards have fled from the tomb? They knew that to leave their post was punishable by death. It was also a capital offense under Roman law for a soldier to fall asleep at his post. They must have realized that there was no reason for them to stay at the tomb when they realized that Jesus was gone.
6. There were hundreds of people who saw Jesus after His resurrection that would testify to this fact. Any judge and jury in our land would be convinced by this many witnesses. Paul the apostle knew that Jesus appeared to over 500 witnesses at one time. He said that most of them were still alive when he wrote this letter and could back up their claim (1 Cor. 15:6). Furthermore, many of these witnesses gave their lives because of their testimony that Jesus was alive. Paul himself stopped persecuting Christians after he saw the risen Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), and eventually became one of the greatest witnesses the church has ever known. He, too, gave up his life confessing that Jesus was alive.
7. Jesus still changes lives today as He promised to do. Look at the millions of men and women who have had their lives changed by this man Jesus. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life to all who will come to Him by faith. His life changing power will flood your soul and renew your life if you will repent of your sin and receive Him into your heart. This is the ultimate proof that He is alive. Jesus said, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28).
These are the facts. Now you must make a decision. What will you do with these facts? Will you allow them to persuade you to believe?
Jesus encouraged Thomas to decide
Jesus said, "Do not be unbelieving, but believing" (John 20:27). In other words, Jesus was encouraging Thomas to decide, to make a choice within his heart to turn from his doubt and believe. Jesus was saying to him, "If the facts and evidence convince you that I am alive, then stop your unbelieving and choose to believe right now." There is so much more evidence for why you should believe.
If you are a Christian struggling with unbelief, you also need to hear this rebuke and be challenged. Can you acknowledge that it’s a total contradiction to describe yourself as a believer and yet not believe? How can a believer not believe? How could you get to this place? It’s very simple. Your eyes are not focused on the facts of who Christ is and what He has done, but you are looking at temporary circumstances and considering your feelings just as the disciples did after the death of Christ. However, if you will stop right now and remember all that He has told you then you will not sink into unbelief and despair. This is what you must do. You must take into account all that Jesus has taught you and all that He has already done in your life. Look at how often God has confirmed His Word to you. At times we all need someone to say, "Stop your unbelieving. God is trustworthy; His Word is sure. He is powerful and can do more than anything you could ever ask or even think." Trust Him! If you would simply look at His creative genius around you, His wisdom and ability to hold all things together and to make His entire creation work, it should be evidence enough. Look at the masterpiece of the human body. God is the creator and sustainer of all things, including you. He is powerful enough to handle your problems. Yet, your eyes are closed to these things when you focus only on your problems and circumstances. Won’t you ask forgiveness for your unbelief and trust Him now?
Remember, faith is a choice. However, many today think that faith is simply some power or feeling that some people have and others don’t. That’s not true. Faith is neither a power, nor a feeling; it’s a choice you make concerning the facts or the promises that others make to you. Jesus taught this truth concerning faith when He came to Mary and Martha, who were struggling in their faith over the death of their brother Lazarus. These women wondered if Jesus could raise their brother from the dead. He said to them, "If you would believe you would see the glory of God" (John 11:40). Jesus said the same thing to the man who was requesting that his son be healed. "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes" (Mark 9:23). The Bible declares that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Phil. 4:13). Therefore, I know that you can believe. It’s God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure, and it is definitely His good pleasure for you to believe. Consequently, it’s not a question of whether a person can believe, but, whether he will choose to believe.
Look back at John 20:25, and consider again what Thomas said, "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I (will) not believe." He didn't say I can’t believe; he said, I will not believe, declaring his adamant choice. Therefore, faith is a simple choice that a person makes within his heart and mind. God leaves this choice up to you. He will never force you to believe. Yes, He will attempt to convince you as He did Thomas, but He will never compel you to trust in Him. You must choose to believe His Word or you will choose to believe what you think. This is what the Bible tells us we do when we refuse to believe God’s Word. We are choosing to believe something else, namely, that God is a liar. The apostle John said, "He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son" (1 John 5:10). Therefore, when you choose not to believe what God has said concerning His Son, you are calling God a liar. This reveals the seriousness of unbelief.
If you have not committed your life to Christ, please consider the facts. The evidence is overwhelming that Jesus is who He said He was and that He fulfilled the prophecies in the Bible. He lived a holy life, He died for your sins and the sins of the world, and He rose again as proof that He was the Son of God. This means that He has the power to forgive sin, even your sin. It is now your choice. Will you turn from your unbelief and choose to trust Him with your whole heart? Or, will you just turn away?
Did Thomas believe? Yes! He was convinced by the evidence Jesus had displayed to him and He fell before Him crying out, "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28). The facts along with the love of Christ convinced him. Do you acknowledge that Jesus is your Lord and master? You must decide just as Thomas had to choose. Is He your Lord and your God? Or, do you think that He was just a good teacher, or a great prophet? Again, you must accept and believe the testimony that Jesus gave concerning Himself, or you must reject it. Jesus claimed that He was God come in human flesh. He made this claim by referring to Himself by the Name of God, I AM (John 8:24) (Ex. 3:14). If you don’t believe this testimony concerning Him, remember, this means that you are calling Him a liar and a false prophet. You can’t believe something less than what He declared concerning Himself. He was either a false prophet, mentally deranged, or the Lord of heaven and earth. He is either who He claimed to be or He’s not. You have to make the choice. The awesome thing is that God is so patient in His dealings with each of us. I am amazed at how many people God sent after me, to convince me that Christ was the answer to life. When I look back and think of all those outstretched hands and all the times I resisted. Yet the Lord was still reaching out His hand through His people saying, come and look at the facts, look at my hands, trust Me. He is also reaching out His hand to you today. What will you do with His offer? Jesus said, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
If you are willing to turn from your sins today and receive Jesus into your heart and you are willing to become His disciple, then pray this prayer to God and He will forgive your sins and transform your life as He did Thomas’. Pray: "Dear Lord, I come before You as a sinner. Forgive me for my rebellion against you and against your holy law. Jesus, come into my heart and take over my life right now. I believe you died for my sins and you rose again from the grave. Fill me with your Holy Spirit right now and help me to become your disciple and follow you all the days of my life. In Jesus name, amen."
This study was written by Pastor Steve Carr, Calvary Chapel, Arroyo Grande, CA. If we can be of any further assistance please contact us at www.calvaryag.org or firstname.lastname@example.org or (805) 481-2320.