Thomas’s doubts stemmed from disbelief. Not in the sense of unbelief, but more in the sense of … “I can’t believe this!” Remember, he is the only one who didn’t see the Risen Lord. He is relying on the word of the others. While he wants to believe them, no one had ever risen from the dead like that. Not ever. Jesus didn’t just raise from the dead like Lazarus and the others did. From what Thomas had been told, the angels were there. The burial cloths were neatly folded, all of that. Add to that the tales, the fantastic tales, that Jesus just appeared and disappeared at will. And perhaps the other 10 disciples liked to joke around. Add all that together, and you end up with a tale that Thomas desperately wants to believe, but…it’s just too fantastic. If it was me, part of me would wonder if they were pulling my leg. That’s why he says he won’t believe unless he sees the wounds. He want’s to make sure it really is Jesus. He needs to see what they saw. And he’s just not sure they are serious.
But Thomas wasn’t put down for his disbelief. Jesus understood. Thomas’s “doubts” weren’t doubts to the degree that they would have been considered sins against faith. He didn’t see how it was possible. It had never happened before. But then, the Son of God had never been Man before, either. Thomas questioned. Thomas didn’t understand. There is no sin in either of those responses. There is no shame in having questions and not understanding.
Let’s face it, how many of us, if we are honest, would have been any different from Thomas. Three days before, John had told you all of the details of Jesus death. He told you where he was buried. You planned to visit the tomb yourself. Perhaps later that Sunday. Before you have the chance, you hear that he is alive. You leave the room you have all been staying in. You need to think. You take a walk. You think about going to the tomb but somehow you never make it there. You want to see for yourself. You are afraid to look in case everything is as it should be. As it normally would be. You go back to the room where the others are. They tell you they have seen the Lord while you were out. You want to believe them. They are pressing you to believe them. They tell you how he breathed on them and told them to receive the Holy Spirit. You feel like you missed out becasue you weren’t there. One different choice and you would have seen the Lord, too. You want to know when he will visit again. No one knows. You want to know if he will visit again. No one knows that either. They press harder. You have to believe them, They have seen the Lord. You want to. You really want to. They are inisitent. So very insistent. Finally, in longing, because you so desperately want it to be true and are so afraid that it’s not, you blurt out, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in hia hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later they are all together again. And Jesus stands before Thomas. He gazes at him fondly and with infinite love and mercy, gentleness and understanding, he tells Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” “My Lord and my God!”
It’s easy to say we would have believed. We would have been different that Thomas. And we say that for precisely the reasons you listed. And yet, for me, if it had been me, if I had been there when he was arrested, if I had grown up and grown old seeing crucifixions happen, not because I wanted to but because it was unavoidable, if I had known for certain that Jesus was truly and completely dead, would I have been any different than Thomas? If I am honest, I think, like him, I would have wanted it to be true so desperately, and yet I just couldn’t see how it was possible. Not like that. Not like they described. If I am honest, it’s highly likely I, too, would have said, “Unless I put my finger into the nailmarks I will not believe.” I can’t. I want to, but I can’t.