Jesus appeared to most of his disciples on resurrection Sunday. Thomas was not among them that day. And he expressed skepticism at the claims of the others, that they had seen him alive. Thomas laid down the list of things that would be required in order for him to believe the wild story of his friends.
One week later, Jesus appeared again to the group and he had a specific command for Thomas. “Stop doubting and believe.” (John 20:27)
This is an interesting command. It would appear that we have a choice when it comes to our beliefs. Why else would Jesus frame the matter as if, somehow, it is up to us?
But Jesus commented further and seemed to say that the how and why of our belief is also significant. He observes about Thomas’ change of mind, “Because you have seen me you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)
There are other stories about people whose faith and belief was strengthened by what they saw. After Elijah brought her son back to life, the widow of Zaraphath declared, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth.” (I Kings 17:24) Job finally reached the point in his argument with the Lord that he said, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6)
Jesus had offered several physical and visual proofs to the other disciples when he first appeared to them in their locked prayer room. And although Jesus accepts that Thomas now believes, he seems to say there is a better ground for faith than depending on visual evidence. Seeing is not a critical, or even necessary, part or prerequisite to what we believe. We should be able to go with nothing more than God’s say so (or the say so of one of His servants).
John himself writes this summary after telling the story of Thomas and his doubts. “30. Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” We don’t get to see these signs. We only hear reports of them. That is, we must settle for words.
It was enough for David. He wrote, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11)
It is enough once God speaks. It is enough to base our beliefs on nothing more than His Word. It is all we need in order to obey and follow with safety and confidence.
Jesus said that way was the way of blessing.
We have his word.