Encounters with Jesus in the Gospel of John–Thomas the Doubter


In the last chapters of the Gospel of John Saint Thomas plays the pre-eminent part as the doubter.  At an appearance of the resurrected Jesus, Thomas was not present.  When the apostles told him that they had seen the Lord, he did not believe.  He said, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will never believe.”  (John 20: 25b ESV)

Eight days later Jesus appeared to the disciples with Thomas present.  The Lord instructed him to put a finger in the mark of the nails and his hand in his side.  Thomas’ response was to declare, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20: 28 ESV)  Then Jesus replied, “Have you believed because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  (John 20: 29 ESV)

Thomas is known as the doubter.  We can identify with him with no trouble because of our own struggles with doubt.  We may be believers; but, at times, our confidence is eroded for one reason or another that include intellectual and emotional considerations.

Today, many people don’t believe in God or place Him at the edge of their lives. We are challenged by this difference and opposition.  Unlike in the Middle Ages, the Christian Church does not lead the culture.  We live in a post-Enlightenment age of doubt and repudiation of the Christian revelation. (Charles Taylor, A Secular Age; Carl Becker, The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth Century Philosophers)

So our challenge as witnesses is great.  We must recognize the contemporary reality and yet act boldly on behalf of Christ.  He remains Lord and Savior.  His victory is anticipated by the Church against the gainsayers of the age we live in.

Be patient with the unbeliever.  Remember that the Lord wishes to draw him into a saving relationship with Him.


Michael G. Tavella

George Herbert, priest 1633

March 1, 2021

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