John 20:24

I. THOMAS AND HIS FELLOW-APOSTLES. When they told Thomas they had seen Jesus, and he refused to believe, they must have been rather staggered at first. They would insist on how they had seen Jesus with their own eyes, and heard him with their own ears; not one of them, but all. They would point out how the sepulcher was empty, and how Jesus had said that it behooved him to be raised from the dead. They might ask whether Thomas imagined that they were all in a conspiracy to play an unseemly practical joke upon him. Yet there was really nothing to complain about in the incredulity of Thomas. Who of them had believed Jesus as he deserved to be believed? Their thoughts had never been really directed towards resurrection. They had been dreaming of individual glory and sell: advancement, and all that tended in a different direction had been unnoticed. We must do them the justice to say that no tone of complaint against Thomas appears. They would be too conscious that with the beam so recently taken out of their own eye, they had no right to declaim against the mote in their brother's eye.

II. THOMAS AND JESUS. What is Jesus to do with Thomas? Is he to remain in this state of emphatic unbelief, with no means taken to help him into faith? Will Jesus make a special appearance, all for Thomas's satisfaction? Surely that can hardly be, but time will tell. A week elapses, and the disciples are gathered again, Thomas being with them. Jesus reappears, just after the former fashion. What, then, will Thomas do? Will he rush to Jesus, confessing and bewailing the wickedness of his unbelief? Jesus removes all difficulty by taking the first step himself. All the apostles need to be taught a lesson. Jesus knows well that faith can never originate in things that can be seen and felt and handled. Such things may help faith, but cannot produce it. The confession of Thomas, prompt and ardent as it seems, counts for little with Jesus. He does not say, "Blessed art thou, Thomas; for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." Thomas had to be both lovingly helped and delicately rebuked.

III. PROBABLE AFTER-EXPERIENCES OF THOMAS. Thomas would meet many of an unbelieving spirit, who could not, just upon his word, accept the resurrection of Jesus. And then Thomas would have to reply, "I once thought as you do; I insisted on seeing the marks of the wounds; and my Master, in his boundless condescension to the infirmities of his servants, let me see what I wanted to see. But, at the same time, he taught me a lesson, in the strength of which I have gone ever since." All the apostles had soon to believe in One whom they could not see. Where he had gone, they knew not; and how he was to communicate with them and they with him, they could not explain; but most assuredly a real and fruitful communication was established. Jesus was not speaking of an impossible blessedness, or dangling the attractions of a dream before the eyes of his disciples. The unseen, and not the seen, is what strengthens faith. What men see is the very thing that makes them unbelievers, confusing them, perplexing them, utterly disabling them from laying hold on anything solid and comforting. If the seen hides the unseen, so that Jesus himself becomes the merest of tames, then there is dreadful misery. - Y.

But Thomas, called Didymus... was not with them when Jesus came.
Mark —


1. Thomas was absent when Jesus appeared, and consequently missed a blessing. He was kept in suspense and unbelief a whole week, while all around him were rejoicing in the thought of a risen Lord.

2. We shall all do well to remember the charge (Hebrews 10:25). Never to be absent from God's house on Sundays, without good reason; never to let our place be empty when means of grace are going on — this is one way to be a prosperous Christian. The very sermon that we needlessly miss may contain a precious word in season for our souls. The assembly for prayer and praise from which we stay away may be the very gathering that would have cheered and stablished our hearts. We little know how dependent our spiritual health is on little, regular, habitual helps, and how much we suffer if we miss our medicine. The wretched argument that many attend means of grace and are no better for them should be no argument to a Christian. Such an one should remember the words of Solomon (Proverbs 8:34), and the Master's promise (Matthew 18:20).


1. It is hard to imagine anything more provoking than the conduct of Thomas, when even the testimony of ten faithful brethren had no effect on him. But it is impossible to imagine anything more patient and compassionate than our Lord's treatment of him. He comes again at the end of a week, and apparently for the special benefit of Thomas, and deals with him according to his weakness, like a gentle nurse dealing with a froward child. If nothing but material evidence could satisfy him, even that evidence was supplied.

2. This, doubtless, was written for the comfort of believers. The Holy Ghost knew well that the dull, slow, stupid, and doubting are by far the commonest type of disciples in this evil world, and He has taken care to supply abundant evidence that Jesus bears with the infirmities of all His people. Let us take care that we copy our Lord's example.

III. HOW CHRIST WAS ADDRESSED BY A DISCIPLE AS "GOD," WITHOUT PROHIBITION OR REBUKE ON HIS PART. When Cornelius fell down at the feet of Peter and would have worshipped him, the Apostle refused such honour at once (Acts 10:26). So did Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:14). The Divinity of Christ is one of the foundation truths of Christianity. Unless our Lord is very God of very God, there is an end of His mediation, His atonement, His advocacy, His priesthood, His whole work of redemption. These doctrines are useless blasphemies, unless Christ is Divine. Let us bless God that the divinity of our Lord stands on evidence that can never be overthrown. Above all, let us daily repose our sinful souls on Christ, with undoubting confidence, as one who is perfect God as well as perfect man.

(Bp. Ryle.)

After a great fire, or a flood like that which desolated Johnstown, a time always comes for a deliberate calculation of the loss. But it is seldom that we sit down and figure out how much we have lost by neglect of opportunity, or the waste of time. It is said that a great American lawyer once put down in black and white the loss of money and reputation which resulted from his stopping on the way to the trial of an important case, to have two minutes' gossip with a friend. Such calculations are rare, because we no more like to think of what is irrecoverably gone than a soldier likes to visit a battlefield where he was ignominously beaten.

1. The personal presence of his Master was one element of the loss.

2. But Thomas also lost the help which he might have had in the Christian sympathy of his brethren. They were in a common trouble. That trouble ought to have bound them the more strongly to each other. In the Paris exposition Of 1889 was a wonderful picture, which told its own story. A peasant's hut furnished the scene. The scanty house. hold belongings told of poverty. The fire had gone out on the hearth. The rough table was destitute of food. In the corner, covered with a white sheet, lay something which spoke of death. But, huddled close together, as if fearing to be parted, the children are represented as clinging to each other. The whole picture seemed to say, "When the mother is dead, what can the children do but keep together?" That was the spirit in which Christ's personal followers met on the first Sunday night after the Crucifixion. Their only comfort, when their Master was dead, was in keeping near to each other. What a help it would have been to Thomas, if, in the loneliness of his supposed orphanage, he could have had the strength which comes from personal contact with others in the same experience of sorrow! On our Illinois prairies, the farmers, in the harvest-time, never set a single sheaf of grain standing by itself. They put them so that half a dozen lean the one against the Other, and thus give mutual support. The old story tells us that Alexander the Great mourned over the loss of a day. But Thomas must have deplored the loss of a week. On an ocean steamship, there are no hours of greater discomfort than those in which the fog-whistle sounds its dismal note. The incertitude where the right way lies, and the consciousness of peril without the power to see how to avoid it, make every such hour an hour of misery. But such a fog is as nothing to that which envelops him who finds a distrust of his nearest friend creeping over his soul. It would all have been spared him, if he had been "there when Jesus came." The evidence which Christ granted him a week later might have been given him when the other disciples "knew it was the Lord." One of the first effects of doubt of the gospel in the heart of a Church-member is to keep him away from the meetings of his brethren. The very place in which Christ would meet him, and remove his puzzling difficulties, is the place he neglects.

(Bp. Cheney.)

The disciples had met; but there were three vacant places. Jesus Himself was absent: would He ever be present again? Judas, too, was no longer one of their number, and never would be. There was yet another vacant seat: "Thomas, one of the twelve... was not there." Why this absence? The weather had probably nothing to do with this absence; nor could it be attributed to some casual hindrance. Thomas had no heart to go. This would make his absence painfully significant to the other apostles. Most ministers know how the absence of friends from services depresses those present, even when it cannot be traced to such a reason as this. There is a chilling influence felt whenever the minister's eye rests upon timber instead of worshippers, and every empty pew opens its mouth wide in discouraging eloquence, which makes it necessary for the preacher to open his wider than usual, or the vacant seat will have it all its own way. Thomas, like Philip, Matthew, and Nathanael or Bartholomew, belonged to the meditative and doubting section of the apostles. Philip's doubts came through his love of mathematics. To him everything had to be reduced, to a sum in proportion, or to be arranged in its proper form and sequence like a problem in Euclid. "Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little," and "Lord, show us the Father and it sufficeth us," are the two utterances which reveal the nature of Philip's doubts. Thomas's doubts, on the contrary, came through his despondency. One man's doubts arise from his brain, another man's from his liver. Depend upon it, God does not ignore the physical, any more than He does the mental, infirmities which sometimes becloud our faith. In harmony with this prominent characteristic of Thomas, as given in both instances by John, it would appear that his absence on this occasion was due to the depressing influence of sorrow and unbelief. Notice that here, and side by side, we find two operations of sorrow. First we find the combining power of mutual grief in bringing the disciples together; while, in the case Of Thomas, we find the isolating power of sorrow in keeping a man apart from his fellows. Unbelieving sorrow makes a man close the door upon himself. He does not want to be brought into contact with old companionships or associations, but becomes isolated from all, and in loneliness broods over his grief. Now, what was the result of all this in the experience of Thomas?

1. He, by his absence, missed a great opportunity, and in one sense missed it irreparably. He "was not there when Jesus came." We know what it is to be unburdened, or at least to have our burdens lightened, by being brought into contact with others who are bearing similar burdens to our own. It is a spiritual fact, which has no counterpart in physics, that two men who bear their own burdens, when brought shoulder to shoulder, find that by that touch the burden of each is lessened. Thus Thomas would have missed much from forfeiting the communion of other sorrowful ones, even if Christ Himself had not come. But the loss seems to be multiplied n thousandfold when we read that Jesus came when "Thomas was not there." Now, Thomas was the last man who could afford this loss. No one of the eleven — for Peter had already seen the Master — needed the consolation, which came with the Master's presence, as much as Thomas did, and yet he was the only one who was absent. I have often noticed that since then those who can least afford such a loss are those who are oftenest absent when Jesus comes to cheer and bless His own.

2. Thomas by his absence missed the sight, for the time being, of his risen Lord. Thus he was the last of the apostles to whom that was granted.

3. Thomas, too, by this absence missed the first discourse of the risen Christ. Turn to Luke 24:44-49. There we have a brief outline of the Master's sermon at that service from which Thomas was absent. What a loss was that! He forfeited his Lord's exposition of the Old Testament in relation to Himself.

4. Again, Thomas by this absence missed all that is contained in the words preceding our text — "Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you. And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost," &c. (vers. 21-23). This was the gift of the Risen Lord, as the gift of the Day of Pentecost was that of the Ascended Lord. This Thomas missed. Are there not lessons here for us? Observe, first of all, that it was easier for the inspired writer to record the names of those absent from, than those present at, this service. Would it were so in our day when meetings are held for prayer! Again, how much sooner some of us would solve our problems if we took them to the sanctuary, and not, like Thomas, nursed them in solitude!

(David Davies.)

Preacher's Monthly.
I. AMONGST CHRIST'S DISCIPLES ARE MEN OF MANY TEMPERAMENTS. Cautious Thomas, impetuous Peter, loving John. Let no man condemn his brethren because unlike himself. Christ knows how to sanctify all.

II. EVERY MAN SHOULD BE ON HIS GUARD AGAINST HIS WEAKNESSES: the cautious and hesitant against despondency and scepticism.

III. SINCERE DOUBT CALLS FORTH NOT THE CONDEMNATION, BUT THE PITY AND HELP OF CHRIST. Let us not by harshness drive the earnest doubter into disbelief. He may become the immovable, because intelligent, believer.

IV. BE IT OURS TO SEEK THE HIGHER BLESSEDNESS OF THOSE WHO THOUGH NOT SEEING BELIEVE. We shall not seek in vain. He will manifest Himself to us as He does not unto the world.


(Preacher's Monthly.)


1. Parentage. Unknown, though from the circumstance that he is always conjoined with Matthew (Matthew 10.; Mark 3.; Luke 5.), who was a son of Alphaeus (Mark 2:14), and the two are always followed by James, also the son of Alpheus, it has been supposed that he was Matthew's twin brother.

2. Apostleship. Belonging originally to the circle of John's disciples, he appears, like Andrew, Simon, James, and John, to have gone early over to Christ. In the second year of Christ's ministry he was called to serve as an apostle.

3. Appearances.

(1)In Peraea (John 11:16).

(2)At the supper table (John 14:5).

(3)After the Resurrection (text).

4. Disappearance. After this he is only mentioned once (Acts 1:13). According to the Fathers, he preached in Parthia, and was buried in Edessa. A later tradition says he carried the gospel into India, where afterwards an old colony of Syrian Christians on the coast of Malabar, calling themselves "Thomas Christians," claimed him as their founder.


1. A melancholy disposition. Constitutionally and habitually looking on the dark side of things, Thomas preferred to walk on the shady side of the street (John 11:16).

2. A slow judgment. Thomas never travelled faster than his understanding or reason would permit, and these were never hasty in forming decisions (John 14:5).

3. A critical mind. Thomas liked to search things to the bottom, to see before he believed (ver. 25).

4. A courageous spirit. He was not afraid to encounter danger and death with and for His Master (John 11:16), although taken with a panic, like the rest, he forsook Christ and fled.

5. A true heart. His judgment once convinced, his heart never hesitated, as here.

(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

I. THE FIRST PASSAGE is in vers. 24, 25.

1. His distinction. "One of the twelve." Twelve rare stones once burned in the breast-plate of the High Priest; a glorious mass, the richest symbol of value, honour, and glory. The twelve apostles were like these gems. There was no duplicate stone, no duplicate apostle, and one could never be mistaken for another. Thomas was a man of pronounced individuality. His very unbelief was all his own. But with all their diversities these twelve live stones were all wrought into one symmetrical whole, the Priest carried them all on his heart.

2. The disapproving mark set against his name. "Thomas... was not with them." In this we recognize the spirit of rebuke. We are obliged to read it in connection with his title. He was not one of "the seventy," but "one of the twelve." What, after all, was the great wrong? That is a merely negative charge. Men generally think that simply not to do a thing is, at any rate, to be harmless. But in the sight of God few things are negative. Not to do right is to do wrong. Christ cries, "He that is not for Me is against Me." The law reserves its loudest thunders for negations. "Curse ye Meroz." Why? "Because they came not up to the help of the Lord." And Christ's most fearful formula of condemnation is, "Inasmuch as ye did it not." Thomas might have said, "I hinder no other man; if I do no good, I do no harm, for I simply do nothing." Nothing!(1) The disciples were drawn together by love. If not orphans in fact, they were in feeling, and their hearts would say, "We must be all in all to each other now; let us cling closer and closer." Did they cling? All were together that night but one.(2) They would be drawn together in worship. Allow that their faith was weak, it was not yet quite a thing of the past. A child does not cease to be a child because it is suffering from fever; the instinct which makes it natural for life to seek its source, and for God's child to fly to God in trouble, was working in them still. "But Thomas was not with them."(3) They met from the habit of meeting as Christ's appointed witnesses. But Thomas "was not with them."

3. There is no explanation of his absence.(1) It seems fair, however, to ascribe it to his constitutional unbelief. To him doubtless it looked like stark lunacy to think that Christ could be alive again. "I will not be taken in again; I will not love any more," said poor Southey when his child died; so in spirit said Thomas now.(2) Connected with, and consequent on, his unbelief, there might be the most dismal apathy. He wanted no companion but his own forlorn thoughts, and therefore he would not go. It is like saying, "Because I am hungry, I will take no food; because I am caught in a storm, I will seek no shelter," &c. Where was the melancholy man? Did he lie flung upon the floor all night; or had sorrow put on the mask of levity, and did he laugh? Did he try to walk off the agony of his grief, striking away to the hills of Bethlehem, or to the groves of Olivet, or to the ghostly wilderness, where once the scapegoat wandered, or to the haunted solitudes of the Dead Sea shore? Wherever he stumbled along, he would say, "I did once think that He was the Redeemer of Israel! It is all over now!"

4. Hear what he says after the meeting. "Old Father Morris," says his American biographer, "had noticed a falling off in his little village meeting for prayer. The first time he collected a tolerable audience, he took occasion to tell them something 'concerning the conference meeting of the disciples' after the Resurrection. 'But Thomas was not with them.' 'Thomas not with them!' said the old man in a sorrowful voice; 'why, what could keep Thomas away? Perhaps.' said he, glancing at some of his auditors, 'Thomas had got cold hearted, and was afraid that they would ask him to make the first prayer; or, perhaps,' he continued, looking at some of the farmers, 'he was afraid the roads were bad; or, perhaps,' he added, after a pause, 'he thought a shower was coming on.' He went on significantly summing up common excuses, and then with great simplicity and emotion he added, 'But only think what Thomas lost, for in the middle of the meeting the Lord Jesus came and stood among them!'" After the meeting, "the other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord." While they told their tale with burning words and eager gestures, he stood unmoved. Mary Magdalene said that she had seen the Saviour. "Ah, no doubt you are an excellent woman, but you have been deceived, you are so imaginative." Then Peter said, "I have seen the Lord." "I am sure you think so, but you must be in error." Then John said, "But indeed I have seen the Lord." "That is good evidence for yourself, but it does not convince me." Then Bartholomew and others would say, "We have seen the Lord, and five or six others have told you so. Do you think we have conspired to tell a falsehood?" "No, my brethren, far from it; yet I have known such things in the world as for five or six persons to be mistaken. I feel that your witness deals with such improbabilities that I cannot receive it." At last he declared downright, "Except I shall see," &c.

II. THE SECOND PASSAGE is in vers. 26-29.

1. The meeting renewed. Like the first, it was on the first day of the week, a fact not easy to account for except on the theory of a special law of Christ. He gave the first and second Sunday the sanction of His presence, leaving the interval to pass in silence, looking as if He meant to make the day stand out with sharp relief, as the day which was to have Sabbatic benediction.

2. The absentee returned. Thomas, as a true man, could not remain an absentee. It is hard for like not to fly to like. Everything in grace, like everything in nature, will sooner or later "go to its own company," and so did Thomas.

3. How the unbelief was dealt with: as the affliction of a true disciple. Unbelief has many varieties. There is the unbelief of —(1) The indifferent — that says, "What is truth?" That is, Who knows? Who cares? What does it matter?(2) The vain — that which delights to air itself in public; which is thought to be the mark of the thoughtful, or of the original, or of the heroic.(3) Of one who has indolently allowed unbelievers to think for him; who has caught it as a cold is caught, simply by standing about in draughts.(4) Of temperament. Some persons must sift evidence before they commit themselves. The term "sceptic" is from a root that means "cover," or "shade," and would in old time have been applied to a man who shaded his eyes with his hand in order to look into a thing narrowly and intently, determined not to be mistaken about it. It may therefore be fitly applied to a man of doubting temperament; but while it points to this, it also includes the idea of a shadow over the mind, and a tendency to take dark, uncertain, unhappy views of things.(5) The unbelief of Thomas was from the last-named cause. Christ called His disciples "children." Here was the serious and critical illness of a child. Is a child less loved when ill than when well? He knew that the sceptical nature of this man went along with simple, noble, self-renouncing love.

4. Jesus, in dealing with it, revealed His forgiving love. Infirmity given way to and persisted in deepens into sin. It was a sin not to believe after he had heard the Master say, "Let not your heart be troubled," &c., and after hearing His repeated foreshowings of His resurrection. It was sin to set up his own single decision against the evidence of his ten tried companions, and not to be satisfied with mental conviction and to demand in such a case as this the report of his fingers. With patient pity, Christ sought the poor wanderer, and with unspeakable tenderness brought him back.

5. The confession made. What was the immediate occasion of this cry? The offer was indeed made to the doubter, of the very tests he asked for. But Thomas did not accept this challenge; his had been a perilous venture to dare, and now he drew back from the edge of the precipice up to which he had come. The stubborn spirit melted in the flash of a moment, and the bold unbeliever became a little child. Touch was not thought of now. Christ was fully revealed. Love has sharp sight and quick responsiveness; in the new light, yet mingled with a sense of mystery, he recognized the Lord of his heart; with wonder, with tender and exquisite ecstasy, and with adoring prostration of soul, he cried, "My Lord and my God."

(C. Stanford, D. D.)

Of all the apostles, St. Thomas affords the most striking parallel to the prevailing tendencies of our age. These words of his might have been spoken by a disciple of the modern school of sensational philosophy. The impatience of dictated belief and the dependence upon the evidence of the senses, which are the common habits of our day, are here both plainly expressed.


1. It Is a decided doubt. We look upon doubt as something that wavers, falters, hesitates. But St. Thomas shows the opposite spirit. He is very positive. The dogmatism of unbelief is often observed; but here we may see the dogmatism of doubt. Though the expression appears paradoxical, it is verified by common observation. If a man lays down certain conditions on which he will believe, and regards these conditions as absolute and final, he is as dogmatic in his decision not to decide the question before him till those conditions are fulfilled as if he were determining the question itself. Now, is there not a certain pride and assumption in the position thus taken up? Can we be so sure that our criteria are perfectly sound? Is it not possible that our doubt may. arise from no deficiency of grounds for reasonable belief, but from artificial requirements which we have set up without any warrant for them?

2. This doubt must be distinguished from distrust. The apostle does not waver in his allegiance to Christ; he merely questions the astounding rumour of the resurrection. The really important matter for all of us is an active loyal trust in Christ. It is far better to have this, and yet to hesitate in regard to facts in the history of Christ, than to accept all those facts in a bare intellectual conviction, but to have no living faith in Him. There are men like the doubting disciple who cling to their trust in their Lord though they are sadly tried with questions about the facts and doctrines of the gospel. Of course the haze that obscures these truths must make the act of earnest, practical faith more difficult than it would be with a clear assurance in regard to them.

3. St. Thomas's doubt resulted in part from his despondent and gloomy disposition. It is not charitable for persons of a cheerful disposition to be harsh in rebuking the painful doubts of gloomy minds.

II. ST. THOMAS'S DOUBT AS ILLUSTRATIVE OF A COMMON PHASE OF THOUGHT. There was a method in his doubt. He had a very clear idea of what he required to satisfy his mind.

1. The first requisite was personal experience. St. Thomas had not been with the disciples when Christ appeared. He must see for Himself. A similar disposition is apparent in the claims for individual conviction advocated so strenuously in the present day. This is the great Protestant principle of private judgment run wild. People refuse to accept a doctrine because the Church authorizes it. It must be proved to them on its own merits. Wholesome and sensible as this demand is when kept within reasonable limits, it lands us in absurdity when it is pushed to extremes. We cannot obtain direct evidence of every truth. Life is too short for the task, and our faculties are too limited. We accept facts of history on testimony. Is it not reasonable that we should accept the historical foundation of religion in the same way? No one mind can survey the whole realm of science. The most strict disciple of the school of inductive philosophy is compelled to rely largely on the researches of other men. Why should not the same principle apply to the acquisition of spiritual truth? No doubt personal experience of spiritual truth is the strongest ground for believing in it as well as the surest way of understanding it. Still, our creed will be very thin and meagre if it never transcends our life. The great use of the Bible is to bring us into contact with truths which are vastly above and beyond our present experience, that thereby our experience may be enlarged and elevated. He who confines himself to the light of experience cripples the growth of experience, and thus prevents that very light from becoming brighter.

2. The other requisite was the evidence of the senses. St. Thomas must see the very wounds of Christ with his own eyes, and touch the wound-prints with his fingers, before he will believe. Spiritual contact with the risen Lord is not enough. This evidence of the senses is set in the first place among our modern grounds of conviction. Yet the senses are being proved to be liable to great illusions, and at least they can show only objects of sense. The spiritual world is wholly dark to them. But no evidence of the senses will reveal these great truths. He who confines himself to that one avenue of knowledge shuts the door against the light of the highest revelation. His position is unreasonable. We have souls as well as bodies, and there are ideas which can never reach our souls through touch and sight.

(W. F. Adeney, M. A.)

It is interesting and instructive to note —

I. THE VARIETY OF TEMPERAMENT IN THE APOSTLES. St. Peter, e.g., is impulsive and demonstrative, and at times self-reliant (Matthew 14:27-31; Matthew 26:33, 35, 70, 75). St. John is calm and undemonstrative, quietly leaning on Jesus' bosom. St. Andrew would seem to have been self-retiring and contemplative; while Paul is all for action.

1. One of the advantages of keeping the Saints' Days is that we thus have opportunity to study these different characters, their individual virtues and failings.

2. All the apostles may be called typical men: they find their counterpart in all ages. St. Thomas may be taken as the type of the sceptical mind.

3. There is a difference between scepticism and unbelief, although often confounded together. The sceptic doubts, and looks into the matter; the unbeliever rejects altogether, too often without inquiring (Acts 17:32), and frequently on moral grounds (chap. John 3:19). But scepticism may end in unbelief; therefore a dangerous spirit to indulge: useful as a safeguard against error and imposition, but needs to be sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

II. THE SUBJECT ON WHICH ST. THOMAS WAS SCEPTICAL, viz., the resurrection of Christ.

1. The idea of a resurrection at all scarcely found a place in the disciples' minds. They were not expecting such an unheard-of event (chap. John 20:9; Luke 24:18-25). This enables us to realize the position of Thomas the better.

2. With St. Thomas's scepticism contrast the unbelief of the Athenians (Acts 17:32). They rejected the doctrine of the resurrection in intellectual scorn, or with a quasi-polite show of deference; while Thomas asked for further proof. The men of Athens put the light from them; Thomas asked for more.

3. The scepticism of St. Thomas accordingly contributes towards establishing the fact of the Redeemer's resurrection, as we are reminded in the collect for the day. On the importance of this fact, see 1 Corinthians 15:1-20; Romans 1:3, 4.


1. Thomas had nothing but hearsay evidence to trust in (chap. John 20:24). Evidently a man who did not believe everything he heard, but at the same time ready to receive the truth on sufficient grounds (Acts 17:11). The Saviour dealt with him accordingly, and as He had done with the Baptist (Matthew 11:2-6).

2. This was in accordance with our Lord's usual method. To intellectual unbelief He vouchsafed the gracious answer and adduced an argument (Matthew 22:29-33). Where faith was weak and wavering, He came to the rescue (Mark 9:23; Matthew 14:30, 31). Only against the error of the heart He launched His fiercest invectives (Matthew 23:13-15, &c.). "In this world God cleanses our hearts, in the next He will cleanse our brains also." Application:

I. Our Lord's sympathy with honest doubt. He knows what is in man, and has compassion accordingly (Isaiah 42:3). If we are honestly seeking after God's truth, His Spirit will guide us into it (John 16:13). Let us take all our spiritual difficulties to "the Son of man." He knows them all, and has grace in store to meet them (Hebrews 4:14-16).

2. Observe the special blessing which the Redeemer pronounces upon a simple unquestioning faith (Matthew 9:22; Mark 10:52; Matthew 15:28).(1) We are in the position of those who "have not seen," and for our comfort these words (John 20:29) were spoken.(2) While Thomas asked for more proof, let us ask for more faith (Luke 17:5), that so the blessing of "not seeing, and yet believing," may be ours.

(F. J. Calthrop, M. A.)

We have here —

I. AN INTERESTING RELIGIOUS SCEPTIC. There are certain features in this scepticism of Thomas that mark it off from common scepticism.

1. It was negative, not positive. He did not echo the everlasting "no" of the infidel world; all he said was, I cannot believe it without more evidence. He did not manifest any affinity of feeling with that presumptuous herd who arrogantly proclaim gospel facts impossibilities, gospel doctrines absurdities, and gospel believers brainless fanatics or cunning knaves.

2. It was intellectual, not moral. The wish is often the father to the thought — the creed the offspring of the heart; but it was not so here.

3. It was frank, not underhanded. To whom did Thomas avow his unbelief? To the sordid worldlings who felt no interest in those things — to the sneering infidel who would readily nurse his doubts into atheism? Or to Scribes and Pharisees who would be only too delighted at the indications of his apostacy? No, like an honest man he expressed his disbelief in the face of the believers. Let modern sceptics imitate his example in this. Let them, instead of appealing to the thoughtless crowd, and seeking to work ""heir infidel notions by jokes and tales into the minds of the unreflecting multitude, go at once to the Church, and say openly and respectfully, as did Thomas, We cannot believe in the doctrines you offer unless you give us more evidence. This might serve the common cause of truth and the common interest of our race.

4. It was convincible, not obstinate. There are some men so inveterate in their prejudices that no amount of evidence will modify their opinions. Such was not Thomas. After he first avowed his unbelief, did he seek every possible means to establish himself in his infidel view and avoid opportunities for obtaining evidence? The reverse of this is the fact. "Eight days" after he declared his scepticism, we find him with the disciples, no doubt in search of sufficient proof to convince him. Honest doubt is active, because it is a law of mind to seek certitude.

II. AN EXEMPLARY RELIGIOUS GUIDE. We have here detailed the method in which Jesus dealt with this poor sceptic. Does He denounce him as a heretic, expel Him from the circle of His disciples, or treat him even with cold indifference, which to sensitive natures would be worse than severity? No. How then? Let the ministers who fulminate against all who cannot subscribe to their tenets, the sectarians who consign to perdition all beyond the pale of their little Church, mark well the conduct of Christ.

1. The direct speciality of His merciful treatment. He did not address some general remarks bearing on the subject of doubt to the whole company, leaving Thomas to apply them if he would. He deals directly with Him. He saw that the man was on the margin of the cold, dark infidelity, and that he required prompt and special attention.

2. Its exquisite considerateness. The request of Thomas was objectionable on many grounds, yet Christ condescends to grant it. He might have reproved him, but He at once says, "Reach hither," &c.

3. Its moral influence. Thomas said, "My Lord and My God, I am more than convinced, I am won by the majesty of Thy love." Mark well, then, Christ's method of treating scepticism, and take heed to the fact that in this respect He has left us an example.

III. A SUPER-EMINENT RELIGIOUS FAITH (ver. 29). These words imply two facts.

1. That it is possible for those who have never seen Christ to believe in Him. Wherever His gospel goes, there goes evidence sufficient to produce faith without any visible manifestation. There is —(1) The testimony of competent witnesses. Had not the apostles every opportunity of thoroughly knowing those facts of Christ's history which they propounded? Had they any motive to deceive?(2) The testimony of our consciousness. There is such a congruity between the doctrines of the gospel and the intuitive beliefs of mankind, and between its provisions and our deep-felt wants, that it comes with a self-evidencing power.(3) In ordinary matters we believe without seeing every day. "Faith is the evidence of things not seen," as is shown in Hebrews 11. Ever since the departure of Christ the language of the Church has been, "Whom having not seen we love," &c.

2. That those who believe in Him without seeing are peculiarly blessed. We are apt to think that the contemporaries of Christ were privileged above us. This is a delusion. Faith without sight —(1) Is more praiseworthy than faith by sight. There are two kinds of belief — the one voluntary, the other involuntary. The one comes by a proper inquiry into evidence, and the other springs up irresistibly whenever a fact is visible to the senses, or a proposition truthful to the mind. The latter is without moral merit, and for it man is not responsible. But voluntary faith depends upon a man's agency. There is a universe of facts that lies beyond the realm of my senses and that transcends all my a priori ideas. Belief in those facts requires evidence, and the evidence requires honest investigation. This voluntary faith has a moral character. Why do men not believe in Christ? It cannot be said for the want of evidence, but because that evidence is either entirely neglected or examined improperly. Now the faith of Thomas sprang from the sense, and had in itself but little merit.(2) Is frequently more accurate. The senses are deceptive. "Things are not what they seem." Reason has evidences on which to build a faith of unquestionable truthfulness.(3) More ennobling. It involves a higher exercise of mind. Whatever tends to stimulate and work the mental faculties is good. Faith founded on rational evidence implies and demands this mental action. Sensuous faith does not. The history of the apostles illustrates this. How morally weak, because mentally inactive, were they during their personal connection with Christi But after His ascension, when they are thrown upon rational evidence, how strong they become in a few days.Conclusion: The subject suggests —

1. An incidental argument in favour of Christianity. The fact that there was such a man as Thomas amongst the disciples shows that there was no collusion between them; and that they were not a body of superstitious and credulous men.

2. The superiority of our advantages over those of the contemporaries of Christ.

3. The duty of the Church in relation to doubters.

4. The relation to Christ which it is the supreme interest of humanity to seek — that which Thomas expressed, "My Lord and my God."

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

Ask thy soul these questions: First, Whether there be any gain by doubting? Faith purities the heart; but doth doubting purify the heart? Secondly, Whether there is anything more pleasing to God than to trust him in and by Jesus Christ, when all comforts are out of view, and when you see nothing but what is contrary to the thing promised? Thirdly, Whether you must not venture upon Christ at the last? and if you must venture upon Christ at the last, why not now? When a man hath to go over a river, though he ride once and again into the water, and come out, saying, I fear it is too deep for me; yet considering that there is no other way for him, he resolves to venture, for, saith he, the longer I stay, the higher the water will rise, and there is no other way for me — I must go through at the last, why not at the first? and so he ventures through. Thus it is with you. You say, "Oh, but my heart is not humbled; oh, but I am a great sinner; and how can I venture upon Jesus Christ?" Will thy heart be more humbled by keeping from Jesus Christ, and wilt thou be less a sinner by keeping from Him? No, certainly; for the longer you stay from Christ, the harder it will be to venture on Him at the last. Wherefore, if there be ever a poor, drooping, doubting, fearing, trembling heart reading these words, know that I do here, in the name of the Lord, call out to you and say, Oh soul, man or woman, venture, venture, venture upon Christ now; for you must come to trusting in time at last; and if at last, why not now?

(William Bridge.)

Let us consider —


1. It is an evil habit to always think of doubt as sinful. It may be, because it may be the sign of a captious and insincere mind; but what can and ought a man do but doubt, if the evidence is not sufficient? Christian faith, it is true, is more than an act of the reason, but it never contradicts, and is itself, so far, an exercise of reason.

2. Are we to believe because our ancestors believed, and so gave us the Christian faith as an inheritance? Partly so; but never chiefly. If we are right-minded, right-hearted, we cannot help some preferences in favour of what comes to us from our forefathers. But this never can justify us in accepting the Christian faith. We must put on it the stamp of our own intelligence, and hold it in the grip of our own conviction.

3. It were better for us to be satisfied with evidence when it is enough than to be so critical and exacting as to demand that it shall be irresistible; better to be satisfied with the testimony of two senses than to require the concurring testimony of a third. Still, there are always those who are not so easily satisfied as their brethren. And when Thomas asks for more evidence, there is nothing to be done but to furnish it.

4. We have the highest of all examples for this procedure — Jesus Himself, who made this distinct appearance to satisfy His doubting disciple, and all besides him who are of his temper and school.


1. A merely speculative scepticism that entertains questions politely for a few hours simply for intellectual interest; that puts the Christian religion among the things, waiting a far-off day of settlement; is a most injurious habit. All deep earnestness is against it; and all high living; and all Holy Scripture; and the whole mind and heart of Christ.

2. That Christ did exist no sane man will deny. It will be granted, too, that some respect ought to be paid to His own wish and will in considering the matter of His claims. Here, then, is One who has filled the world with His name and influence; who never published a line, and yet has set all the world publishing books about Him; who never led an army, and yet has overrun the four quarters of the world; who never entered a palace, and yet exercises a sovereignty that kings might well envy. Now, has not He a right to say something as to the way His claims shall be treated? This is what he says, "Reach hither thy finger," &c. Some one says, "I acknowledge Jesus Christ to be the chief of the sons of men." That will not do. "Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hand." The hand that laboured, that healed, that blessed the little children, that rolled back the gates of Death. Another says, "I see that Jesus Christ wields a vast influence over many hearts and over all the world, and with that influence I have no intention of interfering." That will not do. "Reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side!" into the love-wound; the fountain of this world's purity; the only place where salvation can be found. Another says, "I shall remain neutral for a while; there can be no harm in that." That will not do. "Be not" or literally "Become not unbelieving, but believing." Every man is becoming something more and more each day. The matter will not remain in balance. Consciously or unconsciously, it will ever grow to firmer faith or deeper unbelief. Therefore press the matter to settlement.


1. It was easy for Thomas to do it. Or, rather, it was easy for him to reach satisfaction without doing it. Apparently, he never did reach thither his finger. He was surprised, most of all, to hear his own expressions of doubt reproduced, when no one could have told the Master of them. All doubting is over now, and all desire is gratified: "My Lord and my God!"

2. The same principle operates still. A man lays down certain conditions as indispensable; but as he goes on he finds he can believe without them. Doubts are solved by the heart as well as by the intellect. There must, of courser be apprehended truth, else faith is only a superstition. But where there is an earnest mind the way of life will be plain and open. Now let us think again how Thomas was satisfied, and what the kind of proof was that brought him into this happy condition. Not by touching, for he never touched Him; not by seeing., although he did see Him; not by hearing, although he did hear, and knew the voice. The proof taking rank above all proofs was that God was near, and that he felt the awful glorious presence.

3. But where is the analogy between Thomas and any living person now? Here it is common now for those who reject Christianity to say, "Faith is not at our bidding. Show us the truth, and give us sure proof of it, and there will be no question left." And if we ask, "What kind of proof," &c., the answer is, "I can construct an argument in logic, so that no sane man will be able to resist the conclusion; or, I can demonstrate a mathematical problem, so that there can be no demur; or I can make a scientific experiment, so that a particular result shall lie before the eyes of every observer." Do you the same by religion, and then you may blot the word "unbeliever" out of your vocabulary. Now what is all this but to say with Thomas, in his honest but lower mood, "Except I shall see," &c. And yet he did believe with less than this, and so does many a one now who thinks for a while that he never can.

4. Let it be plainly told we have no certainty of a mathematical, logical, scientific kind. We use the means for rational conviction. In a sense we try the Lord and His great claims, as He says we may, by rational and outward tests. If we had not these to begin with, we could make no beginning. But as we begin to reach forth the finger of examination and the hand of verification, and thus approach the great central person Himself, we feel how true it is that spiritual things are spiritually discerned, and that "no man can call Jesus Lord but by the Holy Ghost."

(A. Raleigh, D. D.)

1. There are some men whose affections are stronger than their understandings: they feel more than they think. They are perhaps the happiest class of minds: for it is happy to be without misgivings about the love of God and our own eternal rest in Him. "Blessed are they that have believed."

2. There is another class whose reflective powers are stronger than their susceptive: they think out truth — they do not feel it out. Such a man was Thomas. Happy such men cannot be. An anxious and inquiring mind dooms its possessor to unrest. But manly and affectionate they may be: Thomas was. "Let us go up too, that we may die with Him." And men of mighty faith they may become: Thomas did. Now this question of a resurrection which made Thomas restless is the most anxious that can agitate the mind of man. So awful in its importance, and out of Christ so desperately dark in its uncertainty, who shall blame an earnest man severely if he crave the most indisputable proofs? Very clearly Christ did not. Thomas asked of Christ a sign. His Master gave him that sign, with a gentle and delicate reproof it is true — but He did give it. Note —

I. THE NATURALNESS OF THE DOUBTS OF THOMAS, which partly excuses them.

1. Nature is silent respecting a future life. There is enough to show us that there may be a life to come; there is nothing to make it certain. You strain at something in the twilight, and just when you are beginning to make it out the light fails you. So when we strain into nature's mysteries, to discern the secrets of the Great Hereafter. There are probabilities, nothing more.

2. Let us examine some of them.(1) The wish for immortality is a kind of argument: it is not likely that God would have given man such a feeling, if He had not meant to gratify it. If we thirst, God has created liquids. If we are susceptible of attachments, there are beings to gratify love. If we thirst for life and love eternal, it is likely that there are an eternal life and love. But more we cannot say.(2) The traditions of universal belief. How came it to be held by all, if only a delusion? And yet when you come to estimate this it is only a presumption. The universal voice of mankind is not infallible.(3) We are met by many resemblances to a resurrection — that of the moth from the grave of the chrysalis. For many ages the sculptured butterfly was the type and emblem of immortality. Again, there is a kind of resurrection when the spring brings vigour and motion back to the frozen pulse of the winter world. And yet all this, valuable as it is in the way of suggestiveness, is worth nothing in the way of proof. They only look like resurrections. The chrysalis only seemed dead: the tree in winter only seemed to have lost its vitality. Six thousand years of human existence have passed away; countless armies of the dead have set sail from the shores of time. No traveller has returned from the still land beyond. Now look at all this without Christ, and tell us whether it be possible to escape such misgivings as these which rise out of such an aspect of things. I do not wonder that Thomas, with that honest, accurate mind of his, wishing that the news were true, yet dreading lest it should be false, and determined to guard against every possible illusion, said so strongly, "Except I shall see," &c.

II. THE CHRISTIAN PROOFS OF A RESURRECTION. This text tells us of two kinds of proof:

1. The evidence of the senses — "Because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed." This external evidence of Christ's resurrection is twofold. The witness of Thomas, who was satisfied with the proofs, and of John, who records the circumstance.(1) Try the witness by ordinary rules. John does not say that he had heard the story from Thomas, and that years afterwards he had penned it down when his memory might be failing. He was present the whole time. All the apostles were there: they all watched the result with eager interest. Now, a scene like that is one of those solemn ones in a man's life which cannot be forgotten. Estimate next the worth of the witness of Thomas. Evidence is worth little if it is the evidence of credulity. But here was a man who dreaded the possibility of delusion, however credulous the others might be. He resolved beforehand that only one proof should be decisive. The evidence of testimony which he did reject was very strong, but he held out against it. He would trust a thing so infinitely important to nothing but his own scrutinizing hand.(2) Try the evidence next by character. Blemished character damages evidence. Now, the only charge that was ever heard against John was that he loved a world which hated him. The character of Thomas is that he was a man cautious in receiving evidence, and most rigorous in exacting proof, but ready to act upon his convictions when once made, even to the death. Who impeaches that testimony?(3) Once more — any possibility of interested motives will discredit evidence. Ask we the motive of John or Thomas for this strange tale? John's reward — a long and solitary banishment to the mines of Patmos. The gain and the bribe which tempted Thomas — a lonely pilgrimage to the far East, and death at the last in India;(a) The evidence to which Thomas yielded was the evidence of the senses. Now, the feeling which arose from this Christ pronounced to be faith — "Thou hast seen, thou hast believed." Observe then, it matters not how faith comes — whether through the intellect, as with Thomas — or through the heart, as with John; but faith is a state of soul in which the things of God become glorious certainties. It was not faith which assured Thomas that Christ stood before him: that was sight. But it was faith which from the visible enabled him to pierce up to the truth invisible: "My Lord and my God"; and which enabled him ever after to venture everything on that conviction, and live for One who had died for him.(b) The faith of Thomas was not merely satisfaction about a fact: it was trust in a Person. The admission of a fact, however sublime, is not faith: we may believe that Christ is risen, yet not be nearer heaven. Thomas passed on from the fact of the resurrection to the Person of the risen — "My Lord and my God." Trust in the risen Saviour — that was the belief which saved his soul. And that is our salvation too.

2. The evidence of the Spirit — "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." There are thousands of Christians who have never examined the evidences of the Resurrection: they are incapable of estimating it if they did examine; they have never seen — they know nothing of proofs and miracles — yet they believe and are blessed. How is this? I reply, there is an inward state of heart which makes truth credible the moment it is stated. Love is credible to a loving heart; purity to a pure mind. Of course that inward state could not reveal a fact like the Resurrection; but it can receive the fact the moment it is revealed without requiring evidence. The love of St. John himself never could discover a resurrection; but it made a resurrection easily believed, when the man of intellect, St. Thomas, found difficulties. Therefore "with the heart man believeth unto righteousness," and therefore "he that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself." Now it is of such a state that Jesus speaks. There are men in whom the resurrection begun makes the resurrection credible. In them the Spirit of the risen Saviour works already. They have risen out of the darkness of doubt, above the narrowness of life, above fear, above self; being "risen with Christ:" and the man in whom all that is working has got something more blessed than external evidence to rest upon. The Resurrection in all its heavenliness has begun within his soul, and he knows as clearly as if he had demonstration, that it must be developed in an eternal life. Now this is the higher and nobler kind of faith.

(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

Renan, in the fiction which he calls "The life of Jesus," when he treats of the resurrection of our Lord, breaks out into a rhapsody utterly unworthy of the critic and historian, "Oh, Divine power of level sacred moments when the passion of a deluded woman gives to the world a God raised from the dead." The Church is prepared to prove that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the best authenticated facts in the world's history. The witnesses of the resurrection include every variety of tempera. ment and intellect.


1. His was not the doubt of vanity. The superficial frivolous nature, proud of doubts as if they were signs of intellectual superiority, is too frequently to be met with.

2. His was not the doubt of hostility. Many who doubt dislike the truths which they doubt. But Thomas was heart-broken over the loss of Jesus. Some have nothing but sweeping denunciation for every kind of doubt or even of inquiry concerning truth. Christianity courts inquiry, commands it. The moral earnestness developed by Christianity necessitates it.Elements that cannot be praised were, however, present in the doubt of Thomas.

1. It was self-willed. As if mentally dwelling upon revelations said to have been granted to others he lays down rigid requirements, and declares nothing else shall satisfy him.

2. It was irrational. What was the nature of the testimony he refused to accept? And yet whilst the testimony of ten tried apostles and several godly women goes for nothing, his own ten fingers are to be all-decisive. Was there no other way in which assurance of a risen Christ could take possession of his heart, no higher way of spiritual illumination? Are our senses our only medium of certainty? God's highest revelations are by His Spirit to man's spirit.


1. Jesus let him for a while taste the bitterness of his doubts. Men are often permitted to drink deeply of the bitter cup which they have wilfully made their own. Thus God tests them. Nothing more perfectly reveals the moral character of a doubter than the instinctive tendencies of his mind during his mental conflicts. Christian and Pliable both fell into the Slough of Despond. Pliable struggled to the side nearest the City of Destruction, but Christian with infinite toil reached the side nearest the Celestial City. Though differing in opinion from his brother disciples, all his sympathies were with their sincerity and goodness.

2. Jesus was full of forbearance towards him.

3. Jesus deeply humbled him — "Then said He to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger," &c. Surely no severer rebuke can be given than amidst the joys of full conviction to be recalled to the lowborn doubts of His less noble self.

4. Jesus warned him of his danger — "Become not faithless, but believing." There is danger to all who doubt that the finer sensibilities of their nature be injured, that their spirit grow harsh and cold, and out of harmony with moral truth.

5. Jesus declares that there is another, a higher way to certainty than that by which Thomas has reached it.

III. THE RESULT OF THE LORD'S TREATMENT. See in Thomas the submission of a sincere soul.

1. Thomas instantly yielded. The moment of conviction became the moment of submission.

2. Thomas publicly yielded. Before all the disciples he had spoken his doubts; before all he retracted.

3. Thomas fully yielded. The honest inquirer convinced becomes the earnest and intelligent believer. As the corn that lies in the earth all through the winter months yields the most bountiful harvest, so the faith of Thomas slowly germinating amidst long, sorrowful musings becomes perfectly developed. The tardy believer becomes the foremost confessor.

(W. J. Cooke.)

The resurrection of Christ is a fact of the utmost importance. If He had not risen, there would have been an end to His mission. Now, in reference to this fundamental article, we have everything that could be desired in the way of proof. There were five hundred such witnesses. It certainly was not to their interest to assert such a fact, but the reverse. But what adds still more weight to their testimony is the fact that, according to their own showing, they were all obstinately incredulous at first. They would not be satisfied until they were overwhelmed with proofs. At the time when this event took place, they were not at all in a state of mind to be deceived: they were not expecting any such occurrence, and, indeed, would not be convinced without repeated evidences. Now, for instance, we have in the text the case of a man who was determined not to believe.

I. Let us inquire into THE CAUSES OF HIS UNBELIEF. We may find a first cause in the character of the man; a second, in the state of his mind at that period; a third, in the superstitious opinion which was set up in opposition to the testimony.

1. With respect to the character of the man, a few slight notices appear to our minds very significant. They betray that he was a man of strong feeling and of ardent zeal, not altogether unmingled with presumption. In the context, nothing will do but that he must personally see Christ, nay, must touch His body; or else, because it is barely possible that they might be deceived by an apparition, he will not believe. Now, this turn of mind, though praised by men, is certainly a disadvantage in religion, and is treated with little favour in the Inspired Volume. What room is there for faith with persons who insist upon being able to explain everything; who must see, handle, and demonstrate, or else they will not believe? Where is that spirit of child-like simplicity, which is so proper to the disciples of Christ? It is a great evil to believe without evidence, and by the mere force of prejudice; but it is a greater evil still to set our own wisdom above the wisdom that cometh from above, and to lose ourselves in the perplexities of reason, whose highest glory it is to subject itself to God, the Infinite Reason of the universe.

2. A second cause is found in his state of mind at that period. What that state of mind was can be sufficiently made out by circumstances. Why he was absent, it would be useless to inquire; the question is, Ought he not to have been there? It is quite certain that he paid dearly for his absence; and it is scarcely possible to resist the conclusion, that it arose from his determined rejection of the idea of a resurrection. He had seen his Master die in the hands of His enemies, and had made up his mind that all was over; the object of their association was gone, and there was nothing more to hope for, or to hold them together. Had he been in the path of duty is it likely that he would have been abandoned to his disquietudes? To estimate that state of mind, we must yet further remark the ignorance and carnal prejudice which possessed him in common with the rest of the disciples. They none of them knew the spirituality of the Redeemer's kingdom. A sullen withdrawment from the means of grace is the very best nurse that unbelief and desperation can have. It shuts itself out from all good tidings, and resolutely clings to the worst presentiments of evil.

3. A third cause may be found in the superstitious opinion which was then universally prevalent among the Jews. They believed that the souls of the departed could appear to surviving friends, clothed in a spiritual body, exactly resembling them when they were alive. You will remember that our Saviour found His disciples under the influence of that opinion when He came to them in the boat, walking on the sea in the fourth watch of the night, and would have passed by them. They were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. Now, all these marks are necessary, that we may not extenuate the sin of Thomas on the one hand, nor unduly magnify it on the other.It has its aggravations, and it has also its alleviations; it may not be improper just to look at each.

1. The unreasonableness of his unbelief appears from considering the evidence which he rejected. He would allow no weight to that kind of evidence, on which chiefly, to the present hour, the fact of the Resurrection rests. All his brethren testified, not that they had heard that Christ was risen, but that they had seen Him, had conversed with Him, that He had invited them to touch Him, and had eaten and drunk before them. Now, Thomas ought to have admitted the truth of their testimony.

2. Again, the kind of evidence that he demanded aggravated his sin. He not only refused the ground of faith which God had provided for His Church in all ages, he set up an impious claim of his own — "Except I put my finger in the print of the nails, I will not believe." He is determined to walk by sight, not by faith. He is not satisfied with mental conviction, his senses must be judges; nay, more, his senses must be satisfied in the most objectionable manner possible. But it is admitted that this Apostle was better than his word, and did not avail himself of the last proof.

3. His sin was aggravated by the obstinacy and openness that distinguish his unbelief. All that week he had ample opportunities of hearing from his brethren and from the women the same statements of what they had seen and heard related, with every circumstance of credibility, and with all the earnestness of conviction Here, then, is not only a sin, but a sin wilfully and pertinaciously indulged, at great hazard to himself, and to the scandal of all his brethren. But, on the other hand, we ought not to look at these exaggerations only; we must remember that the unbelief of Thomas was of a kind very different from that which arises out of a disaffection of heart to the truth; and that, therefore, it is not to be confounded with that of ungodly men. They wish the things themselves not to be true, and so do not believe them. The doctrine of the gospel is opposed to their lusts, and so they are determined not to admit it. Their sinful hearts are the principal agents in their unbelief. It is no wonder that men cannot see the force of truth when they do not want to see it. But the unbelief of Thomas was of another kind.

II. Let us glance briefly AT THE GRACIOUS MANNER IN WHICH HIS DOUBTS WERE REMOVED. Eight days after the disciples again assembled, and this time Thomas was with them. This circumstance speaks in his favour, as showing that the statements of his brethren had not been wholly ineffectual

1. The intimate knowledge of his heart that Christ displays. He proves himself perfectly acquainted with all that he had said, and with the whole state of the Apostle's mind.

2. Observe the can-descending love which Christ exemplifies. He offers to grant him all that he had desired, as if He had said, Thou hast insisted upon touching Me. Come, then; lay thy finger upon these recent wounds; and "be not faithless, but believing." Who does not perceive an ineffable tenderness breathing through these words?

3. Observe the quiet but effectual reproof which our Lord administers. Here are no severe reproaches, no looks of anger. Here he reproves by an affectionate concession which could not but melt a heart that really loved him. He reproves by a soft word of admonition, "Be no longer faithless," implying that this had hitherto been his disciple's sin; yet, with what a gentle hand does he touch the wound! Finally, he reproves by a benediction — a benediction implied, "Thou hast seen and believed," and thou art blessed; for happy is he who at last attains to the exercise of faith, after long doubt and obstinate prejudices: a benediction expressed — more happy still are they who have not seen and yet have believed.


1. This is the language of humble confession. Confession of his fault. How could he have looked upon that scarred body, after having stood out against the testimony of so many witnesses, without acknowledging how much he had been in the wrong.

2. But, though we cannot allow that this sentence is nothing beyond a sudden note of surprise, we perceive clearly enough it is the language of adoring wonder. The unbelief of Thomas arose from the very fact that he looked upon a resurrection as so great a miracle that it could not be reasonably entertained. It is the very grandeur of the effect that provokes his incredulity.

3. We can penetrate a little further into the sentiments embodied in his confession. We find it impossible not to include some of a more tender, exquisite, and even ecstatic character. This moment of discovery must have been almost like a glimpse of heaven falling upon a man in whom a sense of shame was mingled with overwhelming gratitude. This is the joy unspeakable and full of glory, which every true convert realizes, when he is enabled by faith to embrace the Atonement, while his heart is yet broken on account of sin.The subject which has thus far engaged our attention may be properly concluded by two or three observations.

1. We have before us an unanswerable argument for the truth of Christianity; for, if the resurrection of Christ be a fact, then Christianity is true.

2. The subject leads us plainly to infer the sinfulness of unbelief. We grant that it has its degrees of turpitude, like all other sins; but in all its degrees it is opposed to the fundamental requirement of the gospel. Unless we will impeach the clearness and sufficiency of the revelation, the fault must be laid, after all, upon the unbelief of man. It is not questioned that there are many things in Scripture beyond our comprehension; but the fact that such things are revealed is quite distinct from their explication. Is the only way of redemption clearly made known? Can any sincere and earnest inquirer ask the way to heaven, and fail to obtain an answer from any want of distinctness upon essential truths? We answer, no. "They are all plain to him that understandeth." "The wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein."

3. Lastly, we may observe, that the proper objects of faith are things invisible. Herein it is a higher faculty than sense or reason. It does not supersede them, but it embraces what they cannot reach. That which is palpable to the senses, or demonstrable to the mind, is not properly the object of faith but of knowledge. Faith does not behold, nor touch, nor prove; it receives upon testimony. If we receive the witness of men the witness of God is greater.

(D. Katterns.)

Observe —


II. BUT IN INDIVIDUAL CASES IT DOES NOT ALWAYS FOLLOW THAT ONE WHO DOUBTS HAS FALLEN INTO A MORTAL SIN. Thomas raises a question concerning the most vital of all the evidences of Christianity. Yet Jesus deigns to reason with him, grants the proof he seems so superciliously to demand. Martin Luther used to say that no man was wicked because the unclean birds sometimes lit upon his head; he was bad only when he tamely suffered them to build their nests in his hair.

III. THE PRESENCE AND COMPANIONSHIP OF PRAYING MEN IS A GOOD HELP TO FAITH, AND THE ABSENCE OF IT FREQUENTLY GIVES THE REASON OF ONE'S DOUBTING. It has been a quaint but familiar use of this incident, which has made it the basis of many an exhortation concerning neglect of prayer-meetings. Thomas's name of "the missing disciple" is almost as well known as that of "the doubting disciple." There is always strength in the countenance of an earnest assembly of praying men; Thomas lost that at all events.

IV. CHRISTIANITY DOES NOT DISDAIN THE USE OF ARGUMENTS ADDRESSED TO HUMAN REASON IN ITS LOGIC. "Come now, let us reason together, saith the Lord." Our religion is a reasonable religion. There was nothing in Thomas's demand that was unauthorized; he only wanted what the rest of the disciples had had from the Lord Himself while he was away.

V. THE SYSTEM OF OUR FAITH GOES ALTOGETHER, THE MOMENT ANY ONE DOCTRINE OF IT IS CLEARLY ESTABLISHED. Really, the only thing Thomas had doubted was the resurrection of Jesus. And yet, when this was settled, he gave up everything in a grand confession of fresh acknowledgement.

VI. A BELIEF FOUNDED IN RELIGIOUS TRUST IS BETTER THAN A BELIEF CONSTRAINED BY ARGUMENT. There is no real conflict between reason and faith; and yet reason is so proud that it refuses to accept what faith craves. So sometimes it keeps needed truth off at arms' length — as a crazy man might be conceived to toss a loaf of bread from hand to hand, testing it for its weight, while he was literally starving for food. But faith longs only to receive it, and live upon it.

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

: —


1. Perhaps he accounted as a virtue that critical temper which was his greatest defect and danger. When a man thinks far more of the touch of his ten-fingers than of the testimony of ten apostles, self-reliance becomes conceit. When a man talks much about liberty for his tongue, he seldom thinks about liberty for other people's ears. Whilst Thomas insisted on his right to be convinced in his own way, he never seems to have felt the indignity he put upon the honesty of his friends.

2. A man's fault is not so much that he is not fit, but that he refuses to believe that he is unfit. Trust is far more natural to some than others. To question with wrinkles in the forehead, and the grey eyes half-closed in meditative wonder, is as natural to some children as the uncontrolled, sunny, upturned gaze of the other child's most trustful and reverent love. The little Thomas as naturally cuts his drum open to see where the noise comes from as the little Mary believes without a suspicion every fairy story. Light will take its colour from the glass through which it passes, and truth will take its shape from the quality of the mind it passes through. We do not so much blame Thomas for being Thomas, only for not knowing that he was Thomas.

3. A man like Thomas ought to well know if at any time he should hesitate to judge, he should specially do so just when he had lost a dear friend. For Thomas, then, life had but one sense — touch. Sorrow, and morbid meditation had, for the time, robbed Thomas of all other faculties. There is a love born of mere touch, and there is a love that loss and death can never touch. There is a love dependent on circumstances, and there is a love that defies storm, and cloud, and death. If Thomas have the one and John the other, all we ask is that Thomas knows his condition, and not so readily assert his superior judgment. If a man of ordinary prudence gets to know that his weak heart says to him, "Never hurry," or that another organ says, "Never eat certain things;" so let us know if our condition disqualifies us for judgment, and let us trust others, and act with them, rather than argue and oppose. Most of the sceptics I have met in life were like Thomas — all disqualified for their work before they began it.


1. He was alone, who of all the eleven could least afford to be alone. Loneliness was health to Peter at times — it was always poison to Thomas. Whenever we get the list of the apostles, which is presumably in Christ's order, you always get Thomas bracketed with Matthew. Matthew was a man to celebrate his conversion with a great feast. If, now, Thomas had taken his Master's hint in always associating him with Matthew, he had reasoned now, "I must avoid loneliness, and keep close to the brightest of our company."

2. Why was Thomas absent? The fact that John gives no reason, and calls him Didymus, thus associating him with the previous references — all of a despondent character — shows that the cause was in Thomas, and not due to circumstances. Matthew is the type of the sociable nature, and Thomas of the unsociable. Such a man to-day would declare no one spoke to him in church; that the service was not what it ought to be. Gloomy imaginations are never at a loss for reasons for being dissatisfied. But love not only attends, but enjoys all the meetings; profits where discontent starves; and sees beauties where mere criticism can only snarl and pull to pieces.

III. CHRIST COMES TO MEETINGS WHEN HE DOES NOT GRANT PRIVATE INTERVIEWS. When Thomas does not want to go to church he often concludes "that Christ is not confined to churches, you can find Him in the fields, in the quiet of the home, in Bible study." True. But Christ has put special honour on the meetings of His people. How often have I known people begin to set a low value on religious services; and, as a result, the whole tenor, tendency, and aspect of their life has become changed.


1. His absence was noted. The Greek indicates that the others sought out the absentee. Everybody likes to feel he is missed. Mother ought not to rest when the weakest and most short-sighted, too, hasn't come home. Would that the whole Church felt like the Shepherd, and went after every wandering sheep! "I have been a member of the Church nearly forty years," said one, "and now I have been absent a month and no one has called to see me." "Excuse me," said a shrewd observer of human nature, "during your forty years' membership how many have you gone to see?" "Not one," was the reply which truth insisted on. There Thomas received what he gave.

2. But far, far more turns on what they said to Thomas. They did not blame him or argue with him. They just went with positive testimony, "We have seen the Lord and are glad." To show a man that you are well and equal to any task is better than a dispute about medicine. Would that all of us were more ready to tell out what Christ has done for us, and less and less concerned to analyse texts!

3. They did not exclude him from their fellowship because he was faithless. Thomas knew that he had doubted about Lazarus, and yet Lazarus was raised. Christ had promised that He would rise again. He had here the abundant testimony of ten friends; yet, spite of all, he says, "I will not believe." Don't make little of the state of Thomas, and say: "Oh, but he was anxious to believe." Nothing of the sort. He does not say, "If I see I will believe," but "Unless. His mental attitude is negative and obstinate.

4. Thomas would surely have been lost to the Church if any harsh measures had been adopted towards him. A very slight hint that he was unfit for their fellowship because he cherished such doubts, and he would have told them how wanting they were in intellect. Words would have followed words, and that fellowship had been dissolved with bitterness. The Church should so treat doubt as not to intensify it. Doubt lives and thrives in isolation; opposition doubles its force. The Church must be as patient with Thomas as Christ was. Christ waited eight days for his slow faith to ripen. The Christian may not like the smell of smoking flax. To blow it out is easy; to blow it into a flame needs patience; but which is better and more Christ-like?

V. IN CHRIST'S TREATMENT OF THOMAS NOTE THAT ONE LOOK WAS ENOUGH. If we can bring men closer to Christ, then Christ Himself will and can do all the rest. Conclusion:

1. Doubting is a very easy process, requiring little capital. Once indulged it is of rapid growth, and feeds on its own unrest and misery.

2. Notice in the speech of Thomas that objectionable I and my." Pride and self-will are never lovely; but to find doubt indulged, and not find these two features prominent, is a very, very rare occurrence. Thomas was willing and glad to lose his doubts; but many doubters seem to be proud of theirs.

(R. H. Lovell.)

I. THOMAS'S MISTAKE (ver. 24).

1. Perhaps justifiable. He may have been —(1) Unwell and confined to his own abode, the intensity of his sorrow having preyed so heavily on his mind as to endanger his health.(2) Uninvited to the meeting, which, however, if advised concerning it, he ought to have attended without an invitation.(3) Unaware of the startling intelligence which had brought them together — hardly a likely supposition.(4) Unsatisfied with the grounds on which that intelligence was based, and employed at the moment in sifting out the truth.(5) Unwilling to be idle when there was good news to spread abroad — which is putting the best construction on his behaviour, as the next hypothesis is the worst.(6) That Thomas had been present at the begining, and had listened to the "idle tales" of the women, Peter, &c., but had retired unable to accept the testimony even of so many.(7) The likeliest assumption is that he was away because his morose and melancholy disposition felt unequal to accepting the amazing rumour.

2. Decidedly wrong.(1) If away through grief it was wrong to be selfish in his sorrow and forget his brethren, who needed comfort.(2) If absent because waiting for further evidence, he ought to have gone to the best place to get it — the company of the disciples. "If I go, I will come again."(3) Had he been where he should have been, in that upper room, he would have found what he sought, and so saved himself much misery.


1. The occasion of it. The communication of the ten — a testimony —(1) Clear and unambiguous. They had seen the Lord, not an apparition; they had seen Him, not dreamt about Him.(2) Unanimous and decided — not the unsupported assertion of Peter who was always "enthusiastic," but backed up by James and John, our Lord's two other confidential associates; of Matthew the publican, a man accustomed to look into matters; of Andrew and Philip, both persons of sagacity, &c.(3) Ample as to the number of witnesses and details of evidence; sufficient for the requirements of historic credibility.

2. The good in it. Thomas did not —(1) Assume that a resurrection was impossible.(2) Deny it in Christ's case.(3) Assert that no amount of evidence would satisfy him.(4) Allege that no weight of evidence would render it credible.(5) Bargain for conditions of believing which were impossible.

3. The evil in it —(1) Unreason, in rejecting this overwhelming testimony.(2) Presumption, in dictating the amount of evidence in which he would believe.(3) Pride, in demanding more satisfaction than was offered to or desired by the rest.(4) Folly, in calling for demonstration which, as the event showed, was not required.


1. Gracious. Certainly he did not deserve it.

2. Startling. How had Christ come to know he had used these words? The higher knowledge of his Master would flash upon him (John 1:47, 48: 2:25; 4:17, 18).

3. Admonitory: that Thomas was on dangerous ground, "Become not faithless:" Not yet definitely committed to unbelief, he was at the parting of the ways.

4. Urgent. In earnest about him, Christ condescended to accept him on his own terms.


1. A declaration of faith in Christ's resurrection.

2. A recognition of Christ's supreme divinity.

3. An appropriation of Christ as Lord and God.

V. THOMAS'S REBUKE (ver. 29).

1. Graciously prefaced — "Thou hast believed."

2. Tenderly expressed.

3. Really conveyed.Learn —

1. How much a Christian may lose by absence from the house of God.

2. How foolish to lay down conditions on which one will believe.

3. How faithfully Christ keeps His promise.

4. How tenderly Christ deals with the errors of His own.

5. How dangerous to cherish doubt.

6. How graciously Christ accepts the homage of penitent and believing souls.

7. How high the felicity of those who now believe in the risen Lord.

(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

I. Now, I wish you to observe in the first place what Thomas had done. HE HAD DOUBTED. He had not disbelieved; he had only refused to believe. It is impossible, in reading this narrative, to identify the doubt of St. Thomas with the disbelief of those Jews who demanded a sign from heaven. He evidently wished to believe if he could; they evidently did not. He was a warm-hearted generous man, ready, as he had shown once before, to die, if need were, for his Master's service. But though St. Thomas was not wanting in devotion, his faith was slow. He could not believe without very clear proof. Once before he had shown this. When our Lord had said, "Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know:" St. Thomas had replied, "Lord, we know not whither Thou goest, and how can we know the way?" In fact, he would have everything made quite distinct and unmistakable. And so on this occasion he was not satisfied with the evidence of the ten other apostles and of the women; he was not sure that he could rely on their inability to be misled; he must have overwhelming evidence or he would not believe. It was not the wilfulness of one hardened in his own theory which he would not quit; nor yet of one who could not bear to accept a truth which would unsettle his life. It was honest doubt; such doubt as naturally grew out of his state of mind.

II. AND HOW THEN WAS IT TREATED? Our Lord does not treat it as a sin. There is not the slightest trace of fault-finding in what our Lord says to him. He only tells him that his is not the most blessed state. The most blessed state is that of those who can believe without such proof as this. There are such minds. There are minds to whom the inward proof is everything. They believe not on the evidence of their senses or of their mere reason, but on that of their consciences and hearts. Their spirits within them are so attuned to the truth that the moment it is presented to them they accept it at once. And this is certainly far the higher state — the more blessed — the more heavenly. St. Thomas most assuredly had not attained the blessedness of those whose souls were ready to accept the resurrection at once. But still his doubt was not a sinful doubt, or it would have been met, as the disbelief of the Jewish rulers was met: "An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, and there shall no sign be given to it but the sign of the prophet Jonas." This was not the way in which our Lord dealt with His loving but honest disciple. The proof that he asked for was given him. He asked to have his senses convinced, and his senses were convinced. He had not asked anything presumptuous; he had not asked for any miracle. He asked for the same evidence that had already been given to others, and which he might fairly suppose was within his reach. And he got it. Christ came in and directly addressed Himself to him. He reminded him of the very words that he had used. He offered him the very proof that he had wanted. And St. Thomas's words express, if anything could express, the fulness of the deepest conviction; the fulness of a faith that could never again be shaken, because it had reached down to the very central truth of the fact before his eyes. He saw our Lord and he knew that not only was He that Jesus, the Son of Man, with whom he had lived, and to whose teaching he had listened for some years past, but that He was indeed his Lord and his God — the Lord of life and the Conqueror of death. St. Thomas's doubt is a type and his character an example of what is common among Christians. There are some indeed who are never troubled with doubts at all. They live so heavenly a life that doubts and perplexities fall off their minds without fastening. They find enough in their faith to feed their spiritual life. They do not need to inquire into the foundations of their belief. They are inspired by a power within their hearts. The heavenly side of all truths is so clear to them that any doubts about the human form of it are either unintelligible, or else at once rejected, or else disregarded as unimportant. But that is not always the case. There are very many who are startled at times by strange perplexities. What shall we do with these difficulties when they arise?

1. In the first place let us not permit them to shake our hold on God and of conscience. However far our doubts may go, they cannot root up from within us, without our own consent, the power which claims to guide our lives with supreme authority. They cannot obliterate from within us the sense of right and wrong, and of the everlasting difference between them. By this a man may yet live if he have nothing else to live by, and God will assuredly give him more in His own good time.

2. But yet, again, let us not treat such doubts as sins, which they are not, but as perplexities, which they are. As we must not quit our hold on God, so do not let us fancy that God has quitted His hold on us. To fancy that every doubt is of itself a sin, is altogether to mistake God's love and mercy. Rather let us endeavour to see why such doubts are sent. Doubts are, in many cases, the birth-pangs of clearer light. They are the means by which we grow in knowledge, even in knowledge of heavenly things. Better far, no doubt, to grow in knowledge by quiet steady increase of light, without these intervals of darkness and difficulty. But that is not granted to all. These doubts are often the fiery trial which burns up any wood, hay, or stubble, which we may have erected in our souls, and leaves space for us to build gold, silver, precious stones. They may distress us, but they cannot destroy us, for we are in the hands of God.

3. Yet once more in all such cases remember St. Thomas, and feel sure that what is wanting Christ will give. He does not require you to say that you believe what you do not believe; for that would be dishonest. He does not require you to force yourself to believe by an act of your will; for that would be only self-deception, and nothing could justify that. You are not called on to believe till you are fully able to do so; but you are called on to trust. To trust is in your power. To resign yourself lovingly to God in the full confidence that His love will do all that you can need, and that out of darkness He will be sure to bring light; to walk to the uttermost of your power by the light that you already have; to hold fast by God's hand, and to trust the promises that he whispers in your conscience; that you can do, and that you ought to do. But are there no other doubts but these? Are there no such things as sinful doubts which cannot expect enlightenment? Assuredly there are. Doubts may come from mere levity of mind which will not see the deep truths revealed within the soul; doubts may come from conceit, delighting to find something new and different from the rest of the world; doubts may come from a hard heart which has been warned by conscience of its sinful state, and cannot bear to admit the reality of a truth which imperatively demands a change of life; doubts may be like those of the Pharisees who were resolute not to believe, and only asked for proofs that they might have something to attack. Such doubts are fearful sins, and as we indulge them we know that they are sins.

(Bishop Temple.)

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