Was St Thomas a Doubter?
When the Apostle Thomas was told that Christ had resurrected and had appeared to the other disciples, he responded that he would not believe unless he had palpable proof. So when Jesus appeared to him also, presenting him with that proof, He also stated, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). These words have led Thomas to be labelled as “doubting”. However, to what extent was the Apostle Thomas a doubter?
When the Apostle Thomas saw the resurrected Christ himself, without hesitating and without needing to palpate Jesus’ wounds, he exclaimed, “my Lord and my God”. This was a unique and spontaneous exclamation verifying the divinity of Christ, which speaks volumes about Thomas’ faith. If indeed he had enduring doubts, he would not have professed Christ in such a way.
As Archbishop Averky Taushev writes, Apostle Thomas is portrayed as a somewhat narrow-minded man, showing a simple but firmly established worldview. Thus, the passion and death of Christ was particularly difficult and dispiriting to him. He became fixed in the idea that Christ was lost forever. His difficulty was made worse when he was not present when Jesus appeared to the other disciples. This, of course, dissipated when Jesus appeared to him. Despite his rigidity, Thomas showed a malleability of heart that allowed for his faith to be strengthened and his doubts to be extinguished.
The Apostle Thomas was not the only one to struggle with the resurrection of Christ. The myrrhbearing women were initially too afraid to tell the disciples about the empty tomb (Mark 16:7-8). The disciples themselves initially refused to believe them (Mark 16:11, Luke 24:11). And yet, the patient resurrected Jesus appeared to them on several occasions specifically to strengthen their faith and help them make sense of the good news. As He did to the myrrhbearers and the other disciples, he did also to Thomas.
The words of Jesus do not indicate that the faith of Thomas was worse than the faith of any other disciple. However, the resurrected Christ was giving Thomas (and by extension to all of us) a choice: the road of faith, and the road of spiritual death. Christ will assist all of us in our faith journey, but this needs to be reciprocated by a receptive, pure and malleable heart.
St Thomas and the other disciples still had the advantage of seeing the resurrected Christ with their physical eyes. Jesus knew that this privilege could not be extended to His remaining followers. The spread of the faith of Christ on earth would have been impossible if every person required the same kind of proof as Thomas did. Generations subsequent to the apostles have thus required a higher path to faith. Therefore, the Lord blesses those who reach faith with only trust in the teaching of Christ. This is indeed the best path to faith.
Just as Thomas had a malleability of heart to accept the resurrected Christ, we pray that He can work with our hearts as well.
† Fr G. L.
Source: Lychnos April – May 2019