The disciple famously known as “Doubting Thomas” should probably be renamed “Rational Thomas,” or maybe “My-momma- didn’t-raise- no-fools” Thomas. When the other disciples report that Jesus is alive, Thomas thinks they’ve lost their marbles.
If you read the Gospel account of the post-crucifixion hours, it’s obvious that Thomas is in good company. Everyone was caught off guard by Jesus’ resurrection. Not one of the disciples, not one of the women, not even Jesus’ own mother was expecting to see Jesus up and walking around again. They were in mourning. They were in hiding. They were heartbroken. They were not looking for a miracle.
After the Sabbath, very early in the morning, some of the women had gone to the grave to properly clean and wrap Jesus’ body for permanent burial. There had been no time to complete this ritual after his death.
They went expecting to find a cold, stiff, blood-caked corpse. Instead, they found an empty tomb, and two angels patiently waiting to relay a message:
“Why are you looking in a tomb for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He has risen from the dead! Don’t you remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again the third day?” —Luke 24:5b-7, NLT
Peter and John didn’t believe it, and they were perhaps the most clued-in of the disciples. When they heard the news of the empty tomb, they ran as fast as they could to see for themselves. John arrived first:
He stooped and looked in and saw the linen cloth lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying to the side. Then the other disciple also went in, and he saw and believed—for until then they hadn’t realized that the Scriptures said he would rise from the dead. Then they went home. —John 20:5-10, NLT
Thomas finally got his chance to play scientist, and his doubts were erased.
Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked, but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.
Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who haven’t seen me and believe anyway.” —John 20:26-29, NLT
Without the resurrection, Christianity is simply one of many interesting metaphysical belief systems. With the resurrection, Christianity is something marvelous.
Or off-kilter. Intelligent adults believing in the resurrection and restoration of the dead? It’s probably easier to believe in Leprechauns.
Death was never part of God’s plan. Satan smashed through the gates and seeded creation with death—it was intended to be a lasting symbol of his rebellion, an insult and a challenge. God bided his time, then took back his creation by sending his own Son into the heart of enemy territory. I imagine that Satan was somewhat chagrined.
Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—Jesus also became flesh and blood by being born in human form. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of death. Only in this way could he deliver those who have lived all their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. —Hebrews 2:14,15, NLT
The resurrection of Jesus shattered the only power Satan has: fear. Fear of mortality, fear of non-existence, fear of eternal darkness.
Jesus’ tomb was cold and dark, but God rolled away the stone and flooded the interior with the golden light of dawn. God lifted his Son from the niche where they’d laid his body and breathed new life into his lungs. Jesus walked out unassisted, through the same entrance they’d carried him through three days earlier.
If the resurrection really happened, it is proof that life doesn’t end with death, that God is more powerful than Satan, that when we close our eyes here, we will open them again in the presence of God.
Doubt about the resurrection is common enough. Even the disciples had their doubts. But after setting aside those doubts, John wrote these words, a message from them to us:
Jesus disciples saw him do many other miraculous signs besides the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life. —John 20:30,31, NLT
On Easter, we peek into the empty tomb over Peter’s shoulder. We set aside our doubts and fears. We embrace the risen Christ and discover life and hope in those wounds that were healed.