This scripture is all too familiar for many of us who grew up in the church, as the passage that taught us in Sunday school about doubting Thomas. Personally, I think Thomas gets a bad rap. Everyone doubted. Thomas just had to wait an extra eight days to be given the privilege to see Jesus just like the others had. After all, we read about Mary Magdalene who thought she was speaking to the gardener when in fact she was speaking to Jesus (20:15-16). That same day, Mary Magdalene tells the disciples who were hiding in the upper room that she saw Jesus (20:18). As the doors were locked, Jesus appears before the disciples stating “peace be with you” (20:20). Without being asked, Jesus shows the disciples his pierced hands and side. After seeing this is when they rejoiced because they just saw the resurrected Messiah (20:19-20).
Then enters Thomas. We read that Thomas was not present when Jesus stood before the disciples the first time. In their excitement, the other disciples told Thomas how they saw Jesus. Although not documented, one can go with the idea that they told Thomas how Jesus showed them His pierced hands and side. From this, Thomas proclaims, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” (20:25 ESV). During this time of crisis, I think Thomas felt “ripped off” that he was not present when Jesus appeared before the disciples the first time. This prompted him to exclaim his displeasure.
Eight days pass and we read that Jesus appears again before the disciples, who locked themselves in the upper room for fear of the Jews. This time Jesus seeks out Thomas. Jesus tells Thomas to reach out and touch His pierced hands and pierced side and not to disbelieve but to believe (20:26-27). At this Thomas exclaims “My Lord and my God!” (20:28). This exclamation is a beautiful proclamation that Jesus is God!
Jesus used the imagery of his pierced hands, and the stab wound in His side, to prove to the disciples that He is indeed the resurrected Messiah. He is the one who was crucified. He is the very same Jesus who was flogged and nailed to the cross. He is the one who fulfilled the prophecies, and that He is the one who was pierced (Zech. 12:10, Isa. 53:5). He is the very same Jesus who told the disciples that he would be killed and three days later would raise from the dead (Mark 9:30-32). Jesus used the imagery of His pierced hands and stab wound to help all of the disciples move from disbelief to belief. Jesus offering for Thomas to reach out and touch His wounds was a request granted. This granted request helped to strengthen Thomas’s faith in Christ. This act helped Thomas turn his unbelief into belief. The witnessed imagery of Jesus’s pierced hands and stab wound on His side gave the disciples a testimony to share with those who they come into contact with when fulfilling the Great Commission. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (20:29 NIV).