In the post-resurrection accounts, Thomas seems like the Bible’s token doubter, but I suspect he wasn’t alone in his skepticism. Death makes doubters of us all. The death of someone we love shakes us deeply, and confronting our own death forces us to reconsider everything.
One of the beautiful things about Jesus’ encounter with Thomas is that Jesus meets him where he is and gives him what he needs. There is no guilt trip or scolding because Thomas had doubts. I suppose Jesus knew that there is often more faith in sincere doubts than in the superficial professions of popular religion.
Thomas refused simply to believe what everyone else believed. The death of Jesus had shaken him, and Thomas wasn’t satisfied with superficially embracing a belief that might not be real, or wasn’t real for him at the moment. He wasn’t buying the religious clichés and pious platitudes. On the other hand, though, Thomas also was not one of those pseudo-sophisticated people who worship at the shrine of their own intelligence and practice their own cynicism as their religion of choice.
Thomas was someone in pain. His sense of loss and disappointment, his grief and shame, left him overwhelmed by doubts. Jesus didn’t add to Thomas’ pain; he simply extended to him his scars as a sign that, although Thomas might have abandoned him, Jesus had not abandoned Thomas.
Perhaps Jesus understood how Thomas felt because, only a few days before, at the moment of his own crisis, Jesus had cried out from the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)
Jesus doesn’t judge or condemn the skeptic, but he does teach that there is a blessing for those who learn to trust without proof. The cynics miss the blessing because they claim there are no answers. The artificially pious miss it by insisting they have the answers.
The faithful, though, struggle with the questions while trusting the One who is the answer.