Together, Apart Bible Study: Doubting Thomas?
This famous painting by Caravaggio shows the scene where the Risen Christ shows Thomas his wounds.
Read the Gospel from last Sunday again and note what words strike you.
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
But Thomas (who was called the Twin[c]), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe[d] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
1/ What difference does a week make? One thought is that Thomas’ absence from the first encounter with the Risen Christ was a deliberate tool to show Thomas (and us) the recognised divinity of Christ, and the move to belief.
What are your thoughts on free will? How do our experiences enable spiritual growth and formation? Does God mould us through our experiences?
2/ Thomas’ statement “My Lord and my God” has been called one of the greatest statements of Christian belief. In the statement Thomas doesn’t only recognise Jesus as “My lord”, but as God. In your own faith journey can you recall any particular moments of realisation, any “wow” moments, the times you have been completely aware of God’s presence with you?
Trace your own journey of faith, from early years to now…where are you now?
3/ John’s Gospel has sometimes been called anti - semitic in his labelling of “the Jews” in a negative fashion. In reality he is referring to the scribes and authorities and those opposed to Jesus. We must remember that Jesus was Jewish as were most of those following him.
Can you think of any modern day examples where people are grouped together negatively according to their race/ religion/ identity?
Are we guilty ourselves of exclusion in our language and how we see ourselves and others?
4/ The final verses sum up the purpose of John’s Gospel “….these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”
What events in your life/ in the Bible/ what encounters have strengthened your belief?
If you had ten minutes to explain your belief to a complete stranger what would you say? Can you illustrate with something from scripture or from experience.
What does “life in his name” mean to you?
Still yourself and place yourself in the Gospel scene.
See, in your imagination, the room where the disciples have locked themselves. What is this room like – is it light and airy, dark and stuffy? Are people sitting or standing – are there chairs or tables around? What is everyone doing?
The city is still reeling from the recent executions, and the rumours of a resurrection. Followers of Jesus, men and women, have come together to seek comfort from one another and share stories of their own encounters with the risen Lord. You are there too. Do you have a story to share?
After a while, you notice that Thomas is making a bit of scene, challenging the stories of those who claim to have seen Jesus. He’s not going to believe until he’s seen the Lord with his own eyes. Do you join in the conversation or just listen? If you do join in, what do you say? Spend a moment listening or conversing.
As the debate continues, you notice a disturbance on the other side of the room – and you realize that folks are gathered around one person. Drawing closer, you see that it is Jesus. How do you react? What do you feel?
Jesus says to you and everyone, “Peace be with you.” Receive his greeting of peace.
Jesus moves towards Thomas, offering an outstretched hand, saying, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Watch as Thomas talks, then Jesus turns to you, offering his hand and side. What do you do?
Spend a few moments with Jesus. Can you be honest with him about your own doubts and your own faith? How does he receive what you say?
When you are ready, close with the Lord’s prayer or a prayer you prefer..
As you look back:
What happened in your prayer? What feelings did you experience?
During the prayer period, when did you feel encouraged? When did you feel discouraged?
What did you receive from this time with God?