I recently asked a group of people this question, when you look at Jesus in the gospels, what do you see? How you answer that question will greatly affect not just your worldview and perspective on life, but even in your way of thinking within your worldview and belief. The writer of Hebrews went so far as to say that Jesus is the “exact imprint of His nature” (Heb. 1:3). So once again, what we perceive when we look at Jesus in the gospels, should also affect what we think about God.
There are two post resurrection accounts in the gospels that I believe give us a good picture about who Jesus is and what his heart is for people. I’m going to look at both of these in a two-part blog (this being the first). When we understand this, it should then cause us to believe what God the Father’s heart is for people. That Jesus is in to restoration and so therefore, God is a restorative God.
The interesting thing about the post resurrection accounts is the fact that Jesus, after defeating death, hell, and the grave through the power of resurrection, decided to even pursue any one of His former followers who had abandoned him and left him in his darkest hour.
The first account is that of Thomas.
Have you ever been defined by one weak moment in your life? Have you ever had a nickname that you couldn’t seem to shake no matter how much you changed? This is the story of Thomas. He has one moment of weakness in regards to analytical doubt, and throughout the rest of church history, he is forever nicknamed “doubting Thomas.” We read about this post resurrection account in John 20:24-29, where it says:
Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “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.” 26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
What I love about the restorative heart of Jesus in this narrative is that Jesus doesn’t give up on Thomas even though Thomas has given up on him. Though Thomas is full of doubt and his rational-analytical mind is getting the best of him in this moment, Jesus comes to him and reveals himself as the Resurrected Lord to once again, ignite lasting faith in Thomas. So many times, we forget that Thomas had left everything he had and followed Jesus for 3.5 years. Just like many others, he had placed his faith and trust in Jesus as Messiah and things didn’t turn out the way he had anticipated. Thomas had pre-conceived ideas of what the Messiah’s kingdom was to look like, and crucifixion was not a part of it. At one point, Thomas was ready to die for the sake of Christ (John 11:8-16).
Church history tells us that Thomas went on to be a great missionary to many neighboring countries in the Middle East as he proclaimed the Gospel message in ancient Babylon, where Iraq is today. He then went to Persia, present-day Iran, and continued to proclaim the message of Jesus and His resurrection. He eventually ended up in Malabar on the west coast of India in 52 AD. It is said that when the Portuguese landed in India in the early 1600s, they found a group of Christians there — the Mar Thoma Church –established through Thomas’ preaching a millennium and a half before. Finally, Thomas traveled to the east coast of India, continuing to preach the gospel unashamedly. He was killed near Mylapore in about 72 AD, near present-day Madras. Tradition tells us that he was thrown into a pit, then pierced through with a spear thrown by a Brahmin. He who had so fervently proclaimed his unbelief carried the Christian message of love and forgiveness to the ends of the earth in his generation.
This disciple who would forever be known as “doubting Thomas,” became a great evangelist and missionary for the cause of the Kingdom and followed Jesus to the point of his death. Had Jesus not revealed Himself to Thomas in his moment of weakness and doubt, imagine how different Thomas’ story could have ended up.
I believe this narrative of Thomas reveals several things about the restorative heart of Jesus that should shape our perspective about God.
- Jesus isn’t offended by our analytical minds or doubt.
- Jesus will often meet us in our place of doubt and questioning.
- Jesus reveals Himself in unique ways to each of us.
Christianity offers not merely a consolation but a restoration — not just of the life we had but of the life we always wanted but never achieved.