The account of the resurrection in John’s Gospel includes what happened concerning the apostle who is infamously known as “Doubting Thomas.” He was absent when the other ten apostles met on the evening Jesus rose from the dead. John 20:19-24 describes what he missed that Sunday night. There is a message in these verses for all of us about what we miss if we miss the risen Lord. Notice what Thomas missed.
He Missed the Presence of the Risen Lord
Verse 19 tells us that “the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled” and “Jesus came and stood in the midst.” Those men had been filled with great fear, but once they saw their Lord and realized He was alive, all their fears were dispelled. What was left to fear? He had conquered death itself! His living presence assured them EVERYTHING was ultimately going to be perfectly and eternally well for them.
Jesus has promised His continual and eternal presence to those who believe He is the crucified and risen Lord (John 14:16-23), and there is nothing on earth that can compare to His presence! How thrilled those ten men were to see Jesus and how it restored all their hope! But Thomas missed it!
He Missed the Peace of the Risen Lord
After Jesus entered the room and stood in their midst, He said to them, “Peace be with you” (verse 19). Whenever Jesus speaks peace to anyone or anything, there is immediately perfect peace. He spoke to a violent storm on Lake Galilee and said, “Peace, be still!” and immediately “the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:39). Certainly, the words of Jesus had a great calming impact on the hearts and minds of those ten men that night!
Jesus promises peace to all His true disciples. He says to them, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). Thomas could have used some peace in his life that night. It must have seemed to him that his entire life and future was shattered when the One he had followed for three years was arrested and executed. If he had been with the other ten apostles that Sunday night, he could have received peace for His troubled soul like them. But no peace could he find without the risen Lord in his life.
He Missed the Proof of the Risen Lord
Verse 20 tells us that after entering the room and greeting His apostles, “He showed them His hands and His side.” This proved to them that it was really Him! This was their Lord who had been dead, but now was alive! When they saw the scars in His hands from the nails of His crucifixion and the wound He had received in His side from the spear of the Roman soldier, they had all the proof they needed.
Not so for the absent Mr. Thomas! He had to go on in all his doubts and fears. In fact, he was a full-fledged agnostic at that time. When his ten friends later confronted him with the proof they had received, he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (verse 25). Many people are just like Thomas. They struggle with doubts and unbelief because they fail to gather with the Lord’s people and see the proof from the Word of Christ that He is alive!
He Missed the Pleasure of the Risen Lord
At the end of verse 20 we read “then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.” They were filled with joy, because there is joy in the presence of the Lord! In Psalm 16:11 David said, “… in Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”
For the ten apostles who gathered that night, it was pure pleasure to be there with their Lord. But the one who was absent missed out on it all!
There are other things mentioned in these verses that Thomas missed when He missed the risen Lord. He missed the plan of the risen Lord (verses 21 and 23), and the power of the risen Lord (verse 22). Beyond what is recorded here in John’s account, there really is no way to tell all that Thomas missed that night! We know he missed a lot.
There is, however, good news about Thomas in the closing verses of this account. The following Sunday he was given another opportunity. This time he was in attendance when the apostles met. On this second Lord’s Day, Jesus spoke these words directly to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (verse 28). The next verse tells us that “Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” This time Thomas didn’t miss the risen Lord and it made all the difference for him, not only for the rest of his life, but for all eternity!
So, dear reader, whatever you do, “do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Whatever you do, don’t miss the risen Lord!
Paul Meredith is Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Grand Bay, Alabama. You may contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.