“ Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.” John 20:27
We see here, how kind and merciful Christ is to dull and slow believers. Nowhere, perhaps, in all the four Gospels, do we find this part of our Lord’s character so beautifully illustrated, as in the story before our eyes. It is hard to imagine anything more tiresome and provoking than the conduct of Thomas, when even the testimony of ten faithful brethren had no effect on him, and he doggedly declared, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side — I will not believe.”
But it is impossible to imagine anything more patient and compassionate, than our Lord’s treatment of this weak disciple. He does not reject him, or dismiss him, or excommunicate him. He comes again at the end of a week, and apparently for the special benefit of Thomas. He deals with him according to his weakness, like a gentle mother dealing with a froward child, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side.” If nothing but the grossest, coarsest, most material evidence could satisfy Thomas — even that evidence was supplied. Surely this was a love which surpasses knowledge, and a patience which surpasses understanding.
A passage of Scripture like this, we need not doubt, was written for the special comfort of all true believers. The Holy Spirit knew well that the dull, and the slow, and the stupid, and the doubting, are by far the commonest type of disciples in this evil world. The Holy Spirit has taken care to supply abundant evidence that Jesus is rich in patience as well as compassion, and that He bears with the infirmities of all His people. Let us take care that we drink into our Lord’s spirit, and copy His example. Let us never set down men as godless — because their faith is feeble, and their love is cold. Let us remember the case of Thomas, and be very compassionate and of tender mercy.
Our Lord has many weak children in His family, many dull pupils in His school, many raw soldiers in His army, many lame sheep in His flock. Yet He bears with them all, and casts none away.
Happy is that Christian who has learned to deal likewise with his brethren. There are many in the Church, who, like Thomas, are dull and slow — but for all that, like Thomas, are real and true believers.
J.C. Ryle was an English evangelical Anglican bishop. He was the first Anglican bishop of Liverpool. His works are now in the public domain.