"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" (John 20:25). Those are the words that have earned Thomas the less-than-flattering nickname "Doubting Thomas." And unfortunately, that seems to be his legacy: the one apostle who doubted the claims that Jesus was actually alive after the crucifixion.
But why did Thomas doubt the news of the risen Savior? Why was he the lone doubter in the group? The answer is found in John 20:24: "Now Thomas, one of the Twelve…was not with them when Jesus came." Thomas doubted, because Thomas wasn’t there! Thomas wasn’t in the assembly the fateful day that Jesus appeared to his disciples. Where was he? Was he out fishing? Was he at home asleep? I don’t know! But I’m beginning to think that we ought to change his nickname to "Absent Thomas," because Thomas’ absence clearly was a factor in his weak faith.
Just stop and think about all the things that Thomas missed on that momentous first day of the week:
-He missed an opportunity to encourage (and be encouraged by) his brethren, during a time of great fear (John 20:19).
-He missed the gladness & joy of getting to see the risen Savior with his own eyes (John 20:20).
-He missed getting to hear the words of comfort & the words of instruction that Jesus spoke (John 20:21-23).
-He missed a chance to finally have his mind opened to understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:44-48).
In short, Thomas missed out on what must’ve been a wonderful, faith-building experience for the other disciples. Unquestionably, their faith was strengthened by being in the presence of the Lord on that special day.
I wonder how many Christians today are missing out on the wonderful benefits that our assemblies provide, because they’re playing the role of "Absent Thomas." Make no mistake about it, when you’re not here, you miss out big time. You miss out on the encouragement of your brothers and sisters in Christ (Heb. 10:24-25), you miss the privilege of worshipping God with fellow believers (Jn. 4:23-24), you miss an opportunity to learn & grow in your knowledge of the Scriptures (II Pet. 3:17-18), you miss a chance to serve others (I Pet. 4:10-11), and most importantly, you miss an occasion to be with the Lord in His assembly (Mt. 18:20).
And when you willfully deprive yourself of these blessings, then it’s only natural that your faith will become weak and your discipleship will be stunted. If you don’t believe that could possibly happen to you, just re-read Thomas’ words in John 20:25, because Thomas’ absence caused him to literally put his faith on hold. In fact, for eight days Thomas lived in unbelief—can you imagine how many souls Thomas could’ve told about the risen Savior during that period of time? You see, lots of bad things happen whenever disciples are absent from an assembly.
Thankfully, Thomas was given a fresh opportunity to assemble with the disciples…..and this time he made it! And when Jesus appeared in their midst, Thomas was privileged to have his faith re-established in a way that you and I will never be privileged to experience in this lifetime. He got to see, and hear, and touch the Lord personally (John 20:26-29). And although we’re not afforded that kind of direct contact with the Lord in our assemblies today, you’d have to be a fool not to recognize the abundant spiritual blessings that we enjoy whenever we come together as the people of God. I hope you’ll resolve not to be an "Absent Thomas" and miss out on all these blessings; instead, I hope you’ll make every effort to assemble with the saints whenever the doors are open, so that your faith might be strengthened, and you can be ready for the day when you finally get to see Jesus face to face.