QUESTION #5 – Thomas called Jesus ‘God’ with a big ‘G’ at John 20:28. Jesus not only failed to correct Thomas, but he actually confirmed that Thomas was correct. How can this be, if Jesus is not God?
ANSWER – In my opinion one of the most important qualities for a person to cultivate is honesty. Honesty being, not just refraining from telling lies, but honesty in our inner-self, in our reasoning, in judging what is true. Meekness and honesty of heart are related. Unfortunately, though, we humans have a nearly unlimited capacity for deceiving ourselves, which makes honesty of heart all the more precious.
Jesus listed wicked reasonings as one of the sins that springs from the human heart and which defiles a person. Wicked reasonings are the opposite of meekness and honesty of heart. Most of the Jewish religious leaders, though not all, exemplified those who were wicked in their reasonings, as they always resisted Jesus, trying to trick or entrap him at every opportunity by using the law against him. Trinitarians similarly employ the dark art of wicked reasonings to entrap the unwary. Consider, now the verse in question.
It is ironic, indeed humorous, that trinitarians resort to citing Thomas as an authority, when in fact he was an unbeliever, at least until he was disabused of his disbelief. Having been unable to comprehend or accept Jesus’ own testimony that he was going to be handed over to the older men and killed, then raised on the third day, Thomas, along with the others, refused to accept the witness of Mary and Martha, that they had seen the risen Lord. The very fact that Jesus first appeared to two women was intended as a humiliating reproof to his proud apostles, who all abandoned him in his hour of trial.
Later, though, Jesus appeared to the apostles as they were gathered in a room behind locked doors, even showing them his wounds; except Thomas was not present on that occasion. But when told that they too had seen the Lord Thomas refused to believe his fellow apostles. Thomas was so obstinate in his disbelief that he declared that the only way he would believe Christ had risen from the dead was if he could perform his own personal, post-mortem examination of the wounds in Jesus’ flesh.
Out of consideration for his disbelieving apostle eight days later Jesus again materialized before the apostles in a private room, cloaked with the flesh that bore the same wounds that had been inflicted upon him when he was cruelly hung upon the stake and speared in the side by the Roman guard.
Jesus specifically approached Thomas and said to him: “Put your finger here, and see my hands, and take your hand and stick it into my side, and stop being unbelieving but become believing.”
It was at that point that the astonished apostle exclaimed: “My lord and my God!” Jesus responded with another rebuke, saying: “Because you have seen me have you believed? Happy are those who do not see and yet believe.”
But what exactly did Thomas disbelieve or believe? Did he really believe that Jesus was Almighty God? No. That is highly unlikely. After all, Thomas was not stupid. As one of the Twelve, Thomas had been with Jesus all during his ministry and he knew that Jesus was the Son of God. In fact, on one occasion Jesus asked the apostles straight-out who they thought he was. Peter spoke for them all when he said: “You are the Christ, Son of the living God,” to which Jesus responded: “Happy you are, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal it to you, but my Father who is in the heavens did.” —Matthew 16:17
So, according to Jesus’ own witness, he is the Son of God and the apostles were in no doubt that God, Jesus’ Father, was in heaven. Thomas was not in doubt about Jesus’ identity. He had difficulty believing that Jesus had actually been raised from the dead and was alive. But to be sure, the resurrection of Christ from the dead to never die again is, after all, the very cornerstone of the Christian faith, which is why Jesus said “happy are those who do not see and yet believe.”
That Jesus’ identity as the Son was not in question is verified by the very next verse in the 20th chapter of John, which states: “To be sure, Jesus performed many other signs also before the disciples, which are not written down in this scroll. But these have been written down that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and that, because of believing, you may have life by means of his name.”
The reasoning of trinitarians is that had Thomas been wrong in declaring Jesus to be God, then Jesus would have corrected him. But that is wicked reasoning. As already pointed out, Jesus explained to the apostles that the Father had revealed to them that he was the Son. So, the exact opposite is true: Had Jesus thought that Thomas imagined he was Jehovah he most assuredly would have set him straight. More likely, though, had Thomas been so stupid as to believe that Jesus was Jehovah he probably would not have even qualified to be an apostle in the first place.
So why did Thomas exclaim “My Lord and my God!”
No doubt Thomas realized at the moment Christ materialized before him that he was in trouble. And when Jesus singled him out and told him to examine his wounds Thomas knew that Jesus was aware of his disbelief. He knew that the former apostle, Judas, had already self-destructed and that Peter had also denied knowing Jesus and his fellow apostles were bewildered and confused too. Thomas surely knew his very faith was on the line as he stood before the resurrected Christ. So, he responded resolutely, unequivocally, declaring Jesus to be his absolute lord and master, without the slightest reservation or hint of doubt.
But why did Thomas refer to Jesus as his god? No doubt Thomas was aware that Jesus had resurrected a number of Israelites, including their friend Lazarus. But those people came back to life as the same people they were before they died, as humans. Jesus on the other hand, although appearing as a human, was not. After all, what human can walk through walls and appear in a room without unlocking a door? And yet, that is exactly what Jesus did.
Although Jesus was clothed with flesh — obviously because he had to make himself visible in order to convince the senseless apostles that he had indeed been raised up from the dead, yet it also had to be obvious to them that Jesus had changed —he no longer had human limitations. No, Jesus was no longer a mere man. But what was he?
Keep in mind that a few days before when Jesus had appeared to Mary he told her to stop clinging to him. Why? Jesus told her: “For I have not yet ascended to the Father. But be on your way to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father and to my God and your God.’”
Mary delivered the message to the apostles, that Jesus was going to ascend to his God and their God, that is to say —to Jehovah God. This is something extraordinary. What human has ever ascended to heaven before? None. No one. Contrary to what the untaught may claim, according to Jesus Christ himself no one has ascended to heaven except he that descended —the Son of man. (John 3:13)
It was perhaps as an expression of his sudden realization that Jesus was indeed going to appear before the very person of Jehovah in heaven – that Christ was no longer even human, that he had indeed transcended into spirit, the realm of gods, that Thomas exclaimed: “My Lord and my God!”
Or, since Thomas was likely aware that Jesus had previously appeared to other disciples since his resurrection and he rebuked them as being senseless and slow to believe all the things the prophets spoke, Thomas may have wanted to show Jesus that he believed him to be the messianic Mighty God foretold in Isaiah. In any case, Jesus obviously did not think Thomas was addressing him in the mistaken belief that he was Jehovah God.
For those who still imagine that Jesus is Jehovah, who refuse to accept the testimony of Christ and his apostles that Jesus is the Son of God, Jesus’ rebuke of Thomas is most appropriate: Stop being unbelieving but become believing.