Doubting Thomas

Workshop Leaders’ Bible Study

This workshop leader’s Bible study is a historical, theological, and contextual introduction to the Doubting Thomas rotation of Kirk of Kildaire’s Faith Quest workshop rotation program.  It is intended to provide workshop leaders with:

·        A historical context for understanding the Bible story.

·        A Biblical context for reading and teaching the story.

·        The theological basis for the concepts to be taught to the children.

In Kirk of Kildaire’s Faith Quest program, workshop leaders attend a one-hour Bible study two weeks prior to the start of a new rotation.  This Bible study helps workshop leaders understand how the concepts to be taught to the children are derived from the Bible story and how the lessons in the rotation fit together to reinforce the concepts.  It also provides an opportunity for the workshop leaders to grow in their own faith and understanding of the Bible.

It will be helpful to have a chalkboard, whiteboard, or flip chart for writing down questions or observations during the Bible study.

Note:  This is not a comprehensive study of the text, but only a few notes to help provide context and background for workshop leaders.  Consult titles cited in the reference list at the end of these notes for more information.



John 20: 19-31

Memory verse for this rotation:

            “Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see.” Hebrews 11:1 CEV


  1. Jesus is alive.
  2. Jesus is our Lord and our God.
  3. Even though we have not seen Jesus, we can believe in him.
  4. It’s normal to have doubts, but you can ask for help.
  5. Jesus helps us to have faith.


Prayer Concerns & Prayer

·        If workshop leaders do not know each other, give them an opportunity to introduce each other and say which workshop they will be leading.

·        Begin the Bible study by praying for God’s guidance as teachers begin a new rotation.

Reading the text

Ask a workshop leader to read the text aloud.  Since this rotation focuses on an entire chapter, you might want to divide the reading among three or four workshop leaders.

Ask the workshop leaders what questions came to mind as they heard the story or read it before the Bible study.  Write down any questions that arise and will need to be answered during the Bible study.


Historical, Theological, and Biblical Contexts



            The author of the Gospel of John does not identify himself nor does he tell us when or where he is writing.  Church tradition identified the author as John the son of Zebedee, a disciple of Jesus and held that the Gospel was written in Ephesus.  Current scholarship however holds that there is no solid evidence to support John as the author who identifies himself only as the beloved disciple (O’Day, 500).  Also Ephesus is now considered as one among many possible locations for the writing of John.  It is believed that the Gospel was written sometime between 75-100 CE for a community that found itself in a struggle with Jewish leaders.  In her commentary on John Gail O’Day says that “The Fourth Evangelist and those for whom he wrote understood themselves to be a persecuted religious minority, expelled from the synagogue, their religious home, because of their faith in Jesus” ( 505).


            John is the Fourth Gospel, a theological narrative written to tell the Good News of God revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Both the story told about Jesus and the style used to tell it, differ greatly in John as compared with the other three Gospels (O’Day, 493).  Matthew, Mark and Luke are grouped together as the Synoptic Gospels which means “seen together” and John is thought of separately as the Fourth Gospel (O’Day, 494).


            John 13:1 is a turning point in the Gospel and therefore John has traditionally been divided into two parts: Chapters 1-12 (The Book of Signs) and Chapters 13-20 (The Book of Glory) (O’Day, 507).  Chapter 21 “is most often treated as an appendix or second ending but O’Day sees it as integral to the gospel (O’Day, 507 and 509).  Believing that this oversimplifies things, Gail O’Day offers the following structure in her commentary in the New Interpreters’ Bible (pp.508-509):

John 1:1-51                 The Prelude to Jesus’ Ministry

John 2:1-5:47              “The Greater Things”: Jesus’ Words and Works

John 6:1-10:42            Jesus Words and Works: Conflict and Opposition Grow

John 11:1-12:50          The Prelude to Jesus’ Hour

John 13:1-17:26          The Farewell Meal and Words of Jesus

John 18:1-19:42          “The Hour Has Come”: Jesus’ Arrest, Trial and Death

John 20:1-31               The First Resurrection Appearances

John 21:1:25               Jesus’ Resurrection Appearance at the Sea of Tiberius






The overriding theme and “foundation on which the rest of the Gospel is built” is that “Jesus is the incarnate Word of God” (O’Day, 495).  All of the other themes reflect and build upon this central idea.


  1. What does the Gospel tell us about God and Christ (Theology and Christology)?  “The ultimate concern of this Gospel is with God.  The good news is the revelation of God in Jesus” (O’Day, 496).  Jesus did not come into the world to replace God but to reveal God more fully to us so that we might know God.  Note how God is referred to in John (“the one who sent me” and “the Father”) (O’Day, 496).
  2. What does the Gospel tell us about the Church (Ecclesiology)?  John’s ideas about how believers should live together is expressed in John 13:34-35 and following this commandment is “to live out the love of the incarnation”  (O’Day, 496-497).
  3. What does the Gospel tell us about the Spirit (Pneumatology)?  God is revealed to us now by the Spirit who “makes it possible for succeeding generations of believers to come to know the God revealed in Jesus” (O’Day, 497).
  4. What does the Gospel tell us about the future/end times/coming of God’s kingdom (Eschatology)?  “John’s eschatology is also shaped by his understanding of the incarnation . . ..  One does not have to wait for a future revealing of the fullness of God’s glory and God’s will for the world or for eternal life to be bestowed.  Both are available now in Jesus” (O’Day, 497).


JOHN 20:24-29


            Each of the gospels tells their own unique stories about Jesus’ resurrection appearances.  In John the stories are found in Chapters 20 and 21.  Chapter 20 has the stories of the empty tomb and appearance to Mary Magdalene, the appearance to the disciples and finally the appearance a week later to Thomas (O’Day, 838).

Interesting Words/Phrases/Ideas

Verses 24-25:  Thomas has become known as the one who doubted and demanded proof but really he asked for and received nothing more than what Jesus had given to the other disciples earlier.  They doubted Mary Magdalene’s story until they saw for themselves that Jesus was alive. (O’Day, 849).


Verses 27:  The word doubt is not actually in the text.  “A literal translation of v. 27b reads, ‘Do not be unbelieving but believing.’”(O’Day, 850).  This story, it seems, is not about doubting or questioning, but about “the grounds of faith”.  “Jesus exhorts Thomas to move from a position of unbelief to belief” and gives him what he needs to accomplish this (O’Day, 850).


Verse 28:  When he sees Jesus, Thomas is led to make “the most powerful and complete confession of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel” (O’Day, 850).


Verse 29:  It is unclear whether 29a is a question or a statement but it is not all that important.  Essentially, Jesus words here reassure us that we can believe without having seen him face to face (O’Day, 850).


1.     Theology and Christology:  Thomas’ declaration “My Lord and My God” sums up John’s ideas about the incarnation perfectly.

  1. Ecclesiology:
  2. Pneumatology:  Jesus statement in verse 29 that belief is not only for those who have seen him is supported by the existence of the Spirit who continues to reveal God to the community of believers.
  3. Eschatology:  Jesus is here now and gives us what we need to have faith in him.

Workshop Summaries

Ask each workshop leader to summarize his or her workshop.  As they do so, point out the concepts that each lesson reinforces.  Ask workshop leaders if they have any questions about the logistics or practical application of their lesson.

Antioch Arcade:  The children will hear the story of Doubting Thomas and will focus on the fact that Jesus is alive and is our Lord.  They will then play a game called Draw Your Own Conclusion that shows ways we can know and believe things without seeing them.

Apostles’ Playhouse:  The children will explore their faith and the story of Doubting Thomas by using their five senses.  They will learn that they can use their senses to learn about and believe in new things as Thomas did.

Creation Station:  The children will draw a picture where Jesus is there even though he cannot be seen.  They will learn about how Jesus helped Thomas with his doubts and that even though we cannot see Jesus we can believe in him.

Holywood:  The children will view a video that tells the story of Jesus resurrection and appearances to the disciples, including Thomas.  They will learn about how sometimes we believe things we do not see because we trust what others tell us about it.  They will also talk about where they can go for help with their doubts.

Good News:  The children will listen to and participate in the retelling of the story of Thomas.  They will then have fun drinking Kool Aid that is not what it seems at first sight – it sometimes looks blue and sometimes green but tastes like cherry!

Praising Puppets:  The children will perform skits that teach them about believing without seeing and about how to handle it when they have doubts.  They will talk about how Jesus helps us to believe in him just as he helped Thomas.

Review Questions

Return to the questions that were gathered at the start of the hour.  Have they been answered?  Are there any further questions about the Bible story or about the lessons?

Closing Prayer

Close the Bible study with a prayer.


O’Day, Gail R. “The Gospel of John”  The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. IX. Leander Keck, et al. editors. (Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1995). (pp.493-514 and 838-853).