Though He had resolved to bring back to the fold every disciple that had disserted or gone astray, our Lord Jesus had no intention of putting a rope round their necks to drag them back to Jerusalem by force. He was not going to use persuasion either. All he did do was to manifest his presence and establish beyond any shadow of doubt that He was alive again.
For the disciples, Jesus had, in no uncertain terms and in no veiled language, made predictions of His resurrection after His crucifixion. (Matthew 17:21; John 12:23) "We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn Him to death and will turn Him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day He will be raised to life!" (Matthew 20:17) But they were eye-witnesses to His death and that event had literally clouded their reasoning and drawn a line that definitely that was the end for Jesus. The stand they had taken was based on convincing evidence and they had therefore decided to pack their bags and head for home, to start a new life all over again. They must have argued it wasn't worth staying in Jerusalem any longer amidst the shame, mockery and persecution, all for having been with Jesus.
We have shown how that the actions of the disciples seemed justified. They had seen the Master crucified under their very eyes. They had watched from a distance the beatings, the spitting, torture, mocking and all that ensued - in short, the humiliation that Jesus was subjected to. It wasn't hearsay - it was real.
What would you have done if, after all that had happened under your eyes, three days afterwards someone broke the news to you that Jesus was resurrected, and alive. You would have dismissed that as absolute rubbish. That was exactly what Thomas, one of the disciples, did.
When our Lord first appeared to the disciples, Thomas was not amongst them. So naturally when he returned, the others told him that Jesus was raised from the dead. Thomas retorted categorically; "Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were and put my hand into His side, I will not believe it." (John 20:25) Thomas was not going to buy any of that. He needed proof. In other words, he was saying 'you can't fool me. I saw him die on the cross a few days ago. How could He have resurrected? How could that be?'
Aren't some of us like Thomas always looking for 'the print of the nail,' always searching for proof before we can accept the truth from the lips of those who had seen it all? Don't we doubt what we have not seen, what we have not touched before we can accept it as reality?
A week later when our Lord Jesus appeared to the disciples again, Thomas happened to have been around. First, our Lord Jesus in His resurrected body appeared in the room "though the doors were looked." (John 20:26) Then He went straight to Thomas as if He had been present when the latter doubted. He invited him to: "Put your finger here: see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop doubting and believe." (John 20:27) That was the final punch that knocked Thomas out completely. He exclaimed on his knees: "My Lord and my God." (John 20:28)
Some of us have a habit of doubting everything, until we can make assurance doubly sure. Even today people still doubt the deity of our Lord Jesus because He came in the flesh. Just as our Lord Jesus told Thomas, He is saying outright to us: "Because you have seen me, you have believed: Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:28) Some Jews are still waiting for the coming of the Messiah at a time when, Gentiles like us, have embraced the good news of eternal life in Christ Jesus.
While science needs to back everything with proof, in the spiritual realm, God does not need to prove His existence and His ways to humankind. God is supreme and from everlasting to everlasting He is God.
To doubting Thomas, Jesus gave tangible proof however. To the two disciples who had strayed on the road to Emmaus, He taught the Scriptures as they were reviewing the events of the past few days, and lamented; "We had hoped that He was going to redeem Israel." (Luke 24:21) Jesus rebuked them in these terms: "How foolish you are and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter into His glory?" (Luke 24:25) Despite Jesus' teachings, the coin only dropped after he had broken bread with them and had given thanks and vanished from their sight.
"Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?" (John 24:32) How often God speaks to us and we fail to listen because our minds are wandering, fixed on the transitory things of this world? The facts of life have invaded our thoughts, blinding us to the truth of God's word.
After this encounter however, the account continues; "They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem ." (Luke 24:33) Our Lord Jesus had accomplished His mission.