It’s just not fair when a person’s whole life is summed up by one thing that they said or did. It’s particularly unfair when that one thing gets twisted around. So it is with “Doubting” Thomas.
His call to follow Jesus is not recorded in any specific, or interesting, way. We know that he was called Didymas, which means “the twin”, but we don’t know anything about the sibling.
The famous story, the one for which he got his nickname, goes like this, in short.
Jesus was resurrected, and Thomas wasn’t around to get the news. Apparently the rest of the gang was all there when Jesus came to visit. Note also that Jesus didn’t bother opening any doors to get into the room where they were locked away in hiding. He was just suddenly there in the midst of them. That would prompt me to accept the resurrection.
As John tells the story, when Thomas returns, the disciples tell him, “We have seen The Master”. Now pause for this thought…What would you have said? How might you have reacted if you knew that Jesus had been killed, and now your buddies tell you that they have seen Him? Here are some possibilities:
-That’s not funny.
-Did he ask for me?
-Pull the other leg.
–Unless I see the marks of the nails in his hands, and put my finger into the marks, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.
Of course, we know what Thomas said, but all of the other suggestions make sense to me also. It seems to me that Thomas wanted to believe, but how could this be possible? Up until that point in history, almost everyone that had died had stayed dead.
To me, this is a story of hopeful hope, and Thomas had reason to believe that it just might be possible. Here is another story that John tells us, a little earlier in his Gospel.
Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.(This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”
Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”
After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”
His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
There is no mention here that Thomas doubted anything at all. Jesus said that he was going to go raise a guy from the dead. The only concern seemed to be where he was going to do it, because the Jews might try to stone Him…again. So what does Thomas have to say now?
C’mon fellas, let’s all go to Judea with Him, and we can all die! Not too much doubt in that statement is there?
Thomas is one of the few apostles where we get learn something about their personality. Those two examples seem to suggest a matter-of-fact guy and an all-out believer.
Regardless of the obvious belief in his master to raise the dead, and a loyalty far beyond my personal abilities and courage, the news may be just too good to be true. It is my view that John gives us this story, not to poke fun at Thomas, but as a way that all of the rest of us should be able to understand.
After Jesus conceded to Thomas wish to examine the wounds, He says:
“Is it because you have seen me that you have believed?” said Jesus. “Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed!”
John is talking to all of the rest of us, because that’s what we have chosen to do. Believed without seeing.
If you have any doubts about the extent to which Thomas believed, here is a little bit more of his story.
He walked at least as far as India, spreading the word and building churches and believers. That’s over 3000 miles away. Some say that in the 30 plus years that he evangelized, he may have made it all the way to China. Do doubting people do this? I doubt it.
We know that he was serious enough about his work that he died a martyr’s death for it; a gruesome spearing. What would compel Thomas to give over his whole life building churches in the name of Jesus?
Here is a clue.When he recognizes the risen Lord, Thomas responds: “My Lord and my God.”
I believe that this is the first time that Jesus was addressed in this way. Think of what they called Him before, and what he called himself. Son of Man, Master, Rabbi, Teacher.
Thomas was the first to get it. Some saw Jesus, raised from the dead. Thomas sees that his Master is God.
Without a doubt.