If most tried to list the twelve original apostles of Jesus they would struggle to come up with many of the names.  After all most of them aren’t mentioned except when there is a list of the twelve.  One of those we would likely remember is Thomas, the man we know as “Doubting Thomas.”  What we know of Thomas really comes from three occasions when he spoke up, all of them recorded by John in his gospel account.  We know he was twin from John 20:24.  But look at his three occasions of speaking out.  The first is in John 11:16.  The occasion was the death of Lazarus the brother of Mary and Martha.  Jesus and the twelve had left Judea because of the efforts by the religious leaders to kill him but now Mary and Martha sent word to him that Lazarus is sick and he needed to come to him.  Jesus waited for two days and then told the disciples they needed to go that Lazarus had fallen asleep.  They first thought he was talking about going to sleep for rest and thought it was a good sign.  Jesus explained that he was dead and they needed to go to him.  “So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.”  His comment seems both admirable in that he was willing to die with Jesus and Lazarus if that was needed and highly pessimistic about the whole trip.  From all the times he spoke up we get the idea he was a pretty negative person who tended to see things in a poor light and often was given to overstating the case when speaking.

The second time John records him speaking up was in John 14:5.  Jesus had been telling them not to let their hearts be troubled but to believe in God and believe in Him also.  He told them that in his Father’s House are many rooms and he was going to prepare a place for them and would return to take them to be where he was.  He said, “Where I am going to you know and you know the way.”  “Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going.  How can we know the way?”  His honest response to Jesus that they didn’t understand where he was going or the way there, led to Jesus making one of the great “I am” statements of John’s gospel.  “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  When Thomas made the statement about not knowing ether where Jesus was going or how to get there it is interesting that he doesn’t say, “I don’t know” but “We don’t know.”  Whether he was speaking correctly for the whole group or not we aren’t told, but the fact Jesus gave the answer likely indicates there were at least some others in the group that had no idea what Jesus was talking about as he discussed returning to the Father and returning to get them (and us).

The final occasion of Thomas speaking up is recorded in John 20:24-29.  Jesus had been raised from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion just as he had promised many times before during his ministry on earth.  Mary Magdalene was first to go to the tomb and find the stone rolled away and the tomb empty.  She ran back to tell Simon Peter and the other disciples what she had found and Peter and John ran to the tomb to find it just as she had reported.  I suppose Thomas was one of those disciples in the group that heard her announcement.  Mary was also the first to actually see the risen Lord.  When she returned to the garden where his tomb was, still looking for the body, she first saw two angels in white sitting in the tomb, one where his head had been laid and the other where his feet were.  As they spoke to her asking why she was weeping her cry was, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”  Jesus stood behind her and spoke to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”  She first thought it was the gardener and started to plead with him to show her where the body was laid.  He called her my name, “Mary” and she turned to look at him and cried out, “Rabboni!” or “Teacher”.  She fell at his feet and obviously embraced him tightly.  He said, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father, but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending my Father and your Father and to my God and your God.”  She carried the message with joy.  But most didn’t believe her.

That night the apostles, except for Judas and Thomas were together in an upper room with the doors locked because of their fear when Jesus came into their midst and said, “Shalom” or Peace be with you.  He showed them the prints of the nails and the scar in his side.  He commissioned them saying, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” He then breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” and told them who they forgave were forgiven and who they didn’t forgive weren’t forgiven.  They rushed out to tell Thomas what he had missed.  You can imagine the excitement in their voice as they told him the risen Lord had appeared and given them peace and a new mission.  Thomas said, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” (John 20:25)  He made an extremely dangerous statement in putting some condition on whether or not he would believe.  Remember whether or not he believed it Jesus was still just as risen from the dead and just as much the savior of man.

Eight days later they were together again on the next Sunday night.  This time Thomas was there. Likely he had spent a miserable seven days in anguish and unbelief since he refused to believe the signs.  Again the doors were closed and locked.  “Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Shalom” (Peace be with you)”  Then he turned to Thomas.  “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand and place it in my side.  Do not disbelieve, but believe.”  “Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!”  “Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  Thomas last recorded words in the Bible are the greatest words he ever spoke.  I don’t know if he actually reached out his hands to feel the nail prints or to put his hand into the scar where Jesus had been stabbed with a spear.  I doubt that he did.  When he saw the risen Lord face to face his doubts and fears faded away.  Now instead of a doubter he became a full believer.  He saw Jesus, not as just some good man or great teacher.  He was the Lord.  The word Thomas used was the word Jesus had used over and over when he described himself as the “I AM”  “Before Abraham was I am” “I am the bread of life.” “I am the light of the world.” “I am the door.” “I am the good shepherd.” “I am the resurrection and the life.”  “I am the way, the truth and the life.” And, “I am the true vine.”  It was the same word spoken by the Father to Moses when in Exodus three God told him “I am who I am.  Go tell them I am has sent you.”  Our King James translated that word most of the time by the word “Jehovah”.  It is more likely the word “Yahweh”.  Thomas saw Jesus was the great I AM the same as the Father is the I AM.

It took sight for Thomas to believe.  Jesus said the real blessing was for those who believed without seeing.  Immediately John said, “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book.  But these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God and that believing you might have life through his name.” (John 20:30-31)

I would like to start a trend if I were able.  It would be to not call him “Doubting Thomas” anymore but “Believing Thomas” or maybe “Worshiping Thomas.”

About leoninlittlerock

Preaching minister for Central church of Christ in Little Rock. Author of over 20 books including: When a Loved one Dies, Spiritual Development, Skid Marks on the Family Drive, Challenges in the church, To Know Christ and A Drink of Living Water.
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