Updated: Jun 29
The apostle Thomas was so very human. He would not believe Jesus had been resurrected until he saw in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put his finger into the place of the nails, and put his hand into His side. It is so human to be inquisitive and skeptical and to want proof. And because Thomas would not believe until he saw it for himself, he has become forever known as "Doubting Thomas."
Surprisingly Thomas isn't mentioned that often in the New Testament. Just eleven times by name. He is mentioned in the three synoptic gospels when the twelve apostles are listed. (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:14-19; Luke 6:13-16)
Thomas is mentioned seven times in the gospel of John. First in John 11:16 where we find out he is also called "Didymus." That is interesting because "Thomas" comes from the Hebrew word meaning twin and "Didymus" in Greek means "the twin." Who was his twin? We don't know. Why didn't his twin become a disciple of Jesus like the other brothers who were apostles? We don't know.
Don't miss the significance of Thomas' one little sentence in the account in John 11:1-16! Lazarus had become sick and his sisters, Mary and Martha, sent word to Jesus. Jesus hears the news and waits two more days and then tells his disciples, "Let us go to Judea again." His disciples remind Jesus the Jews in Judea want to stone him. (Like He needs reminding of that fact.)
So Jesus then said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him." Therefore Thomas, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, so that we may die with Him."
What devotion to Jesus and what courage Thomas exhibited! The disciples didn't really want to go back to Judea because the Jews sought to stone Jesus and most likely his disciples might be persecuted or killed too. They would be risking their lives to stick with Jesus - or so they thought. But Thomas, who later becomes infamously known as "Doubting Thomas," shows great devotion, courage, and leadership in saying in a sense, 'Hey, we are all in this together. We will live and die with you Lord.' Now that is something extraordinary to know about Thomas.
The next time we see Thomas is in John 14:1-6 where Jesus is trying to comfort His disciples. I consider this to be one of the most moving passages in the Bible. I can't read it without getting choked up. Yes, Jesus is giving His disciples comfort because He is about to leave them, to be crucified. The whole going to My Father's house and preparing a place for us and that He will come again to receive us to Himself - oh that gets me every time. I get teary-eyed just thinking about it.
"And you know the way where I am going." Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."
See that? There is that inquisitiveness in Thomas. He just doesn't understand Jesus' words. He admits he doesn't understand. And that famous verse "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." - zoom back and put yourself in the place of the disciples. They probably didn't understand even then what Jesus was saying. They went into hiding when Jesus was crucified - thinking they may be next. 'How could their Lord die? What would they do?' And three days later when Jesus rises from the dead we can know they finally understood His words that night because they came out from hiding and took the good news to the ends of the earth.
There is an important concept to understand here. When did Jesus reveal who He was? In bits and pieces to His disciples and followers during His three year ministry. Peter admits in Matthew 16:16, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." But then Peter goes on to deny he knows Jesus three times. There is this sense that Peter believed it, but yet doubted it or fully did not understand it. Jesus was gradually revealing who He was to everyone, but they didn't fully get it until He was resurrected. Do you know then and today there are many groups and people who believe Jesus was the Messiah, but they don't believe He is the Son of God? They think Jesus was some prophet or wise man or good teacher, but it has not been revealed to them who Jesus is.
Yes, just like then, our understanding grows the more we learn. We have faith, but our roots are growing deeper. We believed, but now we are sure.
And this brings us to the really important mention of Thomas. John 20:19-29 is the account of the resurrected Christ appearing to His disciples. But Thomas wasn't there. Again, it mentions he is called "Didymus" (the twin) in verse 24. The other disciples tell Thomas, "We have seen the Lord!" Thomas isn't going to believe until he sees Him for himself. Jesus came.
Then He said to Thomas, "Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing." Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed."
Did you get that? Who did Thomas say Jesus was? "My Lord and my God!" Did Jesus correct him and say, 'No, no, no - I am your Lord, but not your God.'? NO! Thomas confessed Jesus was his Lord AND God. The fact that Jesus did not correct Thomas is affirmation who Jesus is. And yet there are those who think Jesus was just a prophet or a good teacher or a rabbi.
Thomas - he was the first one to truly understand and say the identity of our Lord and God. I hope you remember him as such and not just as "Doubting Thomas."
Thomas again sees the resurrected Christ at the Sea of Galilee. (John 21:1-14)
Thomas is mentioned for the last time in the New Testament in Acts 1:13 as being in the upper room with the other apostles. They were of one mind, devoted to prayer. Waiting for what was to come next - the day of Pentecost.
We know Thomas went out and spread the good news. "He is risen!" Good news indeed. Church tradition says Thomas died a martyr's death speared to death in what is now India after starting several churches there.
Will we be like the skeptics of time who think Jesus was a really good guy, maybe even a prophet?
Or will we be like Thomas and confess with all of our being, "My Lord and my God!"?