It's been a while. Thank you for allowing me to take some time away from our daily Bible study. Things really got busy. It takes approximately ninety minutes each day for me to type up this study. Please know that it is not pre-written. But, I enjoy doing it and hope that you enjoy reading it. So, let's pick up where we left off.
"Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, 'We have seen the Lord!' But he said to them, 'Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hands into his side, I will not believe it." (John 20:24-25 NIV)
Thomas was not a doubter! That's right, you read that statement correctly. Oh, I know he has been forever referred to as "Doubting Thomas," but I believe that that label is very unfair. "But, preacher! It says in the Bible that Thomas said....that he would not believe unless..." I know, but Thomas was not a doubter. Let's look at this account very closely.
The preceding verses are very enlightening. We actually discover that the other disciples were "together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews." (John 20:19b) Where was Thomas? Well, he wasn't locked in a room with these guys. Then, while they were locked up and secure Jesus appeared unto them and guess what he did? "He showed them his hands and side." (John 20:20) Now, do we ever consider the possibility that the only reason the other disciples believed was because they saw the hands and side of Jesus?
Thomas has been labeled "Doubting Thomas" for generations. There is a little cartoon that has Thomas throwing up his hands with the caption reading: "All I am saying is, we never call Peter "Denying Peter." Well, he's right about that. Peter wasn't labeled. Not only that but there is another passage in John's Gospel that gives us another insight into the character of Thomas. It is in John, the eleventh chapter. It is there that Jesus is going to return to Judea because his friend Lazarus has died. The disciples remind him of the fact that the last time he was there the Jews tried to stone him. It was then that Thomas, yes the same Thomas, suggested that they go with him "that we may die with him." (John 20:18b) Now, I have never heard of Thomas being referred to as "Brave Thomas" or "Loyal Thomas." Hmm....And again, Thomas was not locked in a secure room because he was afraid of the Jews. Oh, could it have been that he was still willing to die along with Jesus? Maybe Thomas was hoping that they would take him too.
What else could be happening in this scene? The last time Thomas saw the Lord was when Jesus was hanging on a cross...dead. There is no doubt in my mind that Thomas is mourning. But why wouldn't he be willing to believe the words of the disciples that Jesus was alive? We take for granted that the disciples understood what we know because of years of reading the Bible. They walked with Jesus who on occasion spoke of resurrection, but all of a sudden he died a gruesome death on a cross. That was very real. I have seen death in the most beautiful fashion that death can be. I have also seen death at its worst. It's still death. The cross was cruel, degrading and agonizing death. Jesus was dead. Thomas was not a doubter. A realist? Maybe.
I know that he is even called a doubter in the passage, and called a doubter by Jesus himself. But, let me suggest this...Thomas wanted more than anything for Jesus to be alive. He wanted to believe. Thomas was looking for a reason to believe. No, he wasn't willing to take the word of the disciples. He needed to know for sure.
I find it interesting that Thomas isn't mentioned much in any Gospel except the Gospel of John. In fact, John gives us some interesting detail that we find no where else. Thomas was called Didymus. Now, I ask you, what sound or word do you hear in the word Didymus? Do you hear the word "Diddo?" When someone says "diddo" what are they saying? They are saying, "The same goes for me." Didymus means "twin." Yes, Thomas was a twin. But, we are not told the name of the twin. I find it odd that John did not name the twin. After all, throughout the Bible the writers go to great length to tell us the family history of important and unimportant characters. Why are we not told the name of the twin? Well, I believe that the twin is...are you ready? The twin is...me...and you. Yes, that's right! Thomas needed the Lord to be alive. He wanted him to be alive. He wanted it to all be true. But, he needed for it to all be real. Just like I do and you do. We don't just want to hear good religious talk. No, we need for it to be real to us. He needed and wanted for nothing more than the Lord to come to him there and then. Guess what? The Lord did! And when Jesus appeared to him he did not condemn him. he simply showed him the scars. "Thomas said to him, 'My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28) Did you hear that confession? It was not the confession of a doubter. In fact, that is the greatest confession in all the Bible.
Tradition has it that Thomas went to India. He preached the gospel and won many converts to the Lord. Tradition also tells us that he was killed by a spear. Well, I hope you look at Thomas differently. John me tomorrow as we look once again at Peter. Thanks for being with me as we begin again our daily journey through the Bible.