The Disciples: Thomas, who wanted to see

We mostly see Thomas in John’s gospel. He lived in Galilee. His intense loyalty and his courage is displayed when he saw that Jesus had made up his mind to go to Jerusalem, even though Jesus knew the Jewish leaders were seeking an opportunity to kill him. Thomas said to the others, Let us also go, that we may die with him. (Jn 11:16). This is in stark contradiction to the label of ‘doubting Thomas’ for which he is more commonly, but I think unfairly, known for. This actually shows a really deep, passionate, intense love of his God, that is so intense that he is willing to give everything up.

When Jesus told his disciples that he was leaving them and going to the Father, he reassured them that they need not worry because they also knew the way to the Father. Thomas, however, was confused and said to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going, and how can we know the way?” (Jn 14:5). Jesus’ reply has become one of the most famous statements in the Bible: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn 14:6).

Thomas was not with the other apostles when Jesus first appeared to them after the Resurrection. When they told him that he had risen from the dead and that they had seen him, he replied, “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (Jn 20:25). As a result, the phrase doubting Thomas has become a byword for a sceptical person. Eight days later, Jesus came to the apostles again, and this time, Thomas was with them. Jesus, knowing what Thomas had said, told him to come to him and place his hands in his wounds, but seeing was quite enough for Thomas, who in his astonishment simply exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28). Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jn 20:29).

Thomas really wanted to believe. He is not the only one of the 12 disciples that doubted, was he? He is not the only one who needed to see in order to believe. All of them saw and as a result, believed. All the disciples needed to see Jesus in the flesh to believe for they hadn’t believed Mary earlier. He was not just putting up his doubts just to be indifferent, he wants to believe. The beautiful part is that Jesus meets Thomas in his unbelief. Jesus returns to honour Thomas’ need for proof. Thomas, you want proof? Here is proof. Thomas asked for two forms of proof, to see and to touch but Jesus offered him three proofs. He said, see me, touch me and then let me tell you what you said when you didn’t think I was there. Jesus repeated Thomas’ words back to him. How did Jesus know them? He wasn’t there when Thomas talked to the other 10. He presents three wonderful proofs for Thomas to encourage his faith. Jesus makes a special trip; he makes a special effort to help Thomas believe and find the proof he needs in order to encourage his faith. Jesus blames no one for wanting to be sure, we have to love God with all our heart and our mind. Investigation for some is absolutely essential for others of us it would be helpful.  Jesus did not condemn Thomas for his doubts. Jesus knew that once Thomas worked through his doubts, he would be the surest man in Christendom. Jesus never says, “it is wrong to doubt; you must have no doubts,” but rather through this passage, we see Jesus wants us to express and wrestle with our doubts until we reach certainty and He will certainly help us to do that.

Thomas is last mentioned among the disciples who gathered together when they received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost in the Upper Room.  After this Thomas went to India, to preach the gospel. Many millions came to believe in Christ because of his ministry. The churches he founded in India kept Christianity alive and extended the faith which still survives there to this day.  Thomas was martyred in Chennai, in 72 A.D July 3rd, after being speared by some Brahmins at the order of the King for preaching.

Thomas’ emblem includes a carpenter’s square as tradition recounts how he erected a church in India in his ministry there. The rocks, arrows, and spear symbolise his painful but brave death.

PRAYER: Lord, help me in my unbelief. May I like Thomas have the courage to wrestle with my doubts, to be honest about them and bring them to you so as you can meet me and reveal yourself to me.  Then give me the courage to live for you no matter what the cost. In Jesus name, Amen

SONG: This I Believe (The Creed) by Hillsong –