So far in this series, we have covered brave disciples, impulsive disciples and faithful disciples, but we are about to dig into the life of a disciple who is viewed as pessimistic and doubtful.
Thomas is known as “the Doubter,” and his faith is often questioned due to his need for evidence and his hopelessness on several occasions.
In John 11, we see a story where Lazarus, one of Jesus’ friends, is dying. Lazarus’ sisters ask Jesus to come heal him. These sisters live in Bethany, a town full of officials who desire to persecute and kill Jesus because he says he is the Messiah. The rest of the disciples try to discourage Jesus from traveling to Bethany, but Thomas has a different response.
John 11:16 says, “Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’”
Thomas is not looking at the bright side, but he knows that a life without Jesus is no life at all. He would rather go and die with Jesus than think of a life devoid of Jesus. Thomas is devoted to the cause of Christ, whatever the outcome.
This shows great courage amidst pessimism. Thomas knows he will die if he continues following Jesus, but he accepts that fate because Jesus is worth it.
Later on in John 14, Jesus tells the disciples about how he will ascend to heaven to prepare a place for believers. Thomas is distraught at the thought of losing Jesus yet again. He begs Jesus to show him the way so that he can follow him there and live with him forever. Jesus explains that belief in him alone as payment for sins will allow entrance into heaven.
Thomas’ worst fear is to be separated from Jesus. This fear comes to fruition that fateful day at the cross. The cause that Thomas had lived for hangs in defeat as the weight of the world is on Jesus’ shoulders. Thomas is crushed, paralyzed and overwhelmingly hurt.
After Jesus rises from the grave, he appears to some disciples, but Thomas is not among them. He is likely still grieving from the loss of his greatest friend and Savior.
Later, when the disciples tell Thomas that Jesus has come back, Thomas cannot help but deny this. With his own eyes, he watched his Lord die on that cross.
This is where we get the famous quote, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” What else would we expect from someone whose tight knit bond with Jesus had been destroyed by the grasp of death itself?
In John 20, Thomas, again, is with the disciples when Jesus shows up. He treats Thomas gently. He offers his hands and his side so that Thomas will believe. Jesus understands doubt, uncertainty and brokenness. Jesus meets Thomas where he is and offers reassurance of the truth.
Thomas is the disciple whom I resonate with the most. So often, I find myself doubting, but I can find comfort in Christ. The way he reassures Thomas is so loving and fatherly. In the same way, Jesus silences our fears and doubts by showing us his character throughout the whole Bible.
At the end of his life, Thomas, the one called “The Doubter,” loses his life at the end of a spear for the Savior he loved so much. In that moment, he is reunited with the one whom he had always been so afraid to lose.