The goal of this series is to study the group of 12 young men who spent approximately 3 years with Jesus, from the time of his baptism until his resurrection. We’ll look at their character, their transformation, and their relationship with Jesus and learn from their lives.
You can read the full preface to this series to see how I have defined discipleship and see a timeline of how the disciples met Jesus and followed him.
What We Know About Thomas
We may not know a lot about Thomas, but we do get a clear picture that he is a bit of a pessimist. Many of us rejoice to see a glass half full, but Thomas saw it half empty. For example, when Jesus and the disciples learn about their friend Lazarus’s death near Jerusalem, Thomas shows his pessimism, saying, “Yes, let’s go there that we might die with him.” Can you imagine how the other disciples might have felt around him?
After following Jesus for approximately 3 years, his world falls apart in the span of a few days. The disciples see Jesus arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane and all but John flee for their lives. Shortly after this, Jesus is publicly put on trial and crucified by those He told the disciples to love. The cup is empty. I like the way Ralph Wilson states it:
As Jesus’ life drains away, so does Thomas’s hope.
Thomas was one of Jesus Christ’s 12 disciples, hand-picked to spread the gospel. Yet he stood back as the crowds mocked his Rabbi. His leader died and doubts crept in. Even the whispers of Jesus’ resurrection by the disciples didn’t fill him with hope. When told by the others, “We have seen the Lord,” Thomas replied that he would not believe it unless he could actually touch Jesus’ wounds.
Jesus later presented Himself to the disciples and invited Thomas to inspect His wounds.
Tradition holds that he later carried the gospel to the east and was martyred for his faith.
From Disciple to Doubter to Deserter
Jesus called Thomas to be a disciple. Just like us, he wasn’t perfected in the moment he decided to follow Jesus. He brought in his baggage, his personality, and his talents. He experienced the ups and downs of following Jesus. The crowds swelled and he witnessed miracles. The crowds thinned and he learned hard truths. Jesus was arrested, the crowds swelled again, and Thomas fled.
His old nature returned strongly in that moment of trial. The beauty is that Jesus knew it was going to happen and He prayed for them:
I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. John 17:15
Jesus knew that the trial He was about to face would also test His followers. He knew the disciples intimately and prayed that Thomas’s‘ doubt would not totally destroy his faith. Yet He knew that his faith would be tested and that he would flee with the others.
From Deserter to Disciple
Thomas’s‘ story from deserter back to disciple is a beautiful picture of what all of us experience when we return to Christ and greatly illustrates Paul’s message to the Romans.
Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:34-39
I think there are 3 great messages in the combination of these stories.
- No Condemnation: When we come to Christ, after denying Him for a lifetime or a season, He does not condemn us.
- Love: Instead of condemning us, He loves us. In fact, He intercedes for us and promises that nothing can separate us from the love of God.
- Repentance: We have this free access to God…but it’s a choice we must make. He does not force His love on us. He makes it available and then draws us to Him.
The Doubter’s Message to Us Today
In response to Thomas’s‘ doubts, Jesus said that those who believe in Christ as Savior without seeing him—that would be us—are blessed.
I think Thomas would tell us to rest in the love of our Savior, the love that forgave him and loved a doubting disciple into a real faith in Jesus.
Preview of the Next Disciple
I hope this has opened your eyes to the fact that Thomas was a real man. He wasn’t just an obscure character on a few pages of the Bible. He was real and there’s so much we can learn from him.
Next, we will look at Simon the Zealot. What do we know about Simon and what lessons can we learn from his life? You can find out this and much more in the next post.
WAIT! DON’T LEAVE WITHOUT SAYING HI!
Thanks for taking the time to read. Below is a place for you to say hi, what you thought about the post, and ask any questions you may have. And yes, I’ll respond! In fact, I’m looking forward to interacting with you! So what are you waiting for? Leave a comment below!
*For related reading about the disciples/apostles of Jesus, please visit my friend’s page here.
Check Out the Rest of the Series
Also published on Medium.