April 19, 2020

The Apostle Thomas, a Witness of Christ

After his resurrection, Jesus appeared again to his disciples a week later—this time also to the apostle Thomas. Today he is often referred to as “Doubting Thomas.” However, when we gain a better understanding of who Thomas was by considering more of his story, we can learn a powerful lesson in courage, faith, and believing in Jesus Christ. We also gain insight into the mercy and compassion of the Savior. These lessons can help us in our own moments when we too may feel doubt or that our faith is wavering.

Thomas was likely born in the Galilee, the northern part of Israel. John gives him the title Didymus, a Greek word meaning twin. All the Gospels mention Thomas, but only in the Gospel of John do we learn of three recorded interchanges he has with the Lord. Each of these offers a better perspective as to Thomas’ character.

The first time we read the recorded words of Thomas, Jesus is traveling with his disciples. They had just received word that Lazarus was very sick. After two days, Jesus then told his disciples frankly that Lazarus was dead and they would go to the tomb. Fearing the Jewish leadership who sought Jesus’ life, the disciples tried to persuade him not to go down to Jerusalem. Thomas shows courage, however, as he says unto his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:16). In this moment we see Thomas as one who is brave.

The second time we read the words of Thomas is during the Last Supper. Jesus was teaching his disciples and preparing them for what was to come. According to Matthew, Mark, and Luke they were celebrating the Passover during the meal, traditionally a time of great rejoicing. Yet, Jesus was somber and spoke almost cryptically to the disciples.

While these chapters contain some of the most powerful and oft-repeated words spoken by Jesus Christ, at the time the disciples seem to have been quite confused by Jesus’ actions and message. It was Thomas who spoke up and asked for clarification at one point, thus revealing perhaps one of the more well-known teachings of the Savior. Jesus tells the disciples that he is to depart, and then “Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?” (John 14:5). Next comes the profound response to Thomas’s heart-felt question: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6). How blessed we are because of Thomas’ willingness to seek truth and better understand the Savior. Thomas’s search brought these comforting words not only to him but also to us! In this moment we see Thomas as one who is earnest and seeks to understand.

The last time we read Thomas’ words written by John, is after Christ has suffered on the cross, has died, and is now resurrected. Thomas had not seen the risen Lord when he first appeared to the disciples. He now stands alone as the only apostle who is not a personal witness to the miraculous events that had just occurred. He expresses a desire to also see with his own eyes and feel with his own hands that he too may join his brethren and sisters as a witness of the resurrection. Eight days later, the Savior appears and says, “Peace be unto you.” He then invites Thomas to “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing” (John 20:27). Thomas was invited to do exactly what he himself had expressed a desire to do a week earlier. The Lord had answered his prayers.

Thomas then responds, “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28). Not only does Thomas see him as his Lord and Master, but testifies that he is the God and ruler of this earth. In this moment we see Thomas as one who believes.

Like Thomas, we too may have moments when we feel courageous and bravely stand up for others or for our beliefs. Like soldiers going to war, we are willing to fight and even die for what we know is true. And like Thomas, we also may have moments of confusion. We seek for answers to our questions wanting to understand which way we should go and who to follow. And also like Thomas we may have times when we may feel ourselves wavering. We are surrounded by others who appear solid in their beliefs, and we too want that same witness and strong testimony. We cry out expressing the deepest desire of our heart—to see and feel for ourselves that Jesus died for us and know that he lives.

And in those moments, a loving, compassionate, and merciful God reaches out for us. He invites us to see with our eyes and feel with our hands the love that Christ has to offer all of us. He comes when we feel brave, when we are confused, and even when we doubt. He is always there with outstretched arms. With nail prints in his hands and feet, he invites us to hear the same message he spoke in that upper room so long ago, to the apostle Thomas, “Peace be unto you…be not faithless, but believing.”

Special thanks to Heather Pack for helping to write most of this script.

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