Doubting (in the Bible, Christian sense) will forever be associated with Thomas (also known as Didymus, also referred to as T.Didy… but I guess, only by me.)
That kinda sucks, don’t it?
Could you imagine being defined, forever, by one of your not so best moments?
I was in 8th grade. My voice was changing. My friend was on the other side of the cafeteria, looking for me. I needed to get his attention. So I yelled his name across the cafeteria. Only, my voice cracked pretty bad. And there wasn’t a soul in that room who didn’t hear my voice warble and crack. It was followed by a roar of laughter, all directed at me. I thought I’d always will, forever, be associated with that horrible moment of my life. It only lasted for a little while.
But Thomas, being a doubter, that has lasted for centuries. And will continue to do so.
Not so many people mention Thomas’ act before the doubting (Or after, for that matter).
Jesus heard that Lazarus had died, and wanted to go back to see Lazarus’s family, and raise from the dead. You know, the normal stuff.
The disciples were confused and scared. “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you and you are going back?” (Were the disciples more worried about Jesus’ being stoned, or were they more concerned that they, too, will be stoned? Or both?)
Jesus said that he was going back, and Thomas, basically, said, “Screw it. Let’s go guys! If Jesus goes, I’m going. Let’s all go.” (His actual words: Let us also go, that we may die with him.)
How come we don’t hear about that part of Thomas’s story in Bible Studies and Sunday school classes?
But here’s the thing that got to me.
This past Sunday, our senior pastor was preaching about Thomas.
It wasn’t until the 3rd (and final) service that something that he was saying clicked in my head with something I wrote on Good Friday.
One version says:
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for the fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19-20) (Emphasis, mine.)
My NIV says:
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19-20)
Alright. So we all know that Thomas refused to believe that Jesus was alive and showed himself to his friends. We all know Thomas’s (in)famous words, “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.”
And we all think. Silly Thomas. Why can’t you simply believe? Why do you need proof? Why can’t you just believe the other disciples? They didn’t need proof.
But read those passages again.
Jesus appears to them, somehow walking through locked doors. He tells everyone, “Peace be with you.”
Then what’s the next sentence?
Oh. He showed them his scars, his hands AND his side.
Then, the disciples were overcome with joy. Then they recognized that it was Jesus.
The Gospel writer doesn’t say that Jesus appeared to them, said “Peace be with you” then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. There’s a whole sentence between Jesus saying “Peace be with you” and the disciples rejoicing. They “saw the Lord” after Jesus presented to them his hands and side.
Sooooooo… why does Thomas get the bad rap? Is it because he voiced what the others didn’t? Is it because he actually stuck his foot in his mouth and said, “I won’t believe until I see…” because, you know, it’s sort of implied (at least to me) that the other disciples weren’t quite sure what was going on in that locked room, until Jesus showed them his scars.
So, I think we just need to go a bit easier on Thomas.
It’s a shame that he’s stuck with the monicker, Doubting Thomas or Thomas the Doubter.
The truth is, all those disciples doubted.
And so do we, here and then.
Thomas has done great things after he was given proof.
It is believed that he was the only disciple who went outside of the Roman Empire to spread the Good News, and believed to have covered the largest land in his mission for God.
Yea. Thomas doubted. But for a moment.
And who hasn’t doubted for a moment, or longer?
But it’s a tellable story. Maybe because of its relatable-ness. Maybe because we all see ourselves as Thomas here and there, and maybe we would’ve said the exact thing if we were in his sandals.
But, from my Sunday School days and in bible study curriculums for youth and children, the story of Thomas is primarily focused on (if not solely), his doubting.
For that, I just have to say, don’t worry T.Didy. I got your back.