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Thomas the Courageous, the Evangelist, and the Doubter

Thomas was a special follower of Jesus. Though he was not in the savior’s inner circle like Peter, James, and John, he did serve as one of the twelve disciples (John 20:24).  His name simply means “twin.”  Sometimes, he is called Didymous as a secondary name, which redundantly also means twin. Interestingly, the bible never mentions anything about his sibling.  Perhaps his family was divided over his allegiance to Christ.  Or, perhaps his twin died sometime before the bible’s scant record of Thomas’s life begins. 

In any case, Thomas, unfairly, is most famous for his doubt. After the resurrection, Jesus appears to his disciples, but Thomas is not present. In their joy, they take this news to an incredulous Thomas who declares that he will not believe unless he sees the wounds of Jesus with his own eyes, and touches the Lord’s wounds with his own hands (John 20:25). Eight days later, Jesus appears to him and invites Thomas to do exactly that. From that point forward all of history branded him with the new moniker of Doubting Thomas! This is rather unfortunate, since all of the other disciples also doubted when the exact same news was brought to them by Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9-11). The wonderful message that shines from this encounter with the risen Lord by the doubting disciple, is that Jesus is bigger than our doubts, and his power extends greatly even to those who have not seen him, and yet still believe (John 20:29).

Thomas’s moment of doubt overshadows the courage he clearly had. The people of Judea had tried to stone Jesus to death, and so Jesus and his disciples left the area. But his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus remained behind. At some point, Lazarus died (John 11:1-14). When Jesus decided to return to Judea to raise Lazarus from the dead, and so display his power in order for others to believe, it was Thomas who boldly declared that he and all the disciples should go and die with Jesus as he walks back into certain stoning (John 11:16).

That boldness probably served his evangelism well. It’s not recorded in the bible, but Church tradition has Thomas going to India, and planting perhaps as many as seven different churches. He is said to have been martyred at the point of a spear. So even though Thomas doubted — as all of us do at times — his love for Christ and the gospel at the end of his life eclipsed his momentary choice of unbelief!

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