By Carol Becker
While writing the script for this Easter’s dramatization I knew I wanted to study the life of Thomas. You see, I think if most of us are honest, we see ourselves in Thomas maybe more than any other character in the resurrection story. What comes to mind when you hear Thomas’ name? We all know Thomas’ label – doubter…doubting Thomas. He earned this reputation based on one incident in his life. I’m not sure that we should be so quick to label others. A label dismisses a person’s other positive character traits and diminishes the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in their life. A negative label defines and devalues a soul for whom Jesus gave His life, a soul He loves. I spent many hours reading about Thomas and studying the different times he is mentioned in the Scriptures, and I found out there was a lot more to the man Thomas than just one label.
God’s Word records three separate times that Thomas speaks. We can learn much from the life of Thomas and his relationship with Christ. 1. Thomas — Loyal Friend
In John 11 we read the story of the death of Lazarus and Jesus’ miracle of raising him from the dead. Mary and Martha had sent for Jesus when their brother became sick. Jesus wanted to go support His friends, but going to Bethany meant traveling through Judaea. The last time Jesus had been in Judaea they tried to stone Him to death. The disciples questioned if Jesus should risk traveling through Judaea again. Thomas was the only one who spoke up to support Jesus in His decision. Thomas says in John 11:16, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Thomas was willing to die with Jesus. Even when it wasn’t the popular opinion Thomas supported his friend. His declaration should serve as an example to us. Do we support Christ and defend His name in the midst of opposition? Thomas can be labeled a loyal friend of Jesus.
2. Thomas — Devoted Friend
We find Jesus sharing His heart with His disciples concerning who He was and why He came in John 14. “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.”
The disciple were struggling to understand what Jesus was saying when Thomas spoke up. “Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?” Thomas didn’t want to miss the chance to be with Jesus for one moment. His devotion to his friend urged him to seek the truth. Jesus answered Thomas’ sincere question. “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Jesus recognized Thomas’ desire for a close friendship and showed him the truth. Do we desire a close relationship with Jesus as Thomas did? Do we ask the hard questions and seek the truth from a devoted heart? Thomas can be labeled a devoted friend of Jesus.
3. Thomas — Personal Friend
The third place in Scripture where we find Thomas speaking is the incident where Thomas receives his infamous label of “doubting Thomas.” In John 20:24-29 we find the disciples still in the upper room. Mary Magdalene had just returned and told them that she saw and spoke with Jesus. They do not believe her. Thomas wasn’t the only one whose faith was struggling at this point. For some reason Thomas leaves the upper room and while he is gone Jesus appears to the disciples. When he returns, the other disciples tell Thomas that Jesus had just been there and that He truly was alive. We can only guess the questions and emotions that must have flooded Thomas’ heart. It is at this crossroad of faith that most of us can relate to Thomas at some point in our own lives. Could he possibly have questioned why was he left out? Why had Jesus chosen to come while he wasn’t there? Did Jesus care about the others more than him? Many of us have found ourselves struggling with these same hard questions in the midst of heavy burdens. It is at these crucial times in our lives that we long for a personal answer, a personal knowledge, a personal comfort from Christ. Our friend’s words, their faith, isn’t enough to quiet our own doubts and fears. We need personal assurance from Jesus. This is where we find Thomas. John 20:26 records Thomas’ emotional response. “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Thomas responds with honesty. He needed to see Jesus for himself. And then he waited. For eight days he waited. While no answer came, God was still working. While things were still dark, God was preparing Thomas to receive His light. God did not leave Thomas in His doubt. He did not abandon him when his faith was in crisis. John 20:27 Jesus appears to Thomas and says, “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.” He met Thomas’ need for personal assurance and friendship. And God meets us in our weakest moments of faith. He meets us in the midst of our raw emotions. He meets us while we are still yelling our questions and whispering our fears. And this is where Jesus grows our personal faith and friendship with Him. As He was meeting Thomas’ need He also offered words of encouragement to us as well. “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” We have not seen the nail prints in His hands, but we can see His guiding hand in our lives. Our faith can rest in Christ’s finished work on the cross and the power of His resurrection. Do we respond to God’s work in our lives with humble worship as Thomas did when he said, “My Lord and my God.” Doubting Thomas? Yes, but that doesn’t define the whole of Thomas’ life. We can label Thomas as personal friend of Jesus.
Thomas was so much more than a doubter. We can learn much about friendship from Thomas’ loyalty, devotion, and desire for personal friendship with Jesus. Did you know that you have labels as well? They’ve been assigned to you by God Himself. Loved. Forgiven. Redeemed. His Child. These are your labels. Rest your faith in God’s defining truth.