Matthew 10:3, Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15, John 11:16, John 14:5, John 20:24-28, John 21:2
Summary: The apostle Thomas gets the short end of the stick when we read about him and his “doubts” in the Gospel of John. He is more like you and me than we want to admit, and his story affirms it.
When we read of where Jesus chose the Twelve men who would be known as the Apostles, we need to step back for a moment and realize that these men were ordinary working-class, salt-of-the-earth, rough around the edge individuals who had jobs ranging from catching fish to collecting taxes to a host of other occupations that kept a roof over their heads and which took care of their families.
These men were not soft by any means; I have never really liked the mosaics, murals, icons, and stained-glass decorations that have, over time, portrayed them as a bunch of ethereal, pale, anemic, and reverent beings with constant haloes shining around them as if they were somehow higher than us in spirituality and degrees of reverence towards the LORD. Each of these men had one thing in common – they would have remained anonymous and obscure if Jesus had not picked them for the job.
A lot of attention is given to men such as Peter, James, and John, who made up the inner circle of the Apostles. Andrew, Peter’s brother, was known for bringing people to Jesus and is considered the first evangelist. Each of the Gospels makes mention of the Twelve, some given more notoriety than others. Of the twelve, we read very little of those such as Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot, James the son of Alphaeus, but others such as Matthew, Philip and Bartholomew are noted for varied acts of grace and ministry.
I have often wondered why not all of these men, whose names will be on the walls of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:14), did not get more attention over the others, and I believe I know the reason: Not everyone has to be in the spotlight, so to speak, when it comes to the work of the LORD.
The most productive of His servants over the years have been those whose names are known only to Him, anonymous and obscure, yet will receive crowns and rewards for their service and love for the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). Those anonymous apostles, like the others with whom we are most familiar, will testify that they were no more than unworthy servants, obeying their Master and letting us know that it is Jesus Christ who has the preeminence, glory, and honor, not them (Luke 17:10).
A lot of ink and paper has been used to either commend or condemn the words and work of the apostles, and I have heard “ad infinitum” from Christians over the years say that they would never have betrayed the LORD, nor would they have denied Him like Peter, nor doubted Him if they had been in that era of time.
I’ve also listened to sermons that all but condemn one in particular to the edges of hell or to a life of uselessness for what he said and did in the aftermath of the news that Jesus had indeed risen from the grave. That apostle is none other than Thomas. He has been the target of a bad reputation over the centuries for one brief moment in his walk with the LORD, and that was his doubt about what He had heard from the others concerning the empty tomb and the news that Jesus had appeared to the other disciples and the travelers on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35).
While some are quick to criticize him, I applaud him for his skepticism, and I’ll tell you why. Thomas represents all honest inquirers about Jesus throughout history who want to examine the evidence and see whether or not His claims written down in the Scriptures are real and valid before making a total commitment to Him.
Men such as C.S. Lewis, Sir William Ramsey, General Lew Wallace, Lee Strobel, Francis Schaeffer, and Simon Greenleaf began their search as atheists and skeptics. When they examined the evidence, they all concluded that Jesus Christ was Who He claimed to be and that the Bible accounts were accurate and reliable. All of them became followers of Christ and served Him throughout their lives in the fields of education, law, writing, and apologetics. I would encourage you to examine their lives and testimonies and see for yourself (Acts 17:11; 2 Timothy 2:15).
When you go back and read about the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-9; Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:4-8), you will see that some seed fell into stony ground, quickly producing a plant that ended up not having deep enough roots and withered away, representing the false convert who “accepts” Jesus and then finds that following Him will have consequences and persecutions. This false “convert” will then walk away from his “faith” (which he really never had) and wither away with eternal sorrow.
When Thomas was chosen to be an apostle, and after the time he spent with the LORD, I believe that he did not want to be as the seed in the shallow soil but to be able to have the deep roots that are a characteristic of an authentic follower of Christ. We see this journey to faith in Thomas when he was willing to die with the LORD if He was going to return to Judea (John 11:16). I really don’t see an attitude of fatalism in Thomas’ reply, but more of a “LORD, I’m with you, even if this doesn’t turn out well.” It is as if we could also hear him saying in the recesses of his heart, “I’ve come with Him this far. I’m committed now.”
Thomas is like us, seeing the bad more than the good and having a degree of pessimism even when we openly confess to be walking in faith. He has been called the “Eeyore” of the group. Face it; there are days when we are less than jubilant, joyful, and full of light. Thomas’ attitude towards life, faith, and following the LORD is an honest picture of even the best of us at times. He is the face of serious inquiry, examination, and a hesitancy to believe everything we hear, read, or watch.
When Jesus died on the cross, he, like the others, had fled or gone into hiding, scared and uncertain of what was to come. Judas Iscariot had hung himself in remorse. Peter was somewhere weeping hard tears of sorrow over his words of denial. John had accompanied Mary and the other women to the mountain of the skull and witnessed the death of the LORD. Thomas was having a “dark night of the soul,” inwardly grieving over the loss of his dear friend whom He loved and had followed these three years, apparently all for naught. The tomb was sealed, and the days passed. Then came the first day of the week and the news that Jesus was alive again, having conquered death, hell, and the grave.
His mission of salvation and redemption on our behalf was fully completed, with nothing more to add (John 19:30).
Later, all the apostles, save for Thomas, saw the risen Lord and received the commission to spread the Gospel (John 20:19-23). He arrived on the scene eight days later (20:26) and heard of what had happened. It is here where he gets hassled over his apparent “doubts” by some. It was Thomas who, in the Upper Room just a few nights ago, had asked the question about the “way” that prompted the Lord Jesus to give His declaration that He was “The Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John14:6).
When Jesus appeared and told Thomas to touch Him (20:27), this man, who had expressed his doubts that were grounded both in skepticism and grief, now saw with his own eyes the fulfillment of what Jesus had affirmed. He was indeed the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Every promise He made was real, and all of this prompted Thomas to say one of the greatest affirmations of faith and devotion to Christ; “My LORD and my GOD!” (20:29). All skepticism, doubt, sorrow, and tears had been wiped away.
Early church traditions state that Thomas took the Gospel to what would be the nation of India and met a martyr’s death by being run through with a spear. Doubt turned to devotion with Thomas.
I have always considered him my favorite of these twelve ordinary men because of the honest doubts we have at times concerning our walk with the LORD and the assurance that at the end of our own journey, all will be revealed, answers will come, and we will be before the throne of Jesus. I’d rather have honesty than haloes any day.
Donald was born and reared in the authentic “Cajun Country” of southern Louisiana. He is a graduate of Louisiana College (B.A. in History Education/ Biblical Studies, 1984), New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div. In Christian Education, 1994), and Andersonville Baptist Seminary (Doctor of Ministry, Biblical Exposition, 2000). He has been in the Gospel ministry since 1986, serving as an evangelist, interim and supply pastor, hospital and rescue mission chaplain, high school and college teacher, and pastor in churches in Louisiana and Oklahoma.
In 2018 he began to devote his time to the rich field of internet and social media evangelism and outreach. In 2021 he became a member of the Oklahoma Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists, using his skills as a writer to contribute articles and sermons to websites such as Rapture Ready, Sermon Central, and Inspirational Christian Blogs. He also writes Bible studies and curricula for churches in southeast and central Asia and Africa, the locations of which are anonymous. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org for inquiries, information, and speaking/preaching engagements. His website is www.realitycityreverend.com. A copy of his resume is also available upon request.