Noteworthy or infamous, whatever way you slice it, not a bad guy

Most of us probably know the phrase or label “doubting Thomas” and some probably know it refers to the disciple by the same name.  What we may not realize is that although the label doesn’t have a positive connotation, its namesake wasn’t a bad guy.

Thomas, also known as Didymus or “twin,” (he was one) showed courage in the face of danger when the other disciples were afraid.  When Lazarus, Jesus’s friend, died and Jesus proposed they go to him the other disciples warned this might not be safe.  Not so very long before, the Jews where Lazarus was wanted to stone him.  Jesus tries to convince them but they push back.  It’s only Thomas that says they should go on with Jesus even if it means death.  Read the whole story here from John 11: 1-16 if you want.  This wasn’t the only time Thomas spoke his mind though.

When Jesus knew his end was near he tried to explain to his friends that where he was going there would be a place for them also.  If you’ve spent some time in church you’ve probably heard the quote, “I am the way, and the truth and the life.” It’s a direct quote from Jesus to his disciples.  What you might not know is this is in response to Thomas speaking what was probably on the minds of all of them who heard Jesus talk about the Father’s house with many rooms.  Thomas put it bluntly, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”  You have to remember, these were common men, people off the street, blue collar guys.  They all would have been puzzled about what Jesus was saying (read the whole passage from John 14: 1-7 here).  Amidst the head scratching, the studying of their sandaled feet and the blank looks, there’s Thomas.  The only one bold enough to actually ask the question.  And so we come to that label once again.

Thomas is most ‘famous’ for his insistence that he see and touch Jesus’s wounds before he believed he had risen from the death caused by those same horrific injuries.  He’s given the “doubting” tag because he’s the only one of the eleven remaining disciples (Judas being long gone) who once again speaks his mind.  What’s often lost is that the rest were there when Jesus first appeared.  He’s being asked to believe based on the words of his fellow man (something we all struggle with).  The rest believe because they have seen and spoken to their fallen leader.  (Read that account here from John 20: 24-29).  This shouldn’t surprise us much, nor should we look on Thomas with disdain because to look down on him is to look down on the person we see in the mirror every day.

Thomas is true to his character.  He speaks his mind, operates sans filter as he has always done.  For that alone we should admire the guy because we are him.  We want to believe but we have a tough time doing so if we can’t see or touch the thing we’re asked to believe in at the moment.  We are Thomas.  Far from holding him in contempt we should lift him up because the one who demanded proof ultimately went on to travel and spread the good news the farthest, in India, where he met his end.  Thomas exists for us as an embodiment of our own need for proof and he elicits another well-known quote from his friend and leader recognizing our struggle and making a promise to all of us today:  “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20: 29).

We’re lucky.  We’re lucky that people like Thomas existed way back when.  And we’re lucky he/they asked questions; questions we still have today.  Having the courage to ask the tough questions, I’m convinced, is the only way we advance our and the world’s way forward.  So, have courage.

Every week I try and look at life and in this particular space I look at how the best Operator’s Manual ever written applies to us.  If you would like to read more of my writing, either this type or others, you can head to my home page by clicking this.  I hope you’ll get something out of what I write and subscribe.  It’s free and means you’ll get an email on Sundays with links to the week’s writing.  I never sell or share emails so you won’t get a bunch of junk.  You can subscribe by clicking here or at the blog.  

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