Remember back to the days of high school, when yearbooks would come out at the end of the year. Did you find yourself leafing through the pages, wondering if you were in any of the activity pictures, only to find yourself saying, “Oh no, they picked that picture?!” I wonder if Thomas would have the same reaction if he read about himself in the Bible—“What, they put in that quote and nicknamed me ‘Doubting Thomas’?!” Thomas is quoted in the Bible three times:
1) John 11:16 When Jesus and the disciples hear that Lazarus has died, Jesus stays where he is two more days before telling the disciples it’s time to return to Judea. Thomas says “Let us also go, that we may die with him,” remembering that the Jews wanted to stone Jesus when last they were there. Though he doesn’t grasp Jesus’ true intention, he shows real devotion, a willingness to follow Jesus at whatever the cost.
2) John 14:1-9 The disciples struggle to understand Jesus’ words about leaving them to prepare a place for them in his Father’s house. Jesus said, “You know the way to the place where I am going,” but Thomas insisted, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus then stated that he and the Father are one. Thomas was trying to understand, though not succeeding. He pursued Jesus and asked for help in understanding what he was saying.
3) John 20:24-29 At this point following the resurrection, Jesus has appeared to Mary and to a group of the disciples, but Thomas was not with them. Upon hearing that they had seen Jesus, Thomas responds, “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 it.” Imagine Thomas’s disappointment at having missed seeing the resurrected Jesus twice! He wants to believe, but holds out for further proof. The other 10 disciples have already been through this–they, too, did not believe the first report of Jesus’ resurrection by Mary and several others (Mark 16:9-11, Luke 24:9-11). This time, Jesus seems to appear specifically for Thomas’s benefit. After greeting them in peace, he turns to Thomas and invites him to have his proof (vs. 27). Thomas instantly believes: “My Lord and my God!” He does not attempt to verify by touch. He calls Jesus “My Lord” as the other disciples did when they saw him, but goes a step beyond and adds, “…and my God!”
Consider Thomas’s present company in John 20: impetuous Peter and the “sons of thunder,” James and John–men of action. Thomas is also a man of action. As we have seen in the above three passages, he is willing to go with Jesus, tries to understand his teaching, and wants to touch and believe.
John twice refers to Thomas as Didymus (11:16 and 20:24), which means “twin,” though his twin is never mentioned. A twin is defined as “something containing or consisting of two matching or corresponding parts, closely related to or resembling each other.” We are twins with Thomas—we too experience confusion and doubt. How can we respond to being a twin of Thomas? Like Thomas, we can pursue Jesus and do what he asks of us (John 11). We can pursue understanding of Jesus, not blindly following but trying to find meaning in the words he speaks (John 14). We can follow Jesus’ direct command to stop doubting and believe in him as powerful God of the universe (John 20:27). Christ knows our struggles, whether of faith or other matters, and he meets us in his perfect timing to supply what we need to understand and acknowledge him.