The whistled tune of an old sailor’s jig pours forth from his lips. My it’s hot today, he thinks to himself wiping the sweat from his brow. He’s on his way to the temple hoping to hear any news about the Teacher. The rapid slapping of sandals on the dirt behind him makes him turn. He is shocked to see the happy faces of his friends. Their voices roll over one another, and he struggles to make sense of all they shout. “He’s alive!” “He’s back!” “We have seen the Lord!” Pushing their hands away from his garments, he rights himself. Could this be? He’s not seen these men in 4 days’ time. With doubt in his eyes, he firmly refuses their truth. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, I will not believe.” He turns to make his way back to the temple leaving his bewildered friends on the road.
Poor ol’ Thomas. He’s been given a bad rap. History has taken his name, pummeled it, and posted it under the chapter entitled “Shameful Men.” I mean, next to Judas, he’s the “not-so-awesome” disciple of Jesus’ just because he doubted. How dare he. To doubt… to doubt Jesus. *Gasp!* Sinful. Tragic. Unspeakable. Surely none of us have (dare I say!) doubted God.
Allow me to paint you a picture….
Jesus’ body has been buried. Judas has hanged himself hours before. The Passover was feasted but has a dark cloud upon it. And the 11 disciples who are left now have to figure out what in the world to do! For the past 3 years, these men had followed the Messiah, learned from him, traveled with him, dined with him, faced persecution and near death… and now, now Jesus had left them just as he said he would. What to do now? Well, at least 10 of them hid out together in fear. John 20:19 says that “the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders.”
So imagine, after Jesus’ death, these 10 hide out in a room just waiting to be next. Surely the magistrates are looking for them. They’ve spent these three days waiting in fear. Fear of what? What have they to fear? Death? That’s the only thing I can figure they must be afraid of. Then BAM! Jesus shows up right in the middle of them, doors locked and all. Instead of elation, they’re still afraid. Luke 24 tells that they think he’s a ghost. (Who you gonna call?) Jesus literally has to tell them, “Look at me! Touch me and see that I am real.” I imagine Peter is the first to reach out, just because he has a history of being impetuous. They can, in fact, touch him with their own doubting, fearful fingers. Then it happens. They are freakin’ overjoyed! He’s back! They’re safe! Whew. That was a close call for those guys. They.almost.died.
But there are only 10 who are hiding. Guess who isn’t?
Yep, you guessed it. Thomas. John 20 verse 24 goes on to say that “Thomas, one of the twelve, was not with the disciples.” That’s right. Instead of hiding in that room with the other guys, Thomas goes out and lives his life. Scripture doesn’t say what he was doing exactly, but he certainly wasn’t closeted in behind locked doors waiting to be taken away like the other guys were. You won’t find him biting his fingernails with his knees knocking together like a big ol’ scaredy cat. He has bigger, better things to do. He had seen too much, done too much, and been too many places with the Son of God to stay behind a closed door.
Matter of fact, when the other guys find him and tell him that Jesus is alive, he’s like, “Yeah sure. Let me see that for a fact.” Who can blame him? I mean, Thomas knows that he said he would come back, but just because someone says something doesn’t always make it true. Give Thomas credit. He isn’t gullible.
Then an ENTIRE week later, he’s hanging out with the 10 disciples in the same house, (maybe a happy family reunion now that they other guys feel safe?). The doors are locked- again- and BAM! Just like before, Jesus suddenly appears in their midst. Now, the other 10 have already had this happen to them, so they just sip their sweet tea like it’s nothing new. Thomas, however, is truly in awe.
There is no happy exchange of pleasantries. Jesus turns directly to Thomas and invites him to, “Stop doubting and believe.” (verse 27) Not because Thomas is the ONLY doubter. ALL of them doubted. He was just the last one to get to see Jesus in the flesh because he was the ONLY one not in hiding when Jesus showed up in the first place. He ain’t skeered.
This is Thomas. Thomas, who history has painted as a doubter, is really the toughest disciple of all. Matter of fact, in the good ol’ days when there were 12 disciples, and Lazarus ‘fell asleep’, Jesus wanted to go wake him up. All the other guys were afraid- again. They told Jesus not to return because they had almost been stoned to death last time they were in Judea. But Jesus said, “Let us go.” And you know what? Thomas looked them all square in the eye, those who were afraid of death, and said, “Let us also go that we may die with him.” (John 11:16) Thomas ain’t skeered.
He may prove skeptical, but he’s no chicken. Give ol’ Thomas some credit.