With the exceptions of Peter and Paul, we know very little about the men who would serve as the ambassadors of Christ. There are plenty of fanciful traditions and pseudo writings regarding these men but little biblical historical evidence. This is certainly true of the one known as Thomas. Yet, there are a few things we know about “Thomas, which is called Didymus” (meaning, “the twin” (Jho. 11:6; 20:24; 21:2). Outside of the general events which record Thomas’ activities with the disciples there are three occasions in which Thomas occupies a vital speaking role.
In the first passage (John 11), when Jesus learned that His friend Lazarus was dead at Bethany, He announced that He intended to go there and “awake him” (v. 11). Now these were perilous times in the Lord’s public ministry, because His enemies were set to kill Him (v. 8). When Thomas saw that Jesus was willing to take that risk, he said, to fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (v. 16). What great faith!
The second speaking role was (John 14), when Jesus said He was about to leave the disciples, but that they knew where He was going and they also knew the way. Thomas asserted that they did not know where He was going and therefore they could not know the way (v. 5). Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the father but by me” (v. 6). What remarkable misunderstanding!
The best-known passage about Thomas (John 20), relates his reaction to the resurrection. After missing the resurrection-day meeting when the risen Christ appeared to the other apostles (v. 24), he declared to them that he would not believe them unless he could put his “finger into the print of the nails” and thrust his “hand into his side” (v. 25). It is because of his absence, that Thomas has been branded, “Doubting Thomas”. Why was Thomas absent that day? Was he fishing? Working? Did he have company? We will not know this side of eternity. What we do know is this: Thomas did not miss out on the events of the resurrection of Lazarus or the Last Supper. And even though he did not miss out on the resurrection of Jesus, he did miss out on the events of the resurrection evening. Thomas, was the only apostle save Paul, one born out of due time (1 Cor. 15:8), not to see Jesus on the resurrection day. What a bitter-sweet absence!
We can learn many great lessons from Thomas. First, every event in which the saints are gathered together in His name has the potential of being a great event. Don’t miss out by being absent from the worship and work of the church. Second, even a man of great faith can miss out on an important event simply by not participating. So, as Thomas would tell his fellow disciples, “Let us also go” (11:16).