John 20: 24 – 28
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus which means Twin), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “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.”
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Poor Thomas, known down through all the ages as ‘Doubting Thomas’ because of this account from John’s Gospel. A sobriquet he does not deserve, for he was far from doubtful in his devotion to Jesus.
When earlier in John’s account Jesus is talking of going up to Jerusalem, Peter and the others strongly advise against it for they know that Jesus would very likely be put to death there. When Jesus is adamant to go, it is Thomas who says “Then let us go and die with him”- those are not the words of a man who doubts.
From other sources it is believed Thomas was like Jesus; a carpenter to trade, which would mean he was different to most of the Twelve although he was a Galilean, perhaps he was a bit of an outsider and questioned things more. Perhaps he was more afraid than the others on that Thursday evening, and went to the Temple Courtyard where he knew Peter would be Peter the strong one, the rock on which they could all depend. Did he get there just as Peter was telling the serving girl he had never heard of Jesus? Did he eventually pluck up the courage to ascend Golgotha on the Friday afternoon only to arrive as Jesus cried in his agony “My God why have you forsaken me?”
So he would take some convincing when the others told him “We have seen the Lord”. Jesus came to him on the following Sunday night and showed him the scars on which Thomas could then be certain and believe. In a way, he stands witness for us all; he needed to be convinced, and because he was by Jesus himself, then so too can we.
What then became of Thomas after his doubts were dispelled by certainty? Tradition and legend tell us he travelled further East than any of the others, eventually finishing up in Southern India, where as well as preaching the Good News, he was employed by a Maharaja to build a country palace using the building skills he had acquired as a carpenter years before. Thomas began his work and the Maharaja sent him money without question. Thomas though, began to notice that many of the local population lived in dire poverty and hunger, so he started to use his building budget for poor relief until eventually all the funds went on that and none on the building project. Eventually, an emissary from the Maharaja was sent to see if the Palace was ready. When his report was sent back Thomas’ employer flew into a towering rage and ordered that Thomas be flayed alive so he was duly martyred for helping the poor. A short while after the Maharaja became very ill and on his deathbed had a vision of Heaven in which he was welcomed into a superb mansion. He asked why and how this was for him, and he was told “This is the Palace Thomas built for you”. His final act on Earth was in penance to have Thomas’ remains buried in great state.
A nice story (apart from the being flayed alive part), but what is a fact is that when the Portuguese sailors became the first Europeans to land in Madras they discovered a thriving Christian community with many churches and cathedrals dedicated to, who else; St Thomas!
Thomas, a man who needed to be certain, but once his faith was confirmed his courage knew no bounds. Can we hope that when we have doubts they can be used to make our faith as strong as Thomas the Twin?
Lord God, our loving Father in Heaven, forgive if in times of crisis we doubt, we seek reassurances like Thomas. Help us to use our doubts, so that when tested by them our faith may be all the more.
In your Mercy hear our prayer,