A Bible Study by Paula Yingst
Matthew, Mark and Luke each mentioned Thomas as one of Jesus’ inner circle of twelve disciples. But in his writing, John went deeper, giving insight into the mindset of the man who was also known as Didymus.
According to David Reagan, writing for Learn the Bible (http://www.learnthebible.org), Didymus is Greek for “the twin.” The more commonly used name, Thomas, is Hebrew or Aramaic and carries the same meaning. So it’s believed that this apostle was actually born in tandem with a brother or sister.
In John’s gospel there are many hints about the character and personality of “The Twin.” He is first mentioned in John 11:16. Here’s that passage from in The New International Version (NIV) of the Bible …
11 … [Jesus] went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”
His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” …
16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
It seems to me that Thomas’ comment was somewhat disconnected from the conversation at that moment. We’re left to wonder what the heck Thomas was talking about. Maybe that’s WHY John included that statement — as a clue to his readers about Thomas’ personality (without saying exactly what he was thinking)!
In Chapter 14, John includes another interjection by his fellow Jesus follower …
[Jesus said] “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
I’m thinking that Thomas seemed rather skeptical and needed some reassurance. Maybe he was fishing for more details, rather than the cryptic talk he was used to hearing from his mentor and Teacher.
So now we come to John’s third mention of Thomas speaking. In Chapter 20, we read the following …
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
However, Thomas was not with them during this event (we aren’t told why). This is what happened when Thomas heard that the others had seen Jesus:
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), 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.”
The skeptic finally decided to put his foot down! He refused to believe his closest friends when they claimed they had seen Jesus. Thomas had abandoned his Teacher at the moment of His arrest, but The Twin was aware of Jesus crucifixion, and even though he had witnessed Lazarus rising from the dead, he would not believe! He still didn’t get it.
A week later the disciples were back in their usual gathering house, and this time Thomas was with them …
[John 20] Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 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!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT: Maybe you or someone you know is a lot like Thomas — a skeptic who wants more evidence before committing to belief.If that is the case, you might want to memorize and take into your heart Jesus’ promise: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.”