Summary: A biographical look at Thomas
TEXT: JOHN 20:24-31
Sunday, February 29, 2004
We are continuing with the 12 disciples- looking at the lessons from their lives- who God picked and what God was able to do through these 12 ordinary people who are just like you and me today. Today we are talking about Thomas, or as the cliché goes, doubting Thomas. Is that a fair assessment of his life? Well, we are going to look at that. Some general things about his life are: Matthew, Mark, Luke and Acts simply tell you that Thomas is a disciple. It is John who fills in the picture and adds a second name. He says that Thomas is also called Didymus; the meaning behind these names- and they actually are not names at all- the Hebrew word Thomas means the same thing as the Greek word Didymus; they are just translations of one another. Both the word Thomas and the word Didymus mean twin.
I find it to be a sad designation. Now it was common in those days that – well it was kind of uncommon for twins to be born. They didn’t have sonograms back then so they didn’t know if twins, or triplets or quadruplets were being born so they usually prepared for the ordinary and they usually chose just one person’s name. If a second child is born, it’s a surprise and usually they do not know what to do so they usually give the person the name Thomas, meaning it’s a twin. Later on they would name the child a special name that would coincide with how God led them or with their sense of the person’s personality. I find it a little sad that his parents didn’t go back and revisit his name. Forever in his life he lives under the shadow of his brother or his sister, his older sibling. He is only referred to as the twin, Bill’s brother.
Now imagine that, living your whole life simply being referred to by your parents, not being named a special name like everyone else, but simply as that’s “John’s brother”, or “Bill’s brother”. What does that do to you? It has an effect. Have you experienced being the least favorite of the children in your life? How does that affect you? Well, for some, it makes them resentful. For everyone it kind of lowers your sense of self esteem, in that it is hard to believe in yourself, hard to trust yourself and trust others, and typically, there usually is a sense of gloom, a shadow over the person’s life. If that happened to you in your life, I apologize to you. I apologize that life and people and your parents treated you that way because that was unfair. God believes that you are someone special when he creates you. In Thomas, if there is one lesson just from his name, it is this, and it is that these second children, these forgotten children, these least favorite children, God believes in and God called to service. He believes in you, he calls you to service, he trusts you and he wants you to trust yourself as well.
What else do we know about Thomas? We find much of his life in John, actually all about his life in John 11, 14, 20 and 21. I would like to look at John 20 which is where we get this quality, this cliché of his name, ‘doubting Thomas’, to see if that really is fair to him and to see what qualities are in this man. I think he is a wonderful guy! What are some of the shadows in his life and how does it apply to ours? Here is what it says:
Now Thomas (called 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 it.’
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!’
Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.