Summary: Doubting Thomas (Judas Thomas) and dealing with doubt
A defendant was on trial for murder in Oklahoma. There was strong evidence indicating guilt, but there was no corpse. In the defense’s closing statement the lawyer, knowing that his client would probably be convicted, resorted to a trick. "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I have a surprise for you all," the lawyer said as he looked at his watch. "Within one minute, the person presumed dead in this case will walk into this courtroom." He looked toward the courtroom door. The jurors, somewhat stunned, all looked on eagerly. A minute passed. Nothing happened. Finally the lawyer said, "Actually, I made up the previous statement. But you all looked on with anticipation. I, therefore, put it to you that there is reasonable doubt in this case as to whether anyone was killed and insist that you return a verdict of not guilty." The jury, clearly confused, retired to deliberate. A few minutes later, the jury returned and pronounced a verdict of guilty. "But how?" inquired the lawyer. "You must have had some doubt; I saw all of you stare at the door." Answered the jury foreman: "Oh, we did look. But your client didn’t."
I think that Thomas gets a bum rap. Whenever someone mentions Thomas, they don’t just say “Thomas”, they always say “Doubting Thomas” as if there were a bunch of people named Thomas in the Bible and it is necessary to say “Doubting” to get the right one. I have a news flash for you. Thomas is the only Thomas in the Bible. Thomas is enough. People also act as if this is the only passage that mentions Thomas – at least it is the only one that people seem to remember.
There are a couple other times that Thomas plays a prominent role. There is the story back in John 11 where Jesus is headed to Bethany and the disciples are afraid of the Pharisees. They know that there is a real possibility that Jesus could be killed. They are afraid, not only for Jesus, but for themselves as well. In that story, it is Thomas who speaks up and says that he is willing to go to Bethany even if it means dying with Jesus. Why don’t we call Thomas “Ready to Die with the Lord Thomas”? Why is it “Doubting Thomas”?
There is another passage coming up in John 21. A group of the disciples are out on a boat fishing. The resurrected Christ appears on the shore. It is Thomas who first recognizes him and points him out to the others. Why isn’t it “Eagle Eye Thomas”? Why must it be “Doubting Thomas”?
Even today’s passage closes with a statement of faith from Thomas. Why isn’t it “Believing Thomas”?
I guess it is sort of like the nicknames that kids get. Sometimes kids, especially around junior high, will try to come up with cool nicknames for themselves. The problem is that you rarely get to choose your nickname – it is given to you. And it is usually given to you in memory of some unflattering situation. Why else we would have folks walking around with nicknames like “stinky”? In fact, my name is really James Bruce Timothy. I might have been called Tim anyway, but my nickname sealed the deal. I was over ten pounds at birth and was immediately dubbed “Tiny Tim.”