Summary: Have you ever had a dream crushed? Have you ever totally devoted yourself to something only to see it fail? Have you ever felt complete despair in the midst of suffering? Have you ever doubted so thoroughly what you had taken to be true that you doubted e
Have you ever had a dream crushed? Have you ever totally devoted yourself to something only to see it fail? Have you ever felt complete despair in the midst of suffering? Have you ever doubted so thoroughly what you had taken to be true that you doubted everything? Have you ever lost a friend you loved deeply and been so confused about the “why” that doubts crept into your faith? Then you have experienced everything that Thomas experienced and you will be able to understand him quite well.
We’ve all heard the phrase “doubting Thomas.” We use it to refer to skeptics, to people who have a difficult time believing anything unless they see it or experience it for themselves – and even then they have their doubts. They are people who have to have everything proven to them to the point that there is absolutely no “wiggle room”, and even then they’ll try to not get pinned down to a commitment that they believe.
The first disciple we want to try to understand today is the man who began it all, in a manner of speaking, the Apostle Thomas. We know little detail about him. We don’t know where he comes from, and we know nothing about his family. He is called Didymus in John’s gospel. Didymus means “Twin”, and it would have been his Greek name. We don’t know who or what he was Twin to. So, on to what we do know.
We are all familiar with the account of the incident where Thomas doubted the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, but let’s review it all together for a moment. Turn with me to John 20:19-29, and let’s have someone read this story for us.
Okay, now that we see this in context and all together, what do we discern? First, since Thomas wasn’t a personal witness to the risen Christ, he refused to believe it. Second, he set up specific criteria by which he would believe. Third, he made an extremely rigid statement to the effect that, “Unless my standards are met I WILL NOT believe!” Pretty unyielding, don’t you think?
Well, that was Thomas alright – rigid, unyielding, not easily swayed, stubborn beyond belief, pessimistic, melancholy, gray, somber, and just downright mule-headed and grim. Yet, he also had a deep love for Jesus that carried him through, even when his faith was in question.
Let’s go back a little ways to a story recorded for us in John 11:1-16. Jesus and His disciples are taking a break away from the rising threat of the Jewish leaders who have already tried to stone Jesus twice in recent days. Word comes that one of His closest friends, a man named Lazarus, is deathly ill and needs Jesus to come. Jesus delays, waiting for Lazarus to die. The theology in this is enormous, but suffice it to say for now that, no matter what our circumstances seem to be, there is One who loves us just a dearly as He loved Lazarus and He may consider it best for a time that we endure whatever it is we are in the midst of.
At any rate, once Lazarus has died, Jesus determines to go to Bethany, which is right outside of Jerusalem. The disciples, sure that Jesus is walking into a trap and will most likely lose His life, try to talk Him out of going, reminding Him about the close call He has just survived. Jesus then says (John 11:14b-15), “Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.”
Enter Eeyore: “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” Dedicated to Jesus, yet resolved to his fate, Thomas sounds so much like a man I heard about not long ago.
This man was a farmer, his neighbors were farmers, and everyone in the area considered him to be the biggest pessimist in the world. His closest neighbor did all he could to encourage him every time they spoke, leaning over a fence that divided their properties on one side.
“Look’s like the sun’s gonna shine good today!” the optimist said one morning.
“Yeah,” came the droopy reply. “Probably be so hot the crops’ll dry out and shrivel up and be no good.”
A couple days later, “Looks like rain, don’t you think?”
“Yep, and it’ll probably flood the fields and ruin the crops; just wait and see.” Ever the pessimist, never with any hope in anything.
This was the way it went year after year, season after season. The only thing the man seemed to come out of his gloom for was duck hunting. A transformation came over him every time he went out and brought home duck for dinner.