A football game has been described as eleven men in desperate need of a rest being criticized by thousands in need of some exercise.
In a similar fashion, as we sit in the comfort of our homes or in the pews and read through Holy Scripture, it is almost impossible not to find fault with the biblical characters and to criticize them. Take for example poor old Thomas. It is easy to understand why grade schoolers think his last name is Thomas and his first name is “Doubting.” He gets a bad wrap, but is he really deserving of one?
Thomas is mentioned in all four gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, but it is John’s gospel where he receives the most attention. In John’s gospel he is first mentioned as Jesus is making plans to return to Judea where he would later raise Lazarus from the dead. However, the disciples are concerned because it was in Judea that the Jews had tried to stone Jesus just a short time earlier. Despite their concerns Jesus says, “Let us go to Judea.” Then Thomas said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
If you can find a friend like this, don’t let them go. Thomas in this situation is brave, loyal, and dedicated. When the rest are “doubting,” Thomas is prepared to lay down his life for the Lord.
Later Jesus would cryptically explain to the disciples that he would be killed and be going to the Father. He goes on to tell them that they know the way, yet Thomas says, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus goes on to explain that he is “the way and the truth and the Life.”
Thomas, in this case, by admitting that he did not know the way is demonstrating simple honesty in that he did not understand what Jesus was trying to tell them. So, brave, loyal, dedicated honest, and now from today’s text… doubting.
When Jesus first appeared to the disciples, ten were there who saw and believed. Thomas was not. Thomas doubts. The Lord appears again and Thomas is there and it is at this appearance that I believe Thomas redeems himself, because after laying eyes and possibly even his hands on the Risen Lord he makes a confession of faith regarding Jesus. This confession is greater than what all the rest have said to this point. Thomas declares, “My Lord and my God.”
Thomas doubted because he wanted to be certain of the facts. He needed the truth for himself, not secondhand. However, once this certainty is established, Thomas commits himself fully to Jesus, declaring him to be Lord and God.
J.K. Rowling, the author of Harry Potter, received 12 rejection letters before she was picked up by Bloomsbury publishers and then only at the insistence of the CEO’s eight year old daughter. Because of these perceived failures, should we forever refer to her as a hack? Probably not. By the same token, Thomas may have doubted, but to reduce him to the moniker “doubting” just doesn’t seem fitting. However, if we must, let’s also include his other character traits as well: Brave. Loyal. Dedicated. Honest. Fully committed. That’s more accurate than simply “doubting.”