Thomas, Called Didymus

INTRODUCTION: Thomas was one of the twelve disciples chosen by Christ Jesus to become an apostle to spread the gospel to all the world. He has become known by many as the "doubting Thomas," but did he really have more doubts than some of the others as recorded by scripture? We can take comfort from his individual personality, and apply what we can learn about him in a very positive manner if we examine some key passages.

NOTE: All Bible passages are taken from the World English Bible.


A - THOMAS AMONG THE TWELVE

Luke 6 "12 It happened in these days, that he went out to the mountain to pray, and he continued all night in prayer to God. 13 When it was day, he called his disciples, and from them he chose twelve, whom he also named apostles: 14 Simon, whom he also named Peter; Andrew, his brother; James; John; Philip; Bartholomew; 15 Matthew; Thomas; James, the son of Alphaeus; Simon, who was called the Zealot; 16 Judas the son of James; and Judas Iscariot, who also became a traitor.?

Luke 9 "1 He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. 2 He sent them forth to preach the Kingdom of God, and to heal the sick. 3 He said to them, "Take nothing for your journey-neither staffs, nor wallet, nor bread, nor money; neither have two coats apiece. 4 Into whatever house you enter, stay there, and depart from there. 5 As many as don't receive you, when you depart from that city, shake off even the dust from your feet for a testimony against them." 6 They departed, and went throughout the villages, preaching the Good News, and healing everywhere."

COMMENTS: The first mention of Thomas comes when Jesus called twelve men to be apostles after he had prayed all night. Matthew, Mark, and Luke each provide the list of the twelve apostles with slight variations in the details in each of those passages. Jesus appointed them to be with him, and to send them out to preach, with authority to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons. That last detail appears in a separated passage in Luke. All three of the lists of apostles identify Judas as the one who was a betrayer. The twelve did go out preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God, and healing everywhere. This personal experience of the power and authority of Jesus was given to them as a very special privilege to represent Jesus to others as the one who was to come as promised in scripture.


B - THE TWELVE DIDN'T UNDERSTAND THE COMING DEATH AND RESURRECTION

Mark 9 "31 For he was teaching his disciples, and said to them, "The Son of Man is being handed over to the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he is killed, on the third day he will rise again." 32 But they didn't understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him. 33 He came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, "What were you arguing among yourselves on the way?" 34 But they were silent, for they had disputed one with another on the way about who was the greatest. 35 He sat down, and called the twelve; and he said to them, "If any man wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all." 36 He took a little child, and set him in their midst. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 "Whoever receives one such little child in my name, receives me, and whoever receives me, doesn't receive me, but him who sent me.""

Matthew 16 "13 Now when Jesus came into the parts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" 14 They said, "Some say John the Baptizer, some, Elijah, and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets." 15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 17 Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 I also tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my assembly, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19 I will give to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven; and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven." 20 Then he commanded the disciples that they should tell no one that he was Jesus the Christ. 21 From that time, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up. 22 Peter took him aside, and began to rebuke him, saying, "Far be it from you, Lord! This will never be done to you." 23 But he turned, and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, for you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of men.""

COMMENTS: In the passage in Mark chapter 9, Jesus told the disciples the Son of man would be handed over to men and killed, and then rise again the third day. None of them understood what he meant by that, and no one was brave enough to ask him to explain. When they came into a house at Capernum he asked them what they had argued about on the road, but no one answered because they had argued about who would be greatest in the kingdom. Jesus took a small child into his arms to give them an object lesson. Anyone who wants to be first, must be last of all and servant of all. Even if someone accepts the witness of a little child and received Christ, they would also be receiving God the Father. Those whom men may count as least, God treasures highly when they receive him. Mark 10 "13 They were bringing to him little children, that he should touch them, but the disciples rebuked those who were bringing them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was moved with indignation, and said to them, "Allow the little children to come to me! Don't forbid them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Most certainly I tell you, whoever will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child, he will in no way enter into it.""

In Matthew chapter 16 Peter declared that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus said Peter was Blessed, for flesh and blood had not revealed this to him, but my Father who is in heaven. This truth must always be revealed by God, not by man alone. When Jesus told them what was ahead for him at Jerusalem, Peter took Jesus aside and told him that should never happen to him. This brought the strong response from Jesus that Peter was thinking only about things men desire, and not of the things of God.


C - THOMAS WAS LOYAL ENOUGH EVEN TO DIE WITH JESUS

John 11 "5 Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. 6 When therefore he heard that he was sick, he stayed two days in the place where he was. 7 Then after this he said to the disciples, "Let's go into Judea again." 8 The disciples told him, "Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and are you going there again?" 9 Jesus answered, "Aren't there twelve hours of daylight? If a man walks in the day, he doesn't stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if a man walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light isn't in him." 11 He said these things, and after that, he said to them, "Our friend, Lazarus, has fallen asleep, but I am going so that I may awake him out of sleep." 12 The disciples therefore said, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover." 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he spoke of taking rest in sleep. 14 So Jesus said to them plainly then, "Lazarus is dead. 15 I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe. Nevertheless, let's go to him." 16 Thomas therefore, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, "Let's go also, that we may die with him.""

COMMENTS: We are not told how Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, but after two days he said they should all return to Judea. The disciples questioned the wisdom of that decision since the Jews there had sought to stone him. Jesus first gave them reasoning about the time to act through a figure of speech, and then told them in another figure of speech that Lazarus had fallen asleep and he would awaken him. They misunderstood this as they said he would awaken on his own, so Jesus then plainly told them that Lazarus was dead. They did not connect the transition in speech that indicated that Jesus was going to awaken Lazarus back to life. Jesus then told them he was glad he had not been there, so they would believe. Nevertheless, Jesus put aside all further discussion, by saying let us go to him. There is no indication that any of the twelve knew what Jesus would do when they arrived, but Thomas is the one who spoke up and encouraged his fellow disciples to go with Jesus even if it meant they would die with him. The name Thomas is Hebrew for twin, and the Greek equivalent for that name is Didymus, but there is no significance explained for the two names being cited in the text.


D - THE APOSTLES WERE PUZZLED BY THINGS AT THE LAST SUPPER WITH JESUS

John 13 "21 When Jesus had said this, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, "Most certainly I tell you that one of you will betray me." ... 27 After the piece of bread, then Satan entered into him. Then Jesus said to him, "What you do, do quickly." 28 Now no man at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus said to him, "Buy what things we need for the feast," or that he should give something to the poor. 30 Therefore, having received that morsel, he went out immediately. It was night. 31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him immediately. 33 Little children, I will be with you a little while longer. You will seek me, and as I said to the Jews, 'Where I am going, you can't come,' so now I tell you. 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, just like I have loved you; that you also love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." 36 Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus answered, "Where I am going, you can't follow now, but you will follow afterwards." 37 Peter said to him, "Lord, why can't I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." 38 Jesus answered him, "Will you lay down your life for me? Most certainly I tell you, the rooster won't crow until you have denied me three times."

COMMENTS: Judas went out from the others after Jesus told him to do quickly what he was going to do, but none of the others knew why he said this to him. The betrayal of Jesus was set in motion and much would happen in the ensuing hours. When Jesus said the Son of Man had been glorified, and God has been glorified in him, the eleven showed no sign of understanding that or the next statement. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him immediately.

Jesus addressed the eleven as little children, and said he would be with them only a little while longer, then they would seek him but they could not go where he was going. When Peter asked the Lord where he was going, Jesus said Peter could not follow now, but he would follow afterwards. Peter asked why he could not follow now since he would lay down his life for Jesus. Jesus then said Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crowed at the next morning light.


E - THOMAS AND PHILIP WANTED TO UNDERSTAND WHAT JESUS HAS SAID

John 14 "1 "Don't let your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many homes. If it weren't so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will receive you to myself; that where I am, you may be there also. 4 Where I go, you know, and you know the way." 5 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going. How can we know the way?" 6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on, you know him, and have seen him." 8 Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us." 9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you such a long time, and do you not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father. How do you say, 'Show us the Father?' 10 Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I tell you, I speak not from myself; but the Father who lives in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me; or else believe me for the very works' sake."

COMMENTS: Jesus briefly spoke some words for comfort before presenting them with more puzzling statements. They did not realize how much their hearts would be troubled without the strong faith to believe in God, and believe also in him. Jesus was going to go away to prepare a place in his Father's house for them, and there are many homes there. He said if he went, he would come again to receive them to himself so they could be with him. When Jesus said they knew where he was going and they knew the way there, Thomas said to the Lord they did not know where he was going, so how could they know the way. The answer from Jesus of a way was not limited by geography. It is the way of truth, when accepted by faith in the heart of a person, that leads to everlasting life with God. This must be revealed by the holy Spirit.

Jesus also said no one comes to the Father, except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on, you know him, and have seen him. They all had known Jesus as they traveled with him for three years without knowing they were actually in the presence of God. When Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father, Jesus said don't you know me after being with me such a long time? Those who have seen Jesus, have seen the Father. Jesus had to challenge them as to whether they believed that he is in the Father, and the Father in him. He said the words that he was telling them, he did not speak from himself; but the Father who lives in him does his works. He said they should believe him that he is in the Father, and the Father in him; or else they should believe him for the very works' sake.


F - THE ELEVEN DISCIPLES ALL SAID THEY WERE WILLING TO DIE WITH JESUS

Mark 14 "26 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27 Jesus said to them, "All of you will be made to stumble because of me tonight, for it is written, 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered. 28 However, after I am raised up, I will go before you into Galilee." 29 But Peter said to him, "Although all will be offended, yet I will not." 30 Jesus said to him, "Most certainly I tell you, that you today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times." 31 But he spoke all the more, "If I must die with you, I will not deny you." They all said the same thing."

COMMENTS: Scripture from Matthew in part B of this study records that Jesus had said Peter was a stumbling block to him, which must have been very disturbing to Peter. When they went out to the Mount of Olives, Jesus told all of the disciples they would stumble because of Jesus. Peter said he would not stumble, but Jesus said you will deny me three times before the next day. Peter claimed that even if he must die with Jesus he would not deny him. In both Matthew and Mark, it is recorded that all eleven of the disciples agreed with peter about being willing to die with Jesus.


G - THE RISEN CHRIST REVEALED HIMSELF TO THE DISCIPLES

Matthew 28 "16 But the eleven disciples went into Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had sent them. 17 When they saw him, they bowed down to him, but some doubted. 18 Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen."

Mark 16 "9 Now when he had risen early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 When they heard that he was alive, and had been seen by her, they disbelieved. 12 After these things he was revealed in another form to two of them, as they walked, on their way into the country. 13 They went away and told it to the rest. They didn't believe them, either. 14 Afterward he was revealed to the eleven themselves as they sat at the table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they didn't believe those who had seen him after he had risen."

Luke 24 "36 As they said these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, "Peace be to you." 37 But they were terrified and filled with fear, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. 38 He said to them, "Why are you troubled? Why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is truly me. Touch me and see, for a spirit doesn't have flesh and bones, as you see that I have." 40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While they still didn't believe for joy, and wondered, he said to them, "Do you have anything here to eat?" 42 They gave him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. 43 He took them, and ate in front of them. 44 He said to them, "This is what I told you, while I was still with you, that all things which are written in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me must be fulfilled." 45 Then he opened their minds, that they might understand the Scriptures. 46 He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things."

COMMENTS: Matthew's gospel gives no detail about a meeting between the risen Christ and his disciples in Jerusalem. There is a brief mention that some doubted when he saw them in Galilee. Mark's gospel is very succinct, but records that the disciples did not believe Mary Magdalene, or the two who had seen him on the road. When Jesus appeared to the eleven, he rebuked them for their "unbelief and hardness of heart, because they didn't believe those who had seen him after he had risen." Luke's gospel gives more detail in that same appearance which includes their fear that they were seeing a spirit, and Jesus asked them why doubts were arising in their hearts. He invited them to touch him because he had flesh and bone which a spirit did not have. He also ate some food as further proof. We need to take special note that after all of this, the text says he opened their minds that they might understand the Scriptures. None of these three gospels give a separate account for Thomas.


H - DID THOMAS DOUBT MORE THAN THE OTHER DISCIPLES?

John 20 "19 When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were locked where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, "Peace be to you." 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus therefore said to them again, "Peace be to you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit! 23 If you forgive anyone's sins, they have been forgiven them. If you retain anyone's sins, they have been retained." 24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, wasn't with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said to him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." 26 After eight days again his disciples were inside, and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, the doors being locked, and stood in the midst, and said, "Peace be to you." 27 Then he said to Thomas, "Reach here your finger, and see my hands. Reach here your hand, and put it into my side. Don't be unbelieving, but believing." 28 Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" 29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."

COMMENTS: John the gospel writer made reference to "one of the twelve" which would be a general designation since the original chosen ones had been reduced to only eleven by the betrayal and suicide of Judas Iscariot. John does not provide any reason why Thomas had not been with the others, and it would only be conjecture to propose a reason. The other disciples told him they had seen the Lord, but they too had previously been unwilling to believe his resurrection until they saw him themselves. Earlier, when Jesus said he would go back to Judea to "awaken" Lazarus, the disciples were afraid Jesus would be killed, but Thomas said they should go with him, being willing to die. He had interacted with Jesus at the last supper without being chastised. Thomas was also among them when they all declared they were willing to die with Jesus at the Mount of Olives.

The few mentions of Thomas in scripture seem to indicate his nature to be pragmatic, literal, and perhaps analytical. So when he said he wanted clear evidence for himself to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, this would have suited such a nature. After eight days again the disciples were inside, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked Jesus came and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be to you." What a startling way for him to enter the room. Then he invited Thomas to touch his hand and his side, and not to disbelieve, but to believe. There is no indication that Thomas actually touched Jesus, but he immediately exclaimed, "my Lord, and my God!" by that he was saying he believed that Jesus is equal with God the Father. Jesus told Thomas he had believed because he had seen him: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. The Lord has made this conversation to be very precious to all who now believe that Christ Jesus is the way, the truth , and the life!


I - JESUS APPEARED IN GALILEE AFTER THE RESURRECTION

John 21 "1 After these things, Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias. He revealed himself this way. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, "I'm going fishing." They told him, "We are also coming with you." They immediately went out, and entered into the boat. That night, they caught nothing. 4 But when day had already come, Jesus stood on the beach, yet the disciples didn't know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus therefore said to them, "Children, have you anything to eat?" They answered him, "No." 6 He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." They cast it therefore, and now they weren't able to draw it in for the multitude of fish. ... 12 Jesus said to them, "Come and eat breakfast." None of the disciples dared inquire of him, "Who are you?" knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Then Jesus came and took the bread, gave it to them, and the fish likewise. 14 This is now the third time that Jesus was revealed to his disciples, after he had risen from the dead."

COMMENTS: This is the last time Thomas is mentioned by name in the four gospel accounts, and only five of the seven who were present are identified, with Thomas listed just after Peter. When Jesus first spoke from the shore they did not recognize him, so they apparently had no anticipation of this appearance. After they followed his direction about the net, the catch was extraordinary and even beyond the capacity of the net. Because of the catch, when Jesus invited them to come and eat, none of them had any doubt that this was the Lord. There is nothing else specific mentioned about Thomas in this passage. His name appears only once in a list of apostles in the book of Acts, and no where else in scripture.

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Lord, by examining the passages about Thomas in scripture, and comparing his responses to those of the other apostles, I have considered more thoroughly the ways that you revealed yourself through the truth of your Word. This has also brought out to me that these were normal men with differences in their personalities. All of the apostles were chosen and called by you to walk with you during the fulfillment of much prophecy, and then they became part of the foundation for the building up of your church. You did not choose scholars and teachers of the law who, in large part, had refused to believe the miracles and prophecies that revealed you to be the way, the truth, and the life. Some of your disciples were guided by your Holy Spirit to write scripture that speaks to the heart of those you continue to choose. I thank you, Lord, that you opened my understanding through your word and your Spirit, and your grace brought me to saving faith in the triune God. Hallelujah, amen.

Published 30 September 2015