The Education of Thomas

Thomas Didymus was not a voluble man like his friend Simon Peter, he was a man of few words, but when he did speak it was to the point, revealing the sort of man he was. Only John records his words, and we may be sure that the Holy Spirit who inspired him to write his Gospel had a purpose in that.

It seems to me that the disciples were thoroughly bewildered when that point of their association with the Lord was reached which is recorded in John 11. They had seen Him subdue a great storm and overthrow the power of devils and even break the power of death, but, when it was a question of men and their attempt to murder Him, He had not used any power, but simply escaped out of their hands and retired beyond Jordan. They felt that He was safe there and they were safe with Him. And when He proposed to return to Juda they looked upon it as a very foolish thing to do, and asked in surprise, "Master, the Jews of late sought to stone Thee; and goest Thou thither again?"

When it was evident that they could not turn Him from His purpose? Thomas spoke out and said, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him." It looks as though some of them were holding back, but not he. He had cast in his lot with his Master and would share His fortunes in life and in death, whatever others might do. He had a mind of his own, and it was made up; but it was a dull mind, a pessimistic mind, and he saw nothing before his Lord at that time but death. He had affection for Him, there can be no doubt about that, but faith and spiritual intelligence were greatly lacking. Anyhow, he would die with his Lord; he meant that, though when the fury of hell began to rage he fled like the rest of them.

In chapter 14 he speaks again. It would appear as though the bewilderment of the disciples had grown. The Lord was telling them of preparing a place for them, not on earth, not in Jerusalem, but in the Father's house. That to them was an unknown place and a long way off, and yet the Lord says, "Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know." Thomas with, it would seem, some impatience exclaims, "Lord, we know not whither Thou goest; and how can we know the way?" His dullness gave the Lord the opportunity of uttering one of His most important words, but there can be no doubt that at that time Thomas showed himself incapable of receiving such spiritual thoughts.

Why was he not with the rest of his brethren on the Resurrection day — that glorious first day of the week? We cannot say, unless it was that his dull and pessimistic mind had so mastered him that he had forsaken their company and gone off alone somewhere to weep and mourn, so that Mary Magdalene could not find him to give to him the Lord's message. Yet his brethren found him during the week that followed, and there were ten of them, and everyone of the ten said to him, "We have seen the Lord." But did that move Thomas? Not at all. No faith, no hope stirred in his heart. Listen to the man; he says, "Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my fingers into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe" (20:25). Why, he was a materialist; his dullness had descended into stubborn unbelief; his brethren were a band of visionaries, but not he. He would believe nothing that he could not see and feel.

Oh! the tender pity and grace of our Lord. On that second first day of the week the disciples were again together, and the dismal, disputing Thomas with them, and for his sake, it would seem, the Lord appeared to them that day. I can imagine Thomas, shrinking behind his brethren at the sight of Him; drawing away with wonder and fear. But looking upon him with pity, and stretching out His hands to him in entreaty, He said to him, "Thomas, reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless but believing."

There might have been none others there for twice did the Lord address him by name. He discovered that the very thoughts of his heart were all known by his Lord. The unbelief that was so dishonouring to Him, sinful unbelief, He knew, and yet those wounds in His incorruptible body were the mute though eloquent witnesses to the fact that He whom Thomas had seen crucified had taken His life again. The scales fell from his eyes, his heart cast off its unbelief, the glory of the only begotten Son burst upon his astonished soul, and falling prostrate before Him he cried, "MY LORD AND MY GOD."

It was not enthusiastic Peter, it was not John who leaned upon the Lord's bosom, who first gave voice to that which is the faith of all who have believed, but Thomas, dull, calculating, materialistic Thomas; he it was who was convinced by what he saw, and the truth of the opening of the Gospel was confessed at the end of it by the lips of the last man of the twelve from whom we might have expected it.

Happy Thomas, yet happier are those who have not seen yet have believed. Believed what? That the One who bears in His body the wounds that He sustained upon the cross of Golgotha is none other than the Eternal Word by whom all things were made, our Lord Jesus Christ.