Poor Saint Thomas. His whole life gets boiled down to one declaration in a moment of petulance. He is forever “Doubting Thomas.”
But I’m not convinced that’s the most apt description of him. One of my favorite parts of reading the Bible is getting a feel for the personalities and temperaments of the apostles. Peter: brash and impulsive, jumping into the sea, chopping a dude’s ear off. John: calm, quiet, loyal, whispering at dinner, with you till the end.
So who is Thomas?
The Gospel according to Saint John tells us about him in three places.
First, the other disciples are scared to return to Judea after Jesus had nearly been stoned there on their last visit. But when Jesus says He’s going to visit dead Lazarus, Thomas says, “Let us also go to die with him,” which is either very brave or very sarcastic. (John 11:16) Let’s go with both.
Next, at the Last Supper, Jesus tells the apostles that He must go first, to prepare a place for them, and they can follow after. And Thomas says, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” (Jn 14:5). Again, could be earnest. But also sounds kinda smart-alecky.
Then, Thomas gets back from grabbing a sandwich or something and finds out that he has missed THE RESURRECTED JESUS appearing to all the rest of the Apostles in the upper room, and showing them the wounds in His hands and side. It’s not hard to understand why he dismisses their story. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25) Basically: “Whatever, dudes.”
But a week later, Jesus appears to them again, and Thomas doesn’t miss it this time. Jesus insists that Thomas does exactly what he said he would have to do to believe. So Thomas puts his finger into Jesus’ wounds, and then makes perhaps the most passionate and sincere exclamation of the Bible: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)
After the Ascension, Thomas is said to have traveled to India to preach the gospel and establish the Catholic Church there, being martyred by the spear in 72 AD.
So, was he a doubter? Maybe. And he might be the patron saint of snark. But, like each of us, he was so many other things as well: a cheerleader, a wonderer, a planner, a convert, a missionary, a martyr, a saint.
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Let’s pray for a deepening of understanding and faith today.
Kendra Tierney is a forty-one year old mother of nine and wife of one living in and working on a big old fixer-upper house in Los Angeles. She’s a homeschooler and a regular schooler and is counting down the days until her oldest turns sixteen and can take over some of the driving! Her new book about living the liturgical year in the home is in the editing process. You can find her first book, A Little Book About Confession, here, her blog here, and her word art here.