I’ve always been somewhat fascinated by Thomas in the Bible. You know, the guy who we’re taught to pretty much hate in Sunday School? We walk away from the Bible knowing him only as “doubting Thomas,” as if doubt is some fatal thing that no good Christian should ever experience. Then again, the story of Noah was always presented as this happy children’s story, and completely devoid of Noah getting smashed and everyone on earth dying. So…going back and re-examining children’s Sunday School stories is usually a good thing.
Anyway, I was reading through John, and John 11:19 struck me. This is the part where Jesus heads to Bethany to raise Lazarus from the dead. Then John 11:19 happens:
“So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.'”
This stood out to me as kind of funny. Thomas’s reputation is that of a doubter, as I mentioned above, so to see him say something courageous surprised me. That prompted me to see what one of my favorite writers, J.C. Ryle, said on the issue:
“On each occasion he appears in the same state of mind, – ready to look at the black side of everything, – taking the worst view of the position, and raising doubts and fears…Here he sees nothing but danger and death, if his Master returns to Judea. Yet He is true and faithful nevertheless. He will not forsake Christ, even if death is in the way. ‘Let us go,’ he says to his fellow-disciples, ‘and die with our Master. He is sure to be killed if He does go; but we cannot do better than be killed with Him.'”
“Let it be noted that a man may have notable weaknesses and infirmities of Christian character, and yet be a disciple of Christ. There is no more common fault among believers, perhaps, than despondency and unbelief. A reckless readiness to die and make an end of our troubles is not grace but impatience.”
“Let us remember that this same Thomas, so desponding in our Lord’s lifetime, was afterwards the very Apostle who first preached the Gospel in India, according to ecclesiastical history, and penetrated further East than any whose name is recorded. Chrysostom says, ‘The very man who dared not go to Bethany in Christ’s company, afterwards ran alone through the world, and dwelt in the midst of nations full of murder and ready to kill him.'”
I don’t really know why that stood out to me. Maybe it’s because we’re never really told “the rest of the story,” but letting the story end with “well Thomas doubted and that’s bad so don’t be a doubting Thomas” is doing a great disservice to the guy.