What Is The Story Behind ‘Doubting Thomas’?
As mentioned before, Thomas is featured in several prominent stories in John’s gospel, each of which reveals something about the character of this widely misunderstood apostle.
In John 11, Thomas proved to be more willing to travel with Jesus to Bethany, even if it meant risking death. It’s important to understand that the town of Bethany is geographically only about two miles from Jerusalem, the city where the most powerful Pharisees lived.
For years, the Pharisees had targeted Jesus and searched for ways to kill him. Knowing this, the disciples weren’t exactly motivated to visit a town within walking distance of those who wanted their best friend dead. The disciples, therefore, did everything they could to try and talk Jesus out of this side trip.
Thomas, however, took a much different stance.
Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’ (John 11:14)
An optimist would have believed in the best and trusted that everything would turn out okay so long as Jesus was by their side. Thomas was not an optimist, but he was no coward either. His loyalty to Jesus was unquestionable, and his courage, brash as it may have been, was on full display in that moment. If he was going to die, he was going to die next to Jesus.
In John 14, Thomas questioned Jesus’ comments about his eventual departure, asking, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (John 14:5) This was in response to Jesus stating, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:2-4)
This idea clearly troubled Thomas, who failed to understand what Jesus was saying and who didn’t like the idea of being separated from Jesus. Again, this aligns with the emotional response we saw from Thomas in John 11. Here is where we get the phrase “Doubting Thomas”.
These two stories illuminate Thomas’ response to the crucifixion of Jesus and his subsequent doubt surrounding the resurrection. Thomas is really a lot like many of us. And here’s proof that Jesus understands:
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