This article is part of Brother Jerry Valenti’s series on the original 12 Apostles of Christ.
If things had just worked out a little differently, this Apostle could have been remembered as “Courageous Thomas.” In John 11, when Jesus indicated He was going to ignore the advice of His disciples to “Be safe” and was instead going to travel to a place where His life would be threatened, “Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16).
Or, if not Courageous Thomas, he could have been remembered as “Thomas the Twin” (Didymus means Twin).
But instead, he’s remembered as “Doubting Thomas.” And it’s all because he missed the meeting…
In John 20, the disciples are together, and the resurrected Jesus Christ appears to them for the first time. It’s a glorious moment as the disciples see His resurrected body firsthand, including the nailprints in His hands and feet as well as His side that was pierced by a sword. They now know that everything that Jesus said was true, and they’re more equipped to be able to preach Christ to the world. However, one Apostle was missing from this gathering:
“But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:24-25)
In other words, Thomas is saying, “Unless the Lord shows Himself to me in the way I want him to, I WILL NOT BELIEVE.” That’s a pretty strong statement, telling his fellow disciples that he doesn’t believe any of them and even saying that he won’t believe what Jesus said unless his conditions are met.
Now, perhaps it’s unfair that Thomas is singled out as the doubting one. Until the other disciples saw Jesus, they didn’t really believe that He would resurrect either. Under the right circumstances, perhaps some of them would have reacted the same way Thomas did. But they were at the meeting! So, they got to experience the Lord’s appearance, and they were then able to believe without doubting.
If any one of us was to compare ourselves — as an individual — to Thomas or any of the other disciples of Christ, how do we think our belief in Jesus would compare to theirs? Would it be greater or less than those people who saw Him with their own eyes, saw Him perform miracles, saw Him raise people from the dead? Consider that even after witnessing all of this, Thomas — when left on his own — was unable to believe what Jesus had said unless further evidence was provided. How much more difficult would it be for any of us to maintain our belief today if we were to go off on our own, separated from the body of Christ?
While it’s true that the Lord can touch anybody anywhere, there is definite strength to be gained by meeting together. Participating in the Lord’s Supper, being able to be anointed, hearing and sharing testimonies of God’s goodness, witnessing and feeling the Spirit of God moving in our midst — it all works together to build our faith and strengthen our belief.
In the case of Thomas, Jesus was understanding and appeared again so Thomas could touch the nailprints and eliminate his doubts. But note that Jesus didn’t make a one-on-one appearance for Thomas — He appeared at the next meeting of all of the disciples. In order to see Jesus, Thomas had to come to the meeting!
If we have meetings of the body of Christ available to us, let’s take advantage of the strength that can be gained from each other — and from the Lord when we are united in worship of His name. Let’s do our best to overcome the opposition and fear that is being placed before us, making it a challenge to get together.
The original disciples faced similar circumstances. For their meeting (the one that Thomas missed), “the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews [but then] Jesus came and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you” (John 20:19). When we meet in the name of Christ today, we experience a similar outcome — He provides peace to us, helping us to overcome our fears.
There are many ways that the Apostle Thomas could have been remembered today but, sadly, he’s remembered as Doubting Thomas. If only he hadn’t missed the meeting. Let’s not miss our meetings — you never know when Jesus will make another appearance.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.