How 'Doubting Thomas' came by his name

Posted: Friday, April 22, 2011

"Doubting Thomas," he's been called through the centuries. Having been absent from the first meeting of Jesus with His disciples following the resurrection proved costly for Thomas because he then found it impossible to believe the report given by those who said they had seen the Lord alive. "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," he said (John 20:25).

We aren't told why Thomas missed the first meeting of Jesus with other disciples demonstrating He had risen. Perhaps he thought he had a good reason for his absence, but missing that important appointment made him a doubter and established his reputation for weak faith through the centuries. From that time on, he would be known as "Doubting Thomas."

Missing important meetings can be costly.

No one is strong enough in faith to continually skip church meetings and remain strong. That's why the current drop in church attendance other than on Sunday morning is cause for alarm. Gathering with others for worship builds faith and faith moves mountains, especially those we may have trouble surmounting on our own.

Here's another question about Thomas that's worth considering.

Why did this doubter show up for the second meeting after missing the first one? Could it be that one or more of the other disciples cared enough about Thomas to urge him to come back and join the faithful few? If so, this would not have been the last time a concerned friend brought a doubter back to the fold.

There is, however, another side to the story of doubting Thomas: To the best of our knowledge, he entertained his doubts about the resurrection for only one weak week. There may have been other doubting days in the life of this maligned man but we have no Biblical or historical evidence for thinking so.

At the second post Easter appearance of Jesus to his disciples, Thomas was present. On that occasion, when confronted with his faithless statement about insisting on placing his fingers into the nail prints in Christ's hands and thrusting his hand into the spear wound in His side, Thomas deserted his doubts and cried "My Lord and My God!"

From that decisive day onward, the evidence indicates that Thomas was unwavering in his faith. Church historians tell us this former doubter died as a martyr in India where, because of his faithful preaching about the death and resurrection of his Lord he was thrust through with a spear similar to the one that had been plunged into the side of Jesus.

The world has labeled Thomas a doubter because of one week weak. Sadly we often respond to the weak faith of others in the same way: remembering their doubts rather than their dedication; dwelling on their faults instead of their faith.

Easter Sunday reminds us that the One who was crucified came out of the grave alive after enduring all the pain and shame of the cross. In the light of this miracle we should find it easy to believe and to expect the best from all who trust Him.

Roger Campbell is an author, a broadcaster and columnist who was a pastor for 22 years. He can be reached at rcministry@ameritech.net



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