AFRAID TO BELIEVE IN THE RESURRECTION
Thomas was from the tribe of Asher (according to "Genealogies of the Twelve Apostles"). The name "Thomas" means "twin" and he was also called "Didymus", also meaning "the twin". (John 11:16, 20:24, 21:2). One legend of the early church records that Thomas had a twin sister named "Lysia".
He was elected to the twelve (Matthew 10:3, Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15, Acts 1:13). But this Thomas was different from the other disciples. He was inclined to look on life with gloom, despondency. Thomas was unselfish, brave, for in John 11:1-54, when Jesus wanted to go to Bethany to heal Lazarus, the disciples opposed it.
"Thomas, therefore, who is called Didymus, said unto his fellow disciples, Let us also go: that we may die with Him."
He had a sincere love for Jesus that was stronger than his fear. Thomas always had expected the worse, for he was a melancholy man. Grief, gloom, and a 'born sad' personality was the nature of Thomas. He was dull, blind to aspiration, faith, hope and trust. His early life had had so much woe and pain, that this man had become unhappy, and expected to be afflicted.
Some in every age see grief, pain, abuse, and mistreatment that all they expect is more grief to come. Thomas was prepared constantly for more burdens... He had love for Jesus, but little faith. The details of the abuse and troubles of Thomas, we do not know, but we do know that when he met Jesus, he had already had his personality warped by so much mistreatment and misery as a child that he wallowed in depression.
On the eve before the crucifixion, he asked: "Lord, we know not whither Thou goest; how know we the way?" (John 14:5). He was feeling as though he was about to be forsaken, deserted, and had no hope.
Jesus did not call Thomas because of this sad, pessimistic nature. Jesus saw in Thomas a man abused and hurt, afraid to believe. He saw not so much a "doubting Thomas", but an "abused Thomas."
Doubt was not the chief characteristic of Thomas, for if doubt had been, he would have failed utterly. The chief characteristic of Thomas was his deep devotion for Jesus. He had left all for Jesus, he had dared all for Jesus, and he was ready to die with Jesus.
When Jesus was determined to go to the sick, dying Lazarus, the disciples wanted to dissuade Him, but only Thomas said: "Let us go... that we may die with Him." This love and devotion for the Lord was greater than even his pessimism and gloom.
Thomas anticipated the worst, yet was willing to face the cruellest death to be near to Jesus. He had heroic love. Thomas would dare anything for Jesus. He had passion for Jesus, but a sorrowful and pessimistic resignation. He had low faith, but great love.
On the way to this expected doom, the other disciples argued over who would be the greatest. Thomas did not enter into that argument, for he was resigned to just hopefully make it through, but more than ready to be defeated. He did not boast, he resigned himself to defeat.
After the crucifixion, Thomas severed connection with the disciples for a while. He was not present when Jesus first appeared to them (John 20:24). Later, when he was told of the events of the resurrection, he said: "except I shall see... I will not believe." (John 20:25).
Thomas wanted to test truth by the evidence of his senses. He held strongly held beliefs and disbeliefs, and until evidence could be presented to definitely refute. His faith did not reach out to grasp while still a hope. It was not until Thomas met the risen Lord, that his gloom and despondency changed to faith.
Thomas' name is always coupled with Matthew's name in the gospels. Matthew was not a relative, but Thomas was with Matthew for Matthew was the hated outcast during most of the time following Jesus. Matthew had been the tax collector for many of the disciples, and they had severe prejudice against Matthew. So this pessimistic Thomas found a person with whom he could feel comfortable.
This friendship allowed Thomas to be with the note-taker, sermon-recorder of the group. As Matthew recorded the events of Jesus' life, and wrote down the Old Testament prophecies which the events had fulfilled, it was Thomas who quietly watched. His faith and love for Jesus grew. Matthew needed a friend, and this Thomas who was so sure that no one other than the most hated of the disciples would be his friend filled that void. Thomas was so low, so much in despair over the abuse he had experienced in life, that he accepted the most hated of the disciples to be his friend.
Paul said in I Corinthians 13:
"If i have not love, it profits nothing."
Thomas may have had a dark view of things, but he had love for his Lord. There was so much abuse against Thomas, that he expected the worse. Many saints have likewise come to expect more and more trouble. They have a gloomy view of life. "If it can go wrong, it will" , they think. Burdens, troubles, stumbling stones are expected by so many. Many saints spend time in grief and sighing, expecting more and more trials.
The betrayal and crucifixion was the lowest time for Thomas. Three days later, when Jesus met with the disciples, Thomas was not there. He had left their company for he was sure victory was gone. His heart was broken so much, he could not easily accept news of the resurrection.
People had found fault with Thomas and complained of the doubt of this disciple. Unfairly, many have been judgmental against him. The doubt of Thomas came not from his head, but from his heart. He had years of grief and troubles. Sorrow can keep people from easily having faith. Sorrow, abuse, can make the promises of God seem so impossible.
Those who have found fault with Thomas and laughed at him as "the doubting Thomas..." had better hope that the Lord does not have recorded all their times of despair, times of doubt, times of self-pity. The Lord loved Thomas, and He loves those like him today. He understands the trials and abuse in life that create "Thomas'". We need to allow the Lord to transform us as He did Thomas.
Many of us have read promises of God's victory, the soon coming of Jesus, the deliverance from our trials, but still they readily doubt, complain, and give up in despair time after time. Some give up on God, give up on the church, and give up all hope.
Much sorrow made faith very difficult for Thomas. Thomas wanted Jesus to be resurrected, but he was so afraid that if he dared to believe, he would be hurt again!
"After 8 days, again, His disciples were within, and Thomas with them. Jesus cometh, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith He to Thomas, Reach, hither thy hand and put it into My side, and be not faithless, but believing. Thomas answered: My Lord and My God!"
Pessimism changed to great faith by coming face to face with Jesus. There was a transformation in Thomas. Unbelief, darkness, doubt, and grief flee when the Light of the world brightens us.
Jesus rebuked Thomas for his previous unbelief:
"Because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed; blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed."
Jesus was the "AUTHOR AND FINISHER" of our faith and because of the love of Thomas for Jesus, he was carried beyond the grief, despair, and gloominess of life to faith in a risen Lord.
The faith of Thomas was a result of coming face to face with the risen Lord. The faith of Thomas led him to be a missionary to Parthia (according to Origen). According to a Syrian legend, he died at Edessa.
Many disciples today are struggling with faith. Their doubt, pessimism, and melancholy seem to ruin their lives. Jesus stands at their heart's door and knocks, seeking to stand face to face with them. If disciples today, who are wallowing in sorrow, hurt, abuse, and trials would open their hearts to the loving Lord, as did Thomas, they too would say: "MY LORD AND MY GOD" and all despair would flee, faith would come.