What if one moment of your life determined how history framed—and even named—you?
By this point, I’d assuredly be “Weeping Val” or “ALL CAPS Catrow.” But while those things are true about me, they aren’t the only things that are true about me.
Most of us know Thomas (also called “Didymus” or “Twin”) from his appearance in the 20th chapter of John’s gospel.
It’s Easter, the day of Jesus’s resurrection. Jesus shows himself first to Mary Magdalene, who didn’t recognize her Lord bodily but knew it was him when he spoke her name. (John 20:16) Later that evening, Jesus appears in the locked room where his disciples hid. He said, “Peace be with you,” showing them his hands and side and breathing the Holy Spirit upon them. (John 20:19-23)
For reasons that remain unknown to us, Thomas wasn’t with the other disciples when Jesus appeared to them. When he hears the news, he says, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” (John 20:25)
That’s it. That’s the moment we pin to Thomas, still to this day.
I wonder why we don’t also remember the Thomas in the 11th chapter of the book of John. Upon hearing news of his friend Lazarus’s illness and death, Jesus decides to return to his friend’s home in Judea, where the Jews were, as the disciples point out, seeking to stone Jesus—to kill him. (John 11:8). After a bit of back-and-forth between Jesus and the disciples, it’s Thomas that has the final word; interestingly, it’s the first time we hear from Thomas at all in the Bible.
“Let us also go, that we may die with him,” he says. (John 11:16)
What a thing to say.
True, that line can be read in many different ways. My 21st century sensibilities laced it with sarcasm when I first read it. Meanwhile, Eugene Peterson gives it a real Eeyore vibe in The Message: “Come along. We might as well die with him.”
But what if Thomas meant what (I think) is best communicated in the Easy-To-Read translation of the Bible?
“We will go too. We will die there with Jesus.”
When Jesus, Thomas’s leader and Lord, says it’s time to return to a town filled with people who want to kill him, Thomas agrees and rallies the troops, while also reminding them of their likely fate. He’s resolute and ready to go.
Why isn’t this the moment we remember about Thomas? Or what about the moment just after the famous interaction between Jesus and Thomas in that same locked room eight days after the resurrection?
Most of us know the story: Jesus appears again and says to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” (John 20:27)
Thomas responds—the last words attributed to him in the Bible—with what Charles Spurgeon called “a most plain and hearty confession of the true and proper Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“My Lord and my God!”
As Thomas says these words, we see something that can only be described as wonder —a holy wonder, when he “gets it,” when the truth (or Truth, as it were) takes root in his mind and heart, leaving him forever changed. Jesus was his Lord and his God. Both. And Thomas appears to be wonderfully undone by it.
It’s spectacularly human moment.
Yes, Thomas doubted; there’s no denying that. But that’s not the only true thing about him. He doubted, but he also believed. Both. Like all of us who follow Christ.
Let’s not forget that he was also:
And let’s not forget the “alsos” that apply to us as well.