Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | June 9, 2014

Thomas, The Good Student

I may have posted this before, but I still like the idea.

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Think back to a time when you were in school, or the last time you were in a class of any type. There were probably moments when something the teacher said or did made you want to ask a question, but you may have held back for fear that someone else in the class would think you’d asked a dumb question.

Remember what a relief you felt when one of the other students stuck up a hand and asked, “Teacher…?” Yeah, you remember that. And you can be sure that there were probably several other students in the group who had the same question and felt the same relief that you did.

Jesus was, and is, the master teacher. The twelve Disciples can be considered his first and closest students. Some of his students finally did ask the questions that I feel sure the others wanted to ask themselves. Let’s consider Thomas. We don’t know very much about him, except that he has been given the dubious title of “Doubting.” Lets look closely at how Jesus used Thomas’ outspoken questions and how He even used his doubts to teach. Through these, Jesus taught his disciples and through the Gospels, he teaches us.

I have an affinity for Thomas. I may have just been that student who impetuously stuck up his hand to ask the question that none of the others would voice. I have often been that student who would ask the “dumb question,” and, I feel sure that other students were waiting eagerly for the answer.

When, in John 14, Jesus said:

“Do not your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. 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 may also be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Then Thomas stuck up his hand.

“Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” he said.

Thomas, like probably some of the other Disciples, took Jesus’ words as describing a physical trip, as to Bethany or Jerusalem. Some of the others were probably saying—silently—to themselves, “Whew, good for you, Thomas. I’m glad to have you ask that question rather than me! I didn’t understand either.”

Jesus must have smiled at Thomas, knowing the thoughts of the other disciples, and I picture Him as looking around at all of them with deep love as he told them, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” and, “If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well”

Jesus, the master teacher, used Thomas’ question as a way to teach the disciples—and you those of us who read His Word—that, if you want to know the way to The Father, here it is: “I am the way…” John has recorded the words “I am…” said by Jesus as the words that signify the oneness of Jesus with God The Father. These words, remember, are the words God spoke to Moses from the burning bush when Moses asked who he should tell the Israelites had sent him to them when they asked, “What is his name?” God answered Moses’ question with, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I Am has sent me to you.’” The Jewish religious leaders were incensed at Jesus’ use of the phrase, “I am,” since it linked Him directly to the almighty.

He told Philip, in John 14:9: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

That was a part of the same conversation when Thomas asked his famous question about where Jesus was going.

Thomas was a strong and loyal Disciple. At one point when Jesus told his Disciples that he was going to Lazarus, who had been sick and died; they knew that He was walking into danger. Thomas’ grim but faithful statement to the other disciples was, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” These are the words and of a man who truly loved and believed in Jesus.

In the scene that has forever laid the title, “doubting” on him, Thomas probably stood mentally where some of the Disciples had been before they had seen Jesus themselves. We aren’t told why Thomas wasn’t with the other ten Disciples when Jesus appeared to them on earlier occasions, but they had surely told him excitedly over and over that He had risen.

It is easy for us to understand why Thomas doubted the others. He had seen His Lord had brutally humiliated and crucified. The structure of his faith had been shattered. Like students in classes every class, Thomas had not listened closely enough. Jesus had told them of his impending death and the reasons for it. Thomas, along with the others, had run away and left Jesus in Gethsemane, but he had watched the scenes of The Passion and the crucifixion play out from a distance, and obviously knew what the physical wounds had been on Jesus’ body.

The defining moment that tagged Thomas with the “doubting” label came when Jesus had been crucified and had risen.   The Gospel of John tells us that:

“Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’”

Thomas, still in anguish over the loss of his Lord and the destruction of the very fabric of his faith, probably wished and hoped that they were right, but told them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” We can imagine that those words were spoken through the awful pain of loss.

We also aren’t told what happened during the next week, but I have to wonder if the other Disciples tried again and again to convince Thomas that the Lord had truly risen. A stubborn, hurt man; Thomas—probably with a hollow pain inside him—mourned his Lord. He didn’t, however, desert the others. He was with them in a locked room when Jesus came to them and said, “Peace be with you!”

Imagine the flooding of relief and the glory of hope restored that must have swept through Thomas. Imagine also, the awful, sinking feeling of shame and embarrassment that he had not believed what the other disciples had told him. At this point, Thomas didn’t have to actually touch Jesus to believe, but when Jesus told him to “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” His answer was the answer that Jesus wanted him to finally say and understand, “My Lord and my God!”

We can only speculate what would have happened if Peter, or one of the other Disciples had not seen Jesus and was in the place of Thomas. Peter, who had denied Christ three times, may have been stronger. We don’t know. But we can be sure that Thomas was probably not alone in his doubts before he had seen Jesus for himself.

Thomas, through his stubborn doubting, gave us the chance to know the words of the Master Teacher that echo down the centuries.

“Because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Jesus used the doubts of a strong, loyal Disciple to tell those of us who, in time, are so far away from the days when He was physically on earth, that we are blessed when we believe in Him although we have not physically seen Him.

 

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Responses

  1. I wrote a long reply and somehow deleted the whole thing by mistake. The gist of it was that Thomas was responding as most anyone would on the basis of human belief. Pentecost had not yet happened and so they had not been filled with the power of the Spirit of God in believing, as in Galatians 3:2

    • Enjoyed reading this 🙂


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