People often call Thomas, the disciple of Jesus, Doubting Thomas. Since we share the same name I feel a bit of an affinity with him, and as such, get a little offended on his behalf that he’s known as Doubting Thomas – it doesn’t seem fair. The other disciples don’t get names like that. Peter isn’t called Denying Peter. And Judas (who betrays Jesus) is called Judas Iscariot when he could be called Betraying Judas. When I was a kid I thought his name was Judas the Scariot, so I thought that if you were a scariot you were a bad person – “You thief, you scoundrel, you scariot!”. It turns out Iscariot was his Dad’s last name.
Poor old Thomas. He only doubted one time, and now he’s called Doubting Thomas as if he spent his whole life doubting. I’m pleased people don’t use the same naming standard for me, otherwise, I might be known as Loud Museum Farting Tom or Tom Who Asks Girls Out for Dares. A one time action shouldn’t define a whole person. At very least Thomas should be called Thomas Who Once Doubted, that would be bit more fair and accurate.
When Jesus rose from the dead and turned up to the disciples, for some reason Thomas wasn’t with them. The Bible doesn’t tell us why. Maybe he was helping the elderly or getting take away Thai food for the disciples, maybe he was just depressed that Jesus had died and decided not to get out of bed that day. Whatever the reason, poor Thomas misses it. When Thomas does arrive, having missed Jesus’ appearance, the disciples tell him that Jesus has risen from the dead, he doesn’t believe them. This seems totally reasonable to me. If my friends told me that our good friend who died had come back to life, I would doubt them too. As a general rule, dead people stay dead. It makes sense to doubt the disciples. He should be called Reasonable Thomas or Rational Thomas, not Doubting Thomas.
Of course, I know what you’re thinking, Jesus did many miracles, and he did say he would rise again on the third day, they should have been expecting his resurrection. But I suspect that it might be easy to dismiss what Jesus had said was just a metaphor or something. He had very recently given them some bread and wine and said it was his body and blood so it would be understandable to assume the whole dying and rising language was also some obscure thing that was going over the disciples’ heads. Jesus did say a lot of odd things.
What I love about the story of Thomas is how Jesus responds to him. A week after Thomas declares that “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.” Jesus turns up and offers him that very opportunity. Jesus says “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” I suspect manually inspecting a person’s wounds out of curiosity was as discourteous in the first century as it would be today, but Jesus gives Thomas the opportunity to have his (rational) doubts dealt with. Jesus doesn’t scold Thomas for his doubt, and he doesn’t tell him off for misunderstanding the plain language about his death and resurrection. He gives him the proof he asks for and then, knowing he has proved his resurrection, tells him it’s time to believe in his risen Lord.
Thomas’ doubt gives us the chance to see that Jesus isn’t angry at those of us who have questions. Thomas gives us the opportunity to see that doubt is a valid and important part of spiritual discovery. Because of Thomas doubters can have a safe place in the family of faith. What a guy!
At the end of the story, Rational Thomas does what no one else has done up to this point, he recognises Jesus for who he is. He says “My Lord and my God.” He is the first to worship Jesus as God! He doesn’t ask for more proof, he doesn’t even take Jesus up on his generous offer to inspect his side (despite what the painting above shows). Thomas believes and worships. What a hero! He should be called Worshipping Thomas, Smart Thomas, or Reasonable Thomas because if a man turns up before you having beaten death all on his own, it’s only right to worship him as God. If only all of us who believe in Jesus’ resurrection were able to make the logical step that this event means that Jesus is God and requires your worship and obedience. My life certainly doesn’t always reflect my belief in the death-beating God-man.
So please, World, stop calling him Doubting Thomas, you wouldn’t like it if that was your name. Call him Smart Tom, Hero Tom, Best Disciple Tom. And while you’re at it, you can call me the same thing too. I won’t mind.