What’s the first thing you think of when you hear Thomas mentioned? “Doubting Thomas,” isn’t it? Of all the disciples—besides Judas—Thomas seems to get put down the most. He refused to believe Jesus was alive unless he saw Him.
Why do we blast Thomas for struggling with his faith when the other disciples struggled with theirs, as well? They were just ordinary people with ordinary struggles. We shouldn’t look down on Thomas for his unbelief. We’re often just as faithless—and even more so.
Thomas deeply loved the Lord in a way that would put most of us to shame. Notice the effects that his love for Christ had on his life.
Willing to Die with Christ (John 11:6–16)
In John 10:31, the Jews tried to stone Jesus because He claimed to be God. Shortly after this incident, the Lord heard that His friend Lazarus was dying. He told His disciples He must go and wake Lazarus. Thinking that meant Lazarus was simply asleep, the disciples asked Jesus why—wasn’t it good for a sick man to get his rest? Then Jesus told them that Lazarus was dead and that they needed to go to Bethany (near Jerusalem).
The disciples feared to travel near Jerusalem. They knew many of the Jews there hated Jesus and wanted to kill Him. The disciples reminded Jesus that traveling there wasn’t a good idea.
All except Thomas, that is. He responded with loyal courage, willing to accompany Christ even to death. Thomas was willing to risk all for Christ. His love for God was evident in his actions.
Thomas’s love in John 11 lacked understanding of Christ’s purpose. He didn’t understand that Christ intended to die and live again. For Thomas, death was the end, and if Christ was going to die, then he was ready to die and that would be the end of it. Thomas didn’t yet understand the long-term plan.
Desired to Follow the Lord (John 14:1–6)
A few days later, the Lord stayed in Jerusalem the night before His crucifixion and encouraged His disciples, giving them final instructions about the future. Thomas interrupted the Lord, stating that they didn’t know where Jesus was going, or how to get there.
Thomas expressed an earnest desire to be with the Lord where He went. But after spending three years with Christ and listening to His teaching, Thomas still didn’t understand Christ’s words. He had a relationship with Christ, but he didn’t grow in knowledge of Him.
From Doubt to Faith (John 20:25-28)
In this passage, we catch our last glimpse of Thomas in the Gospels. When told that Christ had come back to life after His death, Thomas feared to believe. Such a love for Christ must have made him feel crushed at Christ’s crucifixion and death. The news that Christ was now alive seemed so impossible that Thomas probably didn’t want to get his hopes up. He wouldn’t believe unless he saw the real, crucified Christ with his own eyes.
His Declaration of Belief (v. 28)
After showing Himself to the disciples, Christ appeared again eight days later. He had heard Thomas’s words, so He invited Thomas to look at His wounds.
At this point, Thomas did believe and confess that Jesus was God. He finally understood. Up to this point, Thomas based his love on experience, but going forward, he based his love on faith. Note the change in Thomas’s attitude:
- Pessimistic—“Let’s die with Him.”
- Frustrated—“We don’t know where You’re going. How can we know the way?”
- Fearful—“I won’t believe until I see.”
- Believing and triumphant—“My Lord and God!” Now Thomas is optimistic, bold, and confident as he believes Jesus.
Thomas went fishing with the other disciples after Christ’s resurrection, and Christ appeared to them for the third time (John 21). That’s the last we see of Thomas in the Bible.
Thomas's Ministry – Demonstrations of Belief
Eusebius writes that Thomas was sent to Parthia (a region of northwest Iran) to preach the gospel. According to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, Thomas “preached the gospel in Parthia and India, where exciting the rage of the pagan priests, he was martyred by being thrust through with a spear.”
For Further Exploration
Doubt can become crippling, but God’s truth is not a fragile relic that can’t stand rigorous scrutiny. May God give you the courage to ask questions and the humility to subject yourself to His truth. And may the answers you find enflame your passion for Him and spur you on to acts of faith and service.
The following are a few resources that may help jumpstart your learning journey. We encourage you to start with Scripture.
- Read – Matthew 27-28; Mark 15-16; Luke 23-24; John 18-20
- Watch our short video summary on the life of Thomas.
- Read the testimony of S. Joshua Swamidass, a physician, scientist, teacher, and researcher who shares key questions he asked himself as he wrestled with the truth of the resurrection.
- Watch The Bible Project’s animated exposition of the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus from Luke’s Gospel.
- Read Matt Perman’s lengthy examination of the historical evidences of the resurrection.