There is an ancient story that, after Jesus was raised from the dead, the apostles drew lots to decide which ones would go to various parts of the world to tell people the good news. One apostle was chosen to go to the land of India, but he didn't want to go because he thought that, as a Hebrew, he would not be able to relate to the Indians. Even after receiving a vision from Jesus, he still hesitated.

This disciple, however, was eventually sold as a slave, and was taken to India and placed in the service of a king in northern India, a king who eventually became a follower of Jesus.

Since this story is not in the Bible, we can't be sure whether all of the details are true. But even today, there are followers of Jesus in India who trace their origins back to one of the earliest missionaries—the apostle Thomas.

Most people who have heard of Thomas remember him for a different reason. In fact, his name is almost always spoken in derision. Somebody who has a hard time believing what others tell him might be referred to as a “doubting Thomas.”

It's true that Thomas had his doubts, but he also displayed a willingness to believe. In fact, each time that Thomas encounters Jesus, we are led to deeper understanding of who Jesus is and—if we are willing to believe—to a greater faith in him.

In the first encounter, Jesus received news that his close friend, Lazarus, was gravely ill. Lazarus' sisters, Mary and Martha, sent word to Jesus in hope that he would come and heal him. Jesus delayed his trip, however, and Lazarus died. Only after Lazarus' death did Jesus suggest to his disciples that they all go to Mary and Martha's home in Bethany.

The disciples didn't think this was a good idea. The last time Jesus had gone to that area, the people had tried to kill him. However, one of the disciples—Thomas—bravely spoke up. He said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”[1]

Thomas was willing to make the journey with Jesus—a journey that demanded faith. Thomas may not have understood Jesus' purposes, but he showed intense loyalty.

As it happened, Jesus followers did go with him, and Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. But this miracle wasn't about Lazarus. It was about Jesus and who he is.

As Jesus said to Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies ... .”[2]

On another occasion, just a few days before Jesus' death, he encouraged his disciples. He promised that, even though he was going away, he would prepare a place for them, and would return one day to take them there. Then he baffled his disciples by saying, “You know the way to where I am going.” [3]

All of the disciples were confused, but only one dared question the Teacher. Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”[4] It was an honest question. Thomas was loyal to Jesus, but that didn't mean that he wasn't going to ask questions.

Thomas' question moved Jesus to make one of the clearest statements of his identity and purpose that we find in Scripture.

When Thomas said that he didn't know the way, Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”[5]

Jesus' claim to be “the Way,” was an invitation to Thomas—and to us—to follow him on that way as we take our journey of faith.

After the death of Jesus, some of his followers were gathered in a locked room, but Thomas was not there. Suddenly, Jesus, who had risen from the dead, appeared in the room with them. These disciples spread the news among the others, but one of them was not so eager to believe. Again, Thomas was asking questions. He refused to believe unless he could see and touch the wounds in Jesus' body.

A week later, Jesus appeared again, and this time Thomas was present. Jesus invited Thomas to touch his side that had been pierced by a spear. With the risen Lord before him, Thomas moved forward on his journey of faith. He exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!”[6]

This is earliest recorded example of anyone explicitly confessing Jesus as God. For Thomas, this was a personal statement that he belonged to Jesus. Thomas says, “'My Lord, and my God.'

In recording Thomas' declaration, the Holy Spirit is inviting us to make the same confession—not a statement from a creed, but a personal life-changing decision.

By the time John wrote his gospel, his readers, like us, no longer had the opportunity to examine Jesus' body. That's why he records Jesus' next words. Jesus told Thomas, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."[7]

Jesus wants us to know that our faith can be just as real as the faith of those who physically saw him. Even though we are not eye-witnesses of the resurrection, we still have a testimony to bear.

Though Thomas may have gotten a bad name, it's through his encounters that we have a clearer picture of who Jesus is.

Jesus says, “I am the Resurrection and the Life” “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
Thomas exclaims, “My Lord and my God!”

What a journey Thomas was on! If you believe this, you're making great progress on that same journey—your journey of faith.

 


[1] John 11;16, NIV

[2] John 11:25-26, NIV

[3] John 14:4, CEV

[4] John 14:5, NIV

[5] John 14:6, NIV

[6] John 20:28, NIV

[7] John 20:29, NIV

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