The Apostle Thomas – Part 1 – The Disciple Who Loved Jesus

By Stephen Rodgers

Part 1 of 4: John 11:1-16

I’ve come to the conclusion that the Apostle Thomas got a bad rap.  “Doubting Thomas” we call him; the expression has even made it into our vernacular as an example of someone who is skeptical beyond the point of reasonableness.  After reading the gospels and seeing what they had to say about Thomas though, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that we got it all wrong.
Almost everything we know about Thomas (other than his name) is found in John’s gospel.  Considering that John is self-identified as the “disciple whom Jesus loved,” it is perhaps fitting that I intend to make the argument that Thomas should have been better known as “the disciple who loved Jesus.”
Matthew, Mark, and Luke each mention Thomas, but only as part of listing the disciples.  From his placement in the lists and his interaction with the others, people tend to place him in the “middle circle” of disciples with Phillip, Nathanael, and Matthew.  We know that he most likely had a twin brother or sister because in John 11:16 he is called “Didymus” (“the twin”), although his sibling is never identified in scripture.  However, this is not the most important detail that we learn about Thomas in this verse.  In fact, this verse tells us everything we need to know to understand Thomas’ later behavior and decisions.
At this point in Jesus’ ministry He had left Jerusalem to get away from the plots of the Pharisees and the religious leaders.  It was at this time that He received word that Lazarus was sick.  Now Lazarus (and Mary and Martha) lived in Bethany, which was practically next door to Jerusalem.  To go and heal His friend, Jesus would be walking right back into the very center of the plots to take His life.  In fact, the disciples knew that to venture that close to Jerusalem again was to court disaster as the Pharisees would know doubt try to kill Him.  And quite possibly, if they wanted to make a thorough job of it, they would kill the disciples too.
Now Jesus deliberately delayed until Lazarus actually passed away in order that He might raise him from the dead.  And once the disciples understood that Lazarus was dead (previously they were a bit confused on the subject), they knew that there was no talking Him out of it.  But they were scared.  They knew that the Pharisees would try to stone Him to death.
And this is where Thomas says something incredible.
Let’s take a look at exactly what the Bible says in John 11:1-16.  Seriously, go get your Bible and read verses 1-15.  But then think for a moment what it means in verse 16 when it says: Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”
Now granted, that’s a very pessimistic thing to say.  But beneath it there is something more than just a depressed outlook on life; there’s love.  There’s a love that is so strong, enduring, and desperate that even his own pessimism can’t keep it down.  Thomas believed that if they returned to Bethany, the Pharisees would kill Jesus and them too.  But he didn’t believe that was the worst that could happen.
You see, Thomas ultimately wasn’t scared to die.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure he wasn’t looking forward to it.  But there was something that he feared more.  He didn’t want to be apart from Jesus.  If Jesus was going to leave Jerusalem, Thomas was going to leave Jerusalem.  If Jesus was going to go back to Bethany, Thomas was going to go back to Bethany.  And if Jesus was going to get stoned to death, then Thomas was going to be there to die as well.
You can practically hear him telling the rest of the disciples to get in line.  And apparently they listened, because Scripture records that they all did go to Bethany.  Jesus went; Thomas followed Jesus, and the rest followed Thomas…
I’ve come to the conclusion that the Apostle Thomas got a bad rap.  “Doubting Thomas” we call him; the expression has even made it into our vernacular as an example of someone who is skeptical beyond the point of reasonableness.  After reading the gospels and seeing what they had to say about Thomas though, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that we got it all wrong.
Almost everything we know about Thomas (other than his name) is found in John’s gospel.  Considering that John is self-identified as the “disciple whom Jesus loved,” it is perhaps fitting that I intend to make the argument that Thomas should have been better known as “the disciple who loved Jesus.”
Matthew, Mark, and Luke each mention Thomas, but only as part of listing the disciples.  From his placement in the lists and his interaction with the others, people tend to place him in the “middle circle” of disciples with Phillip, Nathanael, and Matthew.  We know that he most likely had a twin brother or sister because in John 11:16 he is called “Didymus” (“the twin”), although his sibling is never identified in scripture.  However, this is not the most important detail that we learn about Thomas in this verse.  In fact, this verse tells us everything we need to know to understand Thomas’ later behavior and decisions.
At this point in Jesus’ ministry He had left Jerusalem to get away from the plots of the Pharisees and the religious leaders.  It was at this time that He received word that Lazarus was sick.  Now Lazarus (and Mary and Martha) lived in Bethany, which was practically next door to Jerusalem.  To go and heal His friend, Jesus would be walking right back into the very center of the plots to take His life.  In fact, the disciples knew that to venture that close to Jerusalem again was to court disaster as the Pharisees would know doubt try to kill Him.  And quite possibly, if they wanted to make a thorough job of it, they would kill the disciples too.
Now Jesus deliberately delayed until Lazarus actually passed away in order that He might raise him from the dead.  And once the disciples understood that Lazarus was dead (previously they were a bit confused on the subject), they knew that there was no talking Him out of it.  But they were scared.  They knew that the Pharisees would try to stone Him to death.
And this is where Thomas says something incredible.
Let’s take a look at exactly what the Bible says in John 11:1-16.  Seriously, go get your Bible and read verses 1-15.  But then think for a moment what it means in verse 16 when it says: Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”
Now granted, that’s a very pessimistic thing to say.  But beneath it there is something more than just a depressed outlook on life; there’s love.  There’s a love that is so strong, enduring, and desperate that even his own pessimism can’t keep it down.  Thomas believed that if they returned to Bethany, the Pharisees would kill Jesus and them too.  But he didn’t believe that was the worst that could happen.
You see, Thomas ultimately wasn’t scared to die.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure he wasn’t looking forward to it.  But there was something that he feared more.  He didn’t want to be apart from Jesus.  If Jesus was going to leave Jerusalem, Thomas was going to leave Jerusalem.  If Jesus was going to go back to Bethany, Thomas was going to go back to Bethany.  And if Jesus was going to get stoned to death, then Thomas was going to be there to die as well.
You can practically hear him telling the rest of the disciples to get in line.  And apparently they listened, because Scripture records that they all did go to Bethany.  Jesus went; Thomas followed Jesus, and the rest followed Thomas…
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The Beacon is the monthly newsletter for Lighthouse Bible Church in San Diego, California. It covers a variety of subjects including LBC events, church history, current events from a Christan perspective, ministry profiles, and messages from our pastors and elders. To join the Beacon ministry, please contact Stephen Rodgers.

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