He wasn’t there.
Where was he?
Was he with family?
Was he with friends?
Was he with old workmates?
Was he all alone?
Why wasn’t Thomas present when Jesus appeared?
Thomas’ absence is palpable. Why? Because in all other known instances, Thomas had been consistently with his fellow disciples.
He had been there when Jesus appointed him as one of the twelve disciples:
Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”), Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
New International Version, Mark 3: 13 -19, Matthew 10: 1 – 3, Luke 6: 12 -15
He had been there when Jesus set forth to Bethany to raise Lazarus from the dead:
So, then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
New International Version, John 11: 14 – 16
He had been there when Jesus shared about his future death and resurrection:
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.
Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
New International Version, John 14: 3 – 5
Thomas identified himself as a follower of Jesus.
He acknowledged Jesus as Lord.
He associated himself as a member of a trusted fellowship.
When he spoke, he didn’t speak for himself. He used the words, ‘us,’ ‘we,’ and ‘with,’ and ‘also.’
Never once, do the Gospel writers record Thomas voicing his thoughts, his beliefs, or his actions in the singular form during Jesus’ three years of fellowship with him on earth.
Like the others, Thomas had devoted his life to Jesus and sought to follow Him where ever Jesus planned to go. Thomas exhorted his fellow disciples to act in one, courageous accord. Should Jesus set foot in Judea, his life would be threatened by the Jews. Afraid for Jesus’ life, and theirs, the eleven other disciples sought to dissuade Jesus from returning to Judea. But Thomas? No. Instead, he challenged his friends to go with Jesus and sacrifice their lives should Jesus be taken captive by the Jews. Thomas appeared to be a we-focused, all-together, we-are-one, kind of guy.
Until the terrible day when Jesus was betrayed – by one of Thomas’ trusted, we-are-one friends.
Until Jesus was apprehended and arrested.
Until Jesus was tortured and beaten.
Until Jesus was forced to carry his cross to the Golgothan hill.
Until Jesus was crucified.
Until Jesus was dead.
His we-are-one days were over. Like all the others, Thomas scattered into the narrow streets and dark alleyways of Jerusalem in hopeless despair.
Thomas, the one who had enjoyed the camaraderie, trusted in the fellowship, been strengthened by the alliance of his eleven friends, and the care and love of Jesus, was all alone now. The man who had offered to give his life for Jesus, now chose to isolate himself – alone with his regret, shame, and sorrow.
He couldn’t bring himself to join his friends. Tragically, this decision would cost him.
For on one miraculous day, ten of Thomas’ friends gathered together. They had received word that Mary Magdalene had seen Jesus! The ten followers rallied together in hope, in strength and in expectation.
They would not be disappointed.
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
New International Version, John 20: 19 – 20
Thomas was nowhere to be found.
When Thomas finally finds his way back to his friends and hears that they have seen and spoken with Jesus, Thomas declares he will not believe this incredulous, resurrection story without proof. He wants to see the scars. He wants to poke his prodding finger into Jesus’ wounds. He wants to behold the nail marks. Why shouldn’t he? His friend, Judas Iscariot, had not only betrayed Jesus, but had betrayed him, too. Thomas, in his isolation and despair, held no hope for the miraculous anymore. His hopes and his dreams had died with Judas and with Jesus.
I can almost hear Thomas asking, “Why not me?” as his ten friends shared their eyewitness accounts and interactions with Jesus.
Why hadn’t Jesus offered consolation and comfort in my sadness?
Why hadn’t Jesus encouraged and strengthened me?
Why hadn’t Jesus lifted me from my pit of darkness?
Why hadn’t Jesus noticed me in my time of neglect?
Why hadn’t Jesus instilled me with courage in the face of countless fears?
Why hadn’t Jesus revived my hope with His presence?
Why hadn’t Jesus come to me?
Why hadn’t Jesus breathed life into me again?
Notice the singularity of thought?
Now, of course, there is no record of Thomas saying any of these things. However, I wonder if Thomas, who had once identified himself as one of a loyal band of brothers, now found it difficult to trust them.
Scripture doesn’t tell us.
However, what I do know is that Thomas decided to remain with his friends this time – perhaps in hope that Jesus would come again, and he might have another chance.
Eight days passed.
This time, when Jesus returned, Thomas was there – and Jesus noticed.
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
New International Version, John 20: 26 – 28
Notice, Jesus encourages Thomas to touch his hands, his feet, and his side without shame or condemnation.
But what does Thomas do?
The one who demanded evidence and proof doesn’t touch him!
Instead, Thomas is overwhelmed by the glory and majesty of Jesus Christ. Thomas declares Jesus as Lord and God! His singular conviction announces the supreme divinity of Jesus Christ more boldly and more convincingly than anyone else had to this point!
What I love about this moment is that Jesus appeared to Thomas for Thomas’ soul benefit.
Jesus sought Thomas out and met him right where he was.
Jesus had an answer for Thomas’ woes and worries.
Jesus offered consolation and comfort in Thomas’ sadness.
Jesus encouraged and strengthened Thomas’ faith and trust.
Jesus lifted Thomas from his pit of darkness.
Jesus remembered Thomas in his time of neglect.
Jesus instilled Thomas with courage in the face of countless fears.
Jesus revived Thomas’ hope with His Presence.
Jesus gave Thomas another chance.
And because of this heartening, faith-securing encounter, Thomas was back!
How do I know?
Well, the next time we read about Thomas in the Word of God is in the book of Acts:
Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
New International Version, Acts 1: 12 – 14
You know, if Thomas had done what he had always done in the past and had been present with his band of brothers when Jesus appeared the first time, Thomas may never have been identified for all time as “Doubting Thomas.”
But, that didn’t happen.
Thomas got off track. And because of that one, big mistake in his faith walk, Thomas earned an infamous label for his lack of belief.
This old English proverb states,
“They feed like the flies – passing over the man’s whole parts, to light upon his sores.”
This proverb highlights what happened to Thomas. His doubts are remembered first – rather than the fact that Jesus offered him another grace-filled opportunity of acceptance, love, and belief. For me, Thomas’ whole parts – his loyalty, his faith, and his we-are-one convictions in the body of Christ are inspirational.
He asked, “Why not me?”
And Jesus had an answer – just for him.
I believe this is how we should look upon our family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers as well – honoring and respecting their whole parts instead of lighting upon their sores – offering love, hope, and healing instead – joining together in the unity of Christ – just like Thomas.
We all may ask of Jesus, “Why not me?” at some point in our lives – if we haven’t already.
And when and if we do ask, “Why not me?”
Jesus will have an answer – just like he did for Thomas.
His answer is one of hope, faith, and love and always one of second chances.
Do you believe that?