Your best friend dies. The man you gave up everything to follow. He was put to death by a tag team of the Empire, your government and your religion in the most awful way possible. Now someone tells you that he is risen. Seen first by a woman (!) and then your other friends find an empty tomb. All that means is someone took the body. And Mary was literally crazy with grief… it’s not hard to imagine her imagining Jesus. Then they claim he came to them, but here they are still cowering.
No. It is inconceivable. Wishful thinking. It is unbelievable. It is incredible.
Today we study Thomas, nicknamed for a famous moment of disbelief. Thomas as a name comes from the Aramaic name Tau'ma close to the Aramaic word for twin: T'oma (תאומא). So John calling call him Didymus (twin in Greek) Thomas in his Gospel (3 times) could be interpreted as omitting the actual name. Quite ancient stories describe Thomas going to India and being martyred there by being pierced with a spear. He is also reported to be the only apostle present (spiritually transported to and fro) for the assumption of Mary’s body directly to heaven. (A non-scriptural story, obviously, but also quite ancient.)
At right is a picture of a St. Thomas cross. The design is attributed to Thomas, and dates bate to at least 6th century Persia, where he was known to preach. The design shows the Trinity. It's not generally thought that 1st century Christians used the cross as a symbol.
Matthew 10:1-4 (Quite similar in Mark 3:18 & Luke 6:15)
He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
1) Why 12 apostles? Why separate out individuals from all the people following him? Why call Judas Iscariot? Why do we hear the calling of some apostles but not others?
Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?”
Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world's light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.”
After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. 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 (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
2) Most people consider that Thomas was referring to how the Jews will kill Jesus. What does this help you learn about Thomas? What do you make of Thomas being called Twin?
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 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?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
3) What does this help you learn about Thomas?
John 20:19-31 (the Message)
Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side. The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.” Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If you forgive someone's sins, they're gone for good. If you don't forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?”
But Thomas, sometimes called the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We saw the Master.” But he said, “Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won't believe it.”
Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don't be unbelieving. Believe.” Thomas said, “My Lord and my God!”*
Jesus said, “So, you believe because you've seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.” Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.
*the words this is translated from means “the God” and is previously only used by
John (the evangelist) to refer to Yahweh, the Father. This is the first occurrence
in scripture of someone identifying Jesus with the Father.
4) I notice that Thomas was at least brave enough to be out of the room on the first visit. And that 8 days after seeing Jesus, the other apostles don’t seem to have moved. What do you make of that?
5) What else do you notice? What does it mean?
6) How has Jesus given you what you need?
1 Peter 1: 3-9
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be*, you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
* "If need be" is omitted from NIV for some reason.
7) What connections do you notice between what Peter writes and the story of Thomas?
8) If your life of faith was to be boiled down to three mentions, what would they be?
Bonus: 10 reasons to believe
- A Public Execution Assured His Death
- A High Official Secured The Gravesite
- In Spite Of Guards, The Grave Was Found Empty
- Many People Claimed To Have Seen Him Alive (1 Corinthians 15:5-8).
- His Apostles Were Dramatically Changed
- Witnesses Were Willing To Die For Their Claims
- Jewish Believers Changed Their Day Of Worship
- Although It Was Unexpected, It Was Clearly Predicted
- It Was A Fitting Climax To A Miraculous Life
- It Fits The Experience Of Those Who Trust Him