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Biblical People

Biblical People: Thomas (Didymus)

The sixth of Jesus’s disciples is Thomas, also known as Didymus. Though Matthew, Mark, and Luke only mention Thomas once, and that’s in their list of Jesus’s disciples, John gives us more insight into his character. John shares three stories about Thomas. 

First, as Jesus wraps up his time on earth, before his execution, he tells his disciples what to expect. After encouraging them to believe in God and in him, he says that Papa’s house has many rooms. “I’ll go there and get ready for you. Then I’ll come back and get you, so we can hang out.” Then Jesus adds, “You know the way there.”

Thomas is confused and reacts as I imagine I would. He wants more info. “We don’t know where you’re going, so how can we know how to get there?”

Jesus responds with a familiar passage. “I’m the way, the truth, and the life. To get to Papa, you must go through me.” Frankly this explanation wouldn’t have helped me too much. We don’t know if Thomas gets it or not, but he says nothing more.

The second story is what we most know about Thomas. It’s the source of the phrase doubting Thomas

When Jesus rises from the dead and first appears to his disciples, Thomas isn’t there. When his buddies insist Jesus is alive, Thomas doesn’t believe them. He demands proof. That sounds reasonable.

Third, a week later, the disciples hunker behind locked doors, and Jesus appears in the room. He goes to Thomas and shows him the nail scars in his hand. He encourages Thomas to touch his side where the soldier’s spear impaled him. “Stop doubting,” Jesus says, “and believe.”

Thomas does. “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus blesses Thomas because he sees and believes. But we’re even more blessed because we haven’t seen and believe anyway.

How should we deal with the struggle of faith versus doubt?

[Discover more about Thomas in John 14:3–7, John 20:24–29, and John 21:1–3.]

Read more about other people in the New Testament in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.