Thomas, who initially refused point blank to accept the fact of the Resurrection, is very much a saint for our time.
St Peter, he appears as the most human of the Apostles. In fact the two
of them resemble each other in several ways: in their spontaneously
generous enthusiasm, in their failures of understanding, and in the
final, enduring triumph of their faith.
Mentioned in the Synoptic
Gospels only as one of the Twelve, Thomas is far more prominent in St
John, where he is also given the name Didymus, Greek for “twin”. Since
in Aramaic tau’ma also means “twin”, Thomas Didymus is a tautology. His
other half has been lost to history, though there has been wild
speculation that he might have been St Matthew.
In John 11, when
the disciples are wary of the dangers of returning with Jesus to hostile
Judaea, Thomas warms the heart with his gloriously carefree declaration
of loyalty: “Let us go too, and be killed along with Him.”
in John 14, when Jesus speaks of going away to prepare a home for his
followers, Thomas clearly does not comprehend – but which of us would
have done? – what He is talking about.
“But, Lord, we do not know
where Thou art going,” he blurts out “how are we to know the way
there?” Nor, perhaps, was he greatly enlightened by Jesus’s reply: “I am
the way, the truth and the life.”
Again, if we put ourselves
into Thomas’s place, what could be more understandable than his doubts
about reports of the Resurrection? “Until I have seen the marks of the
nails on his hands, until I have put my finger into the mark of the
nails, and put my hand into his side, you will never make me believe”
Eight days later, in the locked room in Jerusalem,
Thomas was granted the proof he had demanded. “Let me have thy finger,”
Jesus tells him. “See, here are my hands. Let me have thy hand; put it
into my side. Cease thy doubting, and believe.”
Who among us, though, would have been capable of surrendering to the miracle with Thomas’s magnificently unadorned simplicity?
“Thou art my Lord and my God,” he declared.
Jesus said to him, Thou hast learned to believe, Thomas, because thou
hast seen me. Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have learned
to believe.” (Jn 20: 26-28).
In that implied rebuke lies the challenge of Christianity.
to one tradition Thomas subsequently preached in Parthia (the
north-east of modern Iran). According to another, he journeyed to India,
and was martyred at Mylapore, near Madras.
Much more importantly, though, he lives eternally in that moment of humbled witness to the reality of the Resurrection.