Thomas: The Doubter

My name is Thomas. As a boy in my home town of Antioch, I attended morning classes at the synagogue and afternoon classes at the Greek school. My twin brother, Tobias, and I excelled in the math and science classes taught by the Greeks. We used these skills in the family boat-building business.

As I followed my father around the construction area as a boy, I would hear him say, "Measure it twice to get it right. Test it and test it again. I have to see it to believe it." My father's boats were the most seaworthy ones built because he demanded precision.

When I was fourteen my family moved to Capernaum where we continued in the boat-building business. Not long after Tobias' seventeenth birthday, he married and started a family. My brother and I remained close as we continued working with our father in the business. As Tobias gained stature as a family man, friends and customers referred to him as Tobias and to me as "The Twin."

Two of our good customers were Zebedee and Jonah. They were successful commercial fishermen. Jonah's sons, Simon and Andrew, and Zebedee's boys, James and John, were in the business with their fathers. The boys were close to my age and became my best friends.

At daybreak one fall day, I walked down to the shore where the fishermen kept their boats. I found Andrew busily mending his nets, so I stopped to ask, "Where have you been? As I have visited the fishermen in recent months, I haven't seen you."

Andrew put his net down then stood to talk. His countenance had always been warm and friendly, but today there was a special radiance on his face. In his quiet manner he began, "Simon and I have become apostles of Jesus. He has filled our lives with joy, and He'll do the same for you. Come, let's find Jesus so you can meet Him."

Based on what Andrew had said and what I had already heard about Jesus, I was curious to meet Him, so I went along. As we walked, I asked, "What has happened as you have spent time with Jesus?"

"Jesus has done many miraculous things. He removed an unclean spirit from a man. He healed Simon's mother-in-law Hannah of a fever. Another time He cleansed a leper. Even a paralyzed man regained full use of his arms and legs."

"Now that's hard to believe. I think I'd have to see it to believe it."

"Oh, you can see plenty of miracles, but you will have to spend time with Jesus."

"Where are we headed to find your friend?"

"Jesus rises before dawn and walks into the hills to pray. If we walk the path He normally takes, we should meet Him returning."

The sun had been up about an hour as we reached the foothills outside Capernaum. The dew, which still glistened in the sun, would soon be dried by the warmth of the clear blue sky. We had walked less than a mile when Andrew said, "That's Jesus coming this way."

In the distance I could see a man moving with a relaxed stride down the hill. He waved when He recognized Andrew. As soon as Jesus reached us, he placed His powerful hands on Andrew's shoulders and looked down into his eyes with a smile as He said, "So good to see you, Andrew."

Then Andrew put his arm around me and said, "Jesus, I want you to meet my close friend, Thomas. He and his father build our fishing boats."

"Thomas, you must be a skilled craftsman, for I have always felt very safe in rough waters in your boats."

I was glad then that my Father had been so insistent on good craftsmanship and felt proud to have trained under him all these years. Jesus continued to ask me about my family as we turned on the road that would take us to Capernaum. Andrew was quiet as the three of us walked, and Jesus explained to me how Andrew, Peter, James, and John had taken time from their fishing business to serve as His disciples. Jesus was more winsome than anyone I had ever met. Before we reached the shore of the lake, Jesus challenged me to follow Him as my four friends had, saying, "Building new lives is even more of a challenge than building fine boats."

"I've invested my life in my father's business, but what you've said today makes sense to me. It will be a risk and I know my father will be disappointed, but, yes, I want to follow you."

So that night I joined my friends as an apostle of Jesus. My family was surprised as this seemed so unlike me. I had always been so predictable and stable. Now I was leaving everyone and everything behind to follow someone I barely knew. I think in some ways I even surprised myself. But I had given my word, so I stuck with it, and I wasn't disappointed.

Even though Jesus was busy teaching and healing the multitudes, He found time to give special instruction to the twelve of us apostles. He told us to go out to the people of Israel to heal the sick so the people would believe He was the Son of God. Some of the other disciples had more success than I with this command. I tended to wait in the background and pray as they followed his words and healed the people.

For two years I listened to Jesus teaching as I was going to the towns and villages across Judea sharing His good news with the people. One late winter day, the warmth in the air foretold of spring on the way. A messenger, breathless from running, spoke to Jesus saying, "Martha and Mary need your help, for your good friend Lazarus is very sick."

After the messenger left, Jesus looked into my eyes as he said, "Lazarus is dead. I am glad for your sake that I was not there so that you may believe."

I was so moved by Jesus' persistent efforts to dismiss my doubts that I could hardly wait to see what He would do. As it turned out, Jesus spoke, and Lazarus was resurrected.

Several weeks later, before the feast of the Passover, Jesus gathered the twelve together and said, "I go to prepare a place for you." His eyes moved to mine as He continued, "And you know the way where I am going."

I felt confused about what He was saying and blurted out, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How do we know the way?"

Calmly Jesus continued his instructions as if someday I would understand. Little did I expect that on the day before the Sabbath Jesus' words would be fulfilled. It was then that the men of the high priest, Caiaphas, dragged Jesus before Pilate where the mob successfully demanded crucifixion. When Jesus did not save himself, I and several other disciples hid out in a room behind closed doors in fear for our lives.

On the evening of the day after the Sabbath, I left the room to buy some food. When I returned, the others told me that Jesus had visited them. I said, "Unless I shall see the nail wounds in His hands, and put my fingers into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe."

Eight days later, while meeting with others behind shut doors, Jesus appeared again. He wasn't a ghost as I had expected; instead, it was just as if He were alive again. When He appeared in the room, the first thing He said was, "Peace be with you." Then He moved over to me and extended His hands saying, "Place your fingers in the nail holes." When I did, He took my hand and placed it in the hole in his side as He said, "Thomas, I want you to believe."

When I pulled my hand out, the only words I could manage were, "My Lord and my God!"

To this very day people refer to me and those who doubt as a "Doubting Thomas." Such words are simply not true, for no one believes in Jesus, the Son of God, more fervently than I.

Based on John 11:14-16, 14:1-5, 20:24-28; Matthew 10:1-8.

Copyright 1997 by John C. Westervelt

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