John records three statements by Thomas that give us a window into who he was. Considering these statements in each of their contexts provokes three good reminders for us today.
We should be determined in our service for Jesus.
Leading up to Thomas’s first statement, Jesus wanted to go to Bethany to raise Lazarus from the dead. In doing so, He would show Himself to be the Resurrection and the Life, a sign that He was the Son of God (John 11:25–26; 12:18; cf. 20:30–31). Bethany was near Jerusalem, and Jesus’ recent time there ended with the Jews trying to arrest and stone Jesus (John 10:31, 39). Thomas heard that Jesus wanted to return and was determined to go with Him but made a dark prediction: “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16). In the larger narrative of John, Jesus indeed would die, and according to history, Thomas was martyred as well. While Thomas was quick to assume the worst, he was nonetheless determined to follow Christ. Our determination should be the same.
We should be devoted in our love for Jesus.
John 13:32–33 records Jesus’ announcement to the disciples that He would be leaving to a place where they could not immediately go. He then spoke of His Father’s house, that His disciples would eventually be with Him there, and that they knew the way to get there (John 14:1–4). Thomas was confused, however: “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (John 14:5). Jesus patiently clarified that He Himself was the Way to the Father (John 14:6–7). Though not fully understanding, Thomas’s questions showed a devotion and love for Jesus that could not allow him to bear being apart from Jesus. Like Thomas, we should be just as earnest to maintain our devotion and love for Him.
We should be delighted by our belief in Jesus.
After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to the ten disciples in John 20:19–23. Thomas, however, was absent and wanted tangible proof that Jesus was alive (John 20:24–25). Eight days later, Jesus appeared to Thomas and the ten, inviting Thomas to feel His wounds (John 20:26–27). Thomas simply exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). In response, Jesus gently rebuked him and said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). While an appearance of Jesus could aid the faith of those who believe, true belief means having certainty in what is not seen but said in Scripture to be true (Hebrews 11:1, 3, 6). We should faithfully believe in Jesus, His Word, His resurrection, and that He is coming again. This faith in what we cannot see will bring us blessing now and even greater joy to come (1 Peter 1:8–9).