Every year on this second Sunday of Easter, we read of what occurred one week after the first Easter: Jesus’ appearance to Thomas. Unfortunately, he is often remembered as “Doubting Thomas” although God’s Word never calls him by that name. God’s Word DOES call him, “Didymus,” which means “The Twin.”
So, who was Thomas’ twin? Reading the list of apostles as recorded in Matthew (10:3), Mark (3:18) and Luke (6:15), Thomas is paired up with Matthew. But in the book of Acts (1:13), Thomas is paired up with Philip. Therefore, I suggest to you today that God’s Word seems to invite us to “remember” him as “Thomas, Our Twin.”
Today’s Gospel reading is really the third time we hear about Thomas, and the doubting is really not as unusual as we might think! In fact, on that first Easter Sunday evening, there were 10 “doubters” in that upper room (and many more if we were there!) and at least one “doubter” outside! Early that morning, the women had told all of them that the tomb was empty. Not believing the women, Peter and John ran to the tomb and also found it empty. The two disciples walking to Emmaus, after talking with Jesus and finally having their “eyes opened” (Luke 24:31), had returned to Jerusalem and had told these disciples all that had happened to them; and still it wasn’t until Jesus appeared to them / “flashed his identification badges” / “showed them His hands and His side” / that the 10 disciples began to “get the big picture!”
But back to “Thomas, Our Twin” …It was a few weeks before Easter. Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus, was sick and he died. In John 11, we read that as Jesus was leading His disciples back to Bethany, near Jerusalem, the disciples asked, “But Rabbi, a short while ago the Jews tried to stone You, and yet You are going back there?” (v.8) “Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with Him.'” (v.16) What a courageous statement; what intense loyalty and courage! Are we willing to “die” with Jesus to the things of this world? Are we willing to “speak up” against those who make fun of Christians and Christ’s church? Would we, like “Thomas, our Twin,” be willing to “die” with Jesus, or better yet to “live” each day with and for Him?
A second time, Maundy Thursday, Jesus was celebrating the Passover with His disciples. He had washed the feet of His disciples, predicted Peter’s denial, and was teaching them with some very important words, as Jesus said: “‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; … I am going to prepare a place for you. And … 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, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'” (John 14:1-6)
Thomas was very candid and unashamed. He openly and honestly asked what he did not know or understand. Note that there is no condemnation from Jesus. Instead, Jesus gave a marvelous answer that continues to give us guidance and great comfort! Are we willing, like “Thomas, our Twin” to openly and honestly ask questions? Or are we often afraid of what others will think of us; we think they will think that we are dumb if we ask a question? Jesus always commends a searching, probing mind, always open and seeking the answers from God’s Word of truth. Jesus spoke his harshest words to the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law who thought and acted like “they knew it all – they had nothing more to learn! ”
So, we come then to our text, Easter evening when Thomas wasn’t with the other 10 disciples when Jesus first appeared to them. Thomas wouldn’t accept the mere words of his friends; he wanted a “personal encounter” with Jesus! And the week after Easter, Jesus graciously gave Thomas that opportunity, with the command, “Stop doubting and believe.” (v.27)
A pastor’s young son was told to wash his hands with soap because soap killed the germs. The little boy complained, “Germs and Jesus! Germs and Jesus! That’s all I ever hear around this house and I’ve never seen either one!” This little guy, like us, didn’t need to “see” germs; they “are there” and can cause all kinds of trouble if ignored!
Jesus is also present, even though we cannot see Him. Jesus told Thomas (the courageous / the honest seeker / who had doubts), “Because you have seen Me you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (v.29) Yes, we who believe ARE blessed!
A Muslim family had a 16-year-old daughter who, through a Christian friend, was brought to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Tragically, she got sick and died. Her grieving mother asked the Christian friend, “What did you do to our daughter?” The startled friend replied, “I did nothing.” The mother persisted, “Oh, yes you did. Our daughter died smiling. Our people do not die like that!”
What a wondrous Easter beatitude: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (v.29) Yes, we who are Christians ARE blessed in so many ways – in life and in death. These gracious blessings lead us to respond. With Thomas, our Twin, we confess that Jesus is “My Lord and My God” (v.28), and we want others to know this too. Therefore, we join together as a congregation in ministry locally and in the world – providing facilities here (school, church, Bible classes, youth activities; etc.) and working to retire our debt to free up monies for mission work in the world.
We have been and truly ARE blessed. One of the obvious ways is that we do not need to meet behind locked doors for fear of the authorities; we are not persecuted because of our faith; we live in a time and land of plenty. As we have opportunity we show our special thanks.
Tradition tells us that “Thomas, our Twin” brought the Gospel message to India. Where is God calling us / sending us to share His Good News? Most certainly and primarily with our family; then in our neighborhoods and communities. Like Thomas, our Twin, is God calling some of us in a special ministry here in Kansas? A short-term or long-term mission opportunity?
With the blessings of Jesus we respond in faith!