I feel sorry for the apostle Thomas, forever branded as doubting
Thomas because of John
20:24-29. Think about it. If I were to ask you to list
some of the greatest, most loyal, most courageous servants of God
in the Bible, would Thomas ever make it on that list? Probably
not. Despite the fact that he actually didn’t behave any
differently than did the rest of the apostles (cf. Mark
16:14), he is the one who has been labeled as the doubter.
How many of us would like to be remembered for our worst moments?
Wouldn’t we rather be remembered for our great moments? Are you
aware that Thomas actually had great moments and one was even
recorded in Scripture? In our haste to see him as the doubter in John
20, we often overlook Thomas at his best in John
11:16. In this passage, Jesus was going back to Judea to
raise Lazarus from the dead, but the apostles were afraid for him
to go back. In John
11:8, the apostles reminded Jesus that the last time He
was in Judea the Jews tried to stone Him. Why would He go back? It
wasn’t Peter who stood up and showed courage saying they should
go. Rather, Thomas stood up and said, “Let us also go, that we
may die with him” (ESV). Thomas did not say, “Let us also go,
and if He dies we might also die with Him.” He expected Jesus to
die if He went to Judea. He expected all of them to die if they
went to Judea. But he stood up, faced that death and encouraged
the others to have courage as well. Truly, this was a great moment
in Thomas’ life. Let’s turn away from his moment of doubt and
see what we can learn from his moment of courage.
We must be committed to Christ even if it means death.
10:31, Judeans tried to stone Jesus. In John
10:40, Jesus left the region. However, because of
Lazarus’ death, Jesus wanted to return to Judea. While Jesus was
eager to return, the apostles were frightened. In John
11:8, 12, the apostles actually try to talk Jesus out of
His plan to return. Jesus, however, was determined. Thomas was the
apostle who stepped out to lead, calling the other apostles to be
ready to face death with Jesus.
Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that
someone lay down his life for his friends” (John
15:13; ESV). Thomas demonstrated this love for Christ. We
must examine our own lives, seeing if we have this kind of
2:10 says we must be faithful unto death. This doesn’t
mean just faithful until the day we happen to die. It means being
faithful even if that faithfulness leads to death. Are we that
We should not be surprised that Thomas was willing to die
for Jesus, he had already given his life to Jesus. We do not know
what events surrounded Thomas’ first contact with Jesus, but we
see from the others that apostleship meant sacrifice. In Mark
10:28, talking about all the apostles, said they had left
everything to follow Him. Have we given our lives to Jesus (II
Corinthians 8:5)? The fact is, if we are not willing to
sacrifice our material things… If we are not willing to
sacrifice our pleasures… If we are not willing to sacrifice our
time… If we are not willing to sacrifice other pursuits… If we
are not willing to sacrifice our sins, then we are not going to be
willing to sacrifice our lives for Jesus. If we have committed our
lives to Jesus, it will be a small thing to lay down our lives for
Him. How committed are we?
Even those who have sinned can be great servants of God.
Can anyone deny the greatness of the act of Thomas here? An
act of sacrifice and commitment above that of the common man. It
is hard to believe this is the same Thomas we have come to know
and ridicule as “doubting Thomas.” Yet, it is. This is the
same Thomas who didn’t get it in John
14:5. This is the same Thomas who refused to believe the
reports of Jesus’ resurrection in John
20:24-25. And yet, here is great service demonstrated.
Of course, some will say that we see a great Thomas here
but by John
20 we see that Thomas had fallen. Absolutely not. Thomas
was a great servant even after John
20. Thomas was with the apostles in the upper room in Acts
1:13. Thomas was with the apostles on the day of
Pentecost. He was with the apostles when they were cast in prison
5:18. Thomas was with the apostles in Jerusalem at the
time of the persecution in Acts
8:1. Thomas was still a great and courageous servant of
God even though he did have times of weakness and sin.
Far too many Christians look at the sins they have
committed and the weaknesses they have experienced and believe
they can never do anything great to serve God. So they sit dormant
on a church pew thinking anything they could do will only amount
to nothing. Because of this thinking, they do not reach their true
potential as a servant of God and the church with which they work
never reaches its true potential.
No matter what sins we have committed, no matter what
weaknesses we have faced or will face, every single one of us can
be great servants of God if we will simply follow Paul’s advice
3:13-14. You can do great things for God and His kingdom!
At our best, we are not better than anyone else.
In our previous lesson, we learned that at his worst,
Thomas was not worse than anyone else. This is important to note
for us because we learned that when we have messed up, we did not
become second class Christians. When an individual feels he is a
second rate Christian, he cripples himself and the congregation.
However, there is another attitude which is just as crippling to
the individual and the congregation. That attitude is arrogance,
thinking that because I have done something great I am better than
Just because Thomas did have times of great service
throughout his life, did not mean Thomas was better than anyone
else. Thomas still had weaknesses. He still had misunderstandings.
He still failed sometimes. He still deserved to spend eternity in
hell. He was just like everyone else, saved by the grace of God.
It would have been easy for Thomas to look back through his
life and think highly of himself because of the great thing he did
11. However, marring the beauty of those great
accomplishments is the day we so often remember in Thomas’ life.
It was surely a humbling experience for him and likely stuck with
him all his life. While each of us can do great things, let us not
so forget our past sins that we forget how miserable we are
compared to God (Romans
3:23) and, therefore, how much we need His grace.
No matter what great things we have done, we are not better
than anyone else. Paul dealt with this attitude in I
Corinthians 12:20-22. Paul follows this with his teaching
on the need for love in I
Corinthians 13:4 saying that love doesn’t boast and is
not arrogant. We must not think more highly of ourselves than we
6:3 says if we think we are something when we are nothing,
we deceive ourselves.
Leadership is necessary.
11:16, the apostles were afraid to return to Judea with
Jesus. It almost seems like Jesus is starting the trip without
them and they are all just staring dumfounded after Him. It took
Thomas stepping out in front, making himself vulnerable to their
criticism and their complaints, to get them off center and heading
in the right direction.
Every group needs leaders. One of the most interesting
psychological phenomena is that of group paralysis. This is the
phenomenon that allows a group of people to watch a woman being
beat to death and do nothing about it. Generally, in a paralyzed
group, if one would simply lead the way, the others will join in.
Unfortunately, what generally happens is everyone wants to do
something about the situation, but they all sit back wondering why
nobody is doing anything.
Notice, Thomas didn’t say, “Hey guys, you all really
need to go with Jesus.” He said “Let us go.” Jesus is moving
and now Thomas is following beckoning the other apostles to ante
up and have some backbone. The key to leadership is not constantly
nagging others about what they need to be doing. Leaders do not
push others ahead of them, nor do they pull others along. Rather,
they set the pattern, blaze the trail and encourage others to join
According to Romans
12:8, leadership takes zeal. The term translated
“zeal” carries with it the connotation of haste. That is,
leadership is not something we procrastinate and put off until
tomorrow. Leaders start working hard today. Leadership takes work.
That is why so many refrain from leadership, they are just too
Are there things you would like to see this church doing?
Are there things you would like to see members of this church
doing? Don’t gripe and complain. Don’t belittle the elders,
deacons and preachers for not doing it. Blaze the trail for us. If
it is scriptural, wise and proper, people will follow you.
However, if all you do is complain about what isn’t done and try
to nag others to get it started, nothing will ever happen. For
this congregation to do great things, people must lead the way as
What a great servant Thomas was. Even though he made some
really bone-headed mistakes… Even though he sinned greatly…
Even though he doubted profoundly, he was still a great servant of
God. You can be as well. No matter what terrible things you have
done or what great things you have done, if you come to Jesus as
Thomas ultimately did submitting to Jesus as your Lord and God,
you will be a great servant. What do you need to do right now to
surrender and submit to Jesus? Why wait?
to God in the church by Christ Jesus
Church of Christ