How would you like to be known for the next 2,000 years as “doubting Thomas?” Tradition has it that the guy preached the gospel for the rest of his life until he was speared to death in India. The only thanks he gets for his contribution to the Lord’s kingdom is for everyone to refer to his name derogatorily.
Thomas gets a bad rap…but Thomas is actually one of the apostles whom I respect the most. I think we should give him a break. I think we should give all of the “Thomases” out there a break because things may not always be as they seem. People overlook the fact that this same Thomas was the one that said to his fellow apostles, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” in the face of being stoned to death for being with Christ. (John 11:16)
But Thomas didn’t become famous for that kind of bravery and loyalty. Instead, he became famous for his exchange with some of the other apostles when he said, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25)
All of the apostles were confused at the things the Savior taught. Their Jewish upbringing and understanding of the Messiah was not one that had Him hanging on a cross. They all believed He would liberate them from the Romans and from any of their oppressors. Not just die. So when he died…all of them had their faith obliterated. There was a twist in their faith that no one could explain at the current moment…but in time, it all was made clear.
Thomas was really no different than the rest of the apostles. Remember when the faithful women told the apostles that the tomb was empty and that the resurrection was a success? The scripture says that “Their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.”(Luke 24:11) This was all of the apostles, not just Thomas. Thomas just verbalized what everyone else was thinking. So it kind of stinks to have a 2,000 plus year stigma on you for just saying what was on your mind.
The interesting thing to consider is that there was nothing malicious about any of the apostles doubts. They truly wanted to believe…but were just having a hard time.
There is a difference between malicious disbelief and honest disbelief. Some people that disbelieve hate the things they used to believe in and hate that anyone else would believe in such things. That’s why they become such ardent persecutors of those that continue to believe. But someone with an honest disbelief stays humble and open to whatever might happen next. The person that has doubts, but a hopeful and believing heart says, “help thou mine unbelief.” They continue to have hope, and they continue to exercise faith, which is what brought Thomas and the other apostles into that gathering in which Thomas was able to actually “feel the wounds in His hands and in His feet.”
Thomas…and the rest of the apostles for that matter were in honest disbelief at the time. Thomas said he needed to “see to believe” but he still wanted to believe. He had no animosity in his heart. He loved the Savior. He loved the Church. He loved how he felt as he lived and breathed the gospel. But he had a little bit of doubt in his heart like so many of us do.
The bottom line is that the apostles didn’t “know” if Christ was ever coming back. Even though He told them Himself that he would, they still had doubts. They “knew” a lot of other things. They knew they loved His teachings and they knew he performed many miracles…but there were still holes in their testimony that needed to be filled by future events on a later date. If the 11 remaining apostles held a testimony meeting on day 2 of Christ being in the tomb, none of them would have testified that they “knew” Christ was going to rise tomorrow. But it doesn’t mean they were giving up on Him.
They just didn’t know…
And that’s alright. If there are things you don’t “know”…then it’s sufficient to just have a belief. “Belief is a precious word” says Elder Holland. “An even more precious act, and [we] need never apologize for “only believing.” Christ Himself said, “Be not afraid, only believe.” (Jeffrey R. Holland, Lord, I Believe, April 2013 General Conference)
We all have a little bit of Thomas in us if we’re being honest with ourselves. So take it easy on the Thomas’s out there. They might just be the next Paul…or Alma…or Amulek.