The Example of Thomas
If Thomas could question a claim made in connection with One who is truly deserving of worship, it is instructive we always put on our thinking caps when people stand before us, making all sorts of claims and sometimes instilling fear in us, all in the name of the same Christ.
In the post-resurrection narrative of the Christian gospels, we have the story of Thomas, one of the chosen twelve, who has been with the Master every step of the way, and yet, had issues with the glad tiding of the resurrection. Reflecting on his closeness to Jesus as a member of the apostolic college, it would seem very reasonable to call out Thomas, chastising him for doubting the story of the Lord’s glorious resurrection. Was he not there when the Lord performed all his miraculous feats: opening the eyes of the blind, making the crippled walk, multiplying loaves to feed multitudes and even raising the dead on a number of occasions? Did he not reason that he who had the potentiality to break all such unprecedented grounds, could rise even after being killed? Why was he being unnecessarily stiff-necked, even when all his colleagues bore testimony to the same truth? Something must be really wrong with Thomas, one would say.
This is the usual strict judgement and the oral crucifixion which Thomas would ordinarily receive. However, without holding brief for this doubting apostle, it may be fitting to pause for a while to reflect on what Thomas knew. He certainly knew and saw and experienced what we never did. Thomas knew that Jesus died and it wasn’t just any kind of death; he was crucified. The Jewish historian Josephus stated that crucifixion was the worst kind of death anyone would ever be subjected to. So terrible was that mode of execution that it was reported that a Roman senator, Marcus Tulius Cicero, once moved a motion on the floor of the Senate, advocating that no Roman citizen, no matter what the crime was, even if convicted of treason, should ever be subjected to crucifixion. According to records, that motion was said to have been the fastest ever to be passed on the floor of the Roman Senate at the time. But in the case of Christ, he was not just crucified, but was subjected to the worst kind of torture ever. He carried the full weight of the cross under which he almost expired before Simon of Cyrene was conscripted for the odd job; he was beaten mercilessly and crowned with thorns. And at the end, he was to hang on the cross for three long and tortuous hours before he drew his last breath. Thomas was not a fool; he was very much at home with these facts and he must have been reflecting on all these in his mind. He probably couldn’t help thinking how a man subjected to that degree of indescribable torture could very easily rise as purported. Thomas definitely must have had a lot to battle with. He didn’t send his ratiocinative faculties on holiday; he was a thinking man; he was a questioner.
And it is from this perspective that this writer wants to look at the personality and character of Thomas in the wake of the personality cult worship that has become the order of the day in our age and clime. He is one important Christian character worthy of emulation especially by Christians of today. Yes! As extreme as was his reaction to the resurrection news, Christians of today, especially in our clime, need to pray for a double portion of the spirit of Thomas. We need more “Thomases” in our day. Thomas in what could be considered his extremity, left us indeed with some important lesson to take home in our practice of the Christian faith which he embraced before us. From the time Christ appeared and throughout the period he walked the face of the earth, he proved himself the messiah beyond every reasonable doubt, not only through his words and teachings, but also and most importantly through his actions and miracles. Thomas was a member of the Apostolic college. He saw and experienced all that, yet he demanded a proof for the resurrection claim of his confreres. The point here is: if Thomas could question a claim made in connection with One who is truly deserving of worship, it is instructive we always put on our thinking caps when people stand before us, making all sorts of claims and sometimes instilling fear in us, all in the name of the same Christ. It is to be noted too, that even Christ himself throughout his public ministry, toed that line as he consistently questioned the conducts and excesses of the religious and political leaders of his time and encouraged the people not to accept everything they saw or heard. He was considered a threat, especially by the Scribes and the Pharisees (the religious powers of the time), because he literally broke down their long standing personality cult defences. It is therefore only fitting that the Christians of today learn not only from this doubting apostle, who in his doubt, came out a better and stronger man of faith, but also from the Master Jesus himself, who questioned powers and claims.