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called Didymus. Hengstenberg supposes that the name had no reference to his birth, but was given by Christ as descriptive of his character, and that the words "called Didymus” were designed to point to this significance in his name. But on what ground did he receive this name? What is the meaning of the name Thomas ? “It signifies,” says Hengstenberg, "one at the sight of whom we are reminded of twins: a double-minded man (James i. 8). Inward discordance is common to all who still live in the flesh; but the vehement disposition of Thomas brought his double-mindedness into special prominence, so as to make him an apt exemplification of an undecided character.” We are strongly disposed to adopt this explanation of the name, and all the more because it leads to the very opposite conclusion, and, as we understand it, brings out decision rather than indecision as the true characteristic of the Apostle.
Three times, as we have said, the Apostle speaks. Jesus is at Bethabara beyond Jordan, and proposes to His disciples to go to Bethany, where Lazarus has just died. " Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow-disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with Him” (John xi. 16). Again, after the last supper, Jesus tells His disciples that He is going to His Father's house, to prepare a place for them, and adds, “Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.” And “Thomas saith unto Him, Lord, we know not whither Thou goest, and how can we know the way?” (John xiv. 5.) On the third occasion the other disciples tell Thomas that they have seen the Lord. “But he said unto them, Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my fingers into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe.” Jesus then appears to them again when Thomas is present, and offers him the evidence he asked for, and “Thomas answered and said unto Him, My Lord and my God” (John xx. 25 and 28).
All of these will repay careful examination. On the first occasion Jesus had left Jerusalem because the Jews took up stones to stone Him. They "sought to take Him, but he escaped out of their hands, and went away beyond Jordan" (John X. 39, 40). He was no sooner there, beyond their reach, than He heard that Lazarus was sick, and said to His disciples, “ Let us go into Judæa again.” The disciples were alarmed at the proposal, and said to Him, “Master, the Jews of late sought to stone Thee, and goest Thou thither again ?" After a little while Jesus told them that Lazarus was dead, and said, “ Let us go to him.” Then Thomas turned to his fellow-disciples and said, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him." In this simple incident we catch our first view of the Apostle, and it is one that does him infinite honour. When Christ first
spoke of going back to Judæa, He said nothing about Lazarus; and the disciples, thinking of nothing but the absolute certainty that if Christ went He would be put to death, did all they could to dissuade Him from going. But now that He returns to the proposal, having first told them of Lazarus, they are all silent. They see the danger, and dare not say go; yet they all share his affection, and cannot say let us stop here. At length Thomas speaks, not with the heedless impetuosity of Peter, but calmly and deliberately, with both sides well balanced in his mind. He recalls all the risk. He does not wish Christ to run into the dangers that await Him in Judæa. Yet he dare not stand in His way, as Peter once did; much less can he let Him go alone. What, then, does he do? Throwing into one sentence all his fears and all his devotion, he says, “Let us all die together. He will surely be put to death if He go. Let us all go and die with Him." There is certainly no doubting or hesitation here, but the true spirit of the martyr that he afterwards became,
The next occurrence brings out another aspect of the same character. Judas has just left, and Peter has received his solemn warning, when Jesus, looking round upon their sad countenances, proceeds to speak to them cheering words about the mansions in His Father's house. And then, as though meaning "but I need not tell you any more, you know it already," he simply adds,“ Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know." But Thomas grasps all the difficulties in a moment. He, too, sees clearly that knowing the way depends upon their knowing whither Christ is going. But this, it seems to him, is just what they had not been told. And he cannot rest satisfied when a single question may set their minds at rest for ever. Why pretend to understand when he really does not? Why look as though convinced when his mind is full of misgiving? With all the openness of a man anxious that there should be no mistake, he confesses his difficulty, and says, “Lord, we know not whither thou goest, and how can we know the way?” And he brings out by the question a reply which, though at first it seems not to touch his difficulty, really gives him all the clue he wants to the deep meaning of Christ. By looking fairly at both sides he reaches a higher truth than one side alone could ever have brought within his view.
The third incident will require a little more careful handling. Jesus has risen from the dead, and has appeared to several of the disciples separately, and at the close of the day he appears to all the eleven, excepting Thomas. They inform Thomas on the very earliest opportunity that they have seen the Lord; but he is not satisfied, and tells them plainly what kind of evidence he should want, even if he himself had such a vision, before he could be thoroughly convinced that it was indeed the Lord. The evidence he asks is not refused, and Thomas is not only convinced that it is Jesus, but with a deeper insight than he has ever had before into the divinity of his Lord and Master, exclaims, with amazement and adoring -reverence, “My Lord and my God.”
A great injustice, it appears to us, has been done to Thomas on account of this passage in his history. In comparison with the rest of the disciples, he has been treated with injustice. The common opinion is, that he was more slow to believe than the others were. But was this really the case? Which of them had believed without the very evidence that Thomas asked for ? The two disciples, on the way to Emmaus, had heard of the "vision of angels, which said that He was alive;" yet they
walked, and were sad.” They returned and told the eleven that they had seen the Lord; yet when Jesus stood in the midst of them they were affrighted, and thought it was a spirit, till Jesus showed them His hands and His feet (Luke xxiv. 40). They had been told by those who saw the Saviour, yet they did not believe; so that when Jesus appeared to them He “upbraided them with their unbelief, because they believed not them which had seen Him after He was risen.” It is quite possible, indeed, that they would not have spoken so freely and plainly as Thomas did. But in all probability there was not one of them who either proved himself more ready to believe than Thomas, or believed on very different evidence from that which Thomas asks for here.
Injustice is also done to him in connection with the circumstances themselves; since it is too frequently assumed that his scepticism amounted to a repudiation of their united testimony. Now we cannot for a moment imagine that he intended to question the veracity of the other disciples, or that he really doubted their word. He probably never thought of doing this. But when he heard their strange tale, strange to him though not to us, of Jesus entering through closed doors, breathing on them, speaking to them, and showing them His hands and His side, many difficulties suggested themselves which compelled him to reserve his judgment till he either had the proof they told him they might have had, or received some explanation of a phenomenon so unnatural as the one they had described. What possibilities would suggest themselves to a mind so naturally disposed to sift all the evidence, to see all the difficulties of the case, and keenly to scrutinize the other side? “May you not have been deceived ? May not your longings, your agitations, and your fears have so worked upon your imagination that you
fancied what was not real? I must have further evidence. I cannot pretend to be convinced, when I am not. I must see, yea, feel for myself, before I can believe that it was really He." A strong point in proof of his wilful scepticism is often made of his declaration, that he will not believe, unless he puts his finger into the print of the nails, and thrusts his hand into His side. But the evident reason for his saying this is overlooked, namely, that he can no more trust his own eyesight than theirs.
Believing, as they all did, that spirits could appear, and knowing as he did that at first they thought it was a spirit, he cannot feel sure that in their excitement they had not mistaken for Jesus Himself some spirit that had appeared in the midst of them. Moreover his own strong desire to be persuaded would make him the more cautious. This was no time to be carried away by infatuation. It was a matter of life or death to them all. If ever it was needful to walk carefully and sift evidence thoroughly, surely this was the time. The more agitated their feelings, the more necessary it was that they should force themselves to keep cool. Better be in suspense a little longer than believe on questionable evidence, however trustworthy the witnesses might be. Thomas could not do the latter. He would rather die than say he was convinced when he was not; and rather endure any amount of painful suspense than accept a conclusion carelessly, or rest his faith on insufficient ground.
But, it may be said, when Christ afterwards appeared to him, did he not condemn his want of faith? We see no special condemnation of Thomas. We rather see a readiness to appreciate and meet his difficulties in the manner in which Christ addresses him. “ Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side ; and be not faithless, but believing.” But do not the last words imply some censure ? They appear to do so, but rightly interpreted they do not. Thomas is no unbeliever. Christ well knows that, and knows too not only that he is holding his judgment in suspense, but that there is nothing he would not sacrifice in order to believe, nothing except honesty and truth. And knowing this He appears again with His loving face in the midst of them, and without waiting for Thomas to speak, He not only shows that He has known all the difficulties that Thomas has felt and expressed, but offers him the very evidence he asked for, and then says, Now that you can judge for yourself, “ be not faithless, or, rather, become not unbelieving, but believe."
But does not Christ tacitly reprove his unbelief, when He proceeds still further to say, “Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed : blessed are they that have not seen, and
yet have believed ”? Does He not tell him here that there is a better faith than his? It may be so, though certainly it was not the faith of the other disciples. But Christ does not say “ more blessed." Yet even if this was His meaning, it might have been with reference to Thomas's own experience that He used the words. He would not blame him for wanting evidence before he believed, but He might point out the danger of sifting too much and suspending too long. Possibly Thomas did this, and did it to his own cost. Through that long week, a week of anxiety, such as makes weeks grow into years, with that question of all questions still unsettled, as he wrestled hard with doubts and fears, it would no doubt have been “ blessed to believe.” But we doubt very much whether Christ intends to do anything more than point out the fact that from the time of His ascension the law of His kingdom will be believing without seeing, and to pronounce His blessing on all those who, on the testimony of Ilis disciples, and with the help of His Spirit, believe, though they do not see.
But the sequel proves not only that unbelief is the last thing with which Thomas can be charged, but that he did reach this higher faith. Like all honest inquirers, if slower to believe, till the evidence seemed complete, he not only believed with all his heart when supplied with the evidence he sought, but believed far more than he saw when once his difficulties were removed. To him the question was not merely whether what he saw was that very body that had been suspended on the cross, and laid in the sepulchre. Important as that question is, it derives its chief importance from others that lie behind. And Thomas was the first to recognize this. To him Jesus shone forth in all the radiance of His divinity, and he, though last to believe, was the first to exclaim, " My Lord and my God.”
If we have not altogether failed in our attempt to bring out the marked consistency of Thomas's character, and to do simple justice to one too generally misunderstood, we may go a step further, and show how important it was that there should be such a man in the early church. He was no common sceptic nursing his unbelief, liking to doubt, and preferring selfish unbelief that costs nothing, to faith that may demand self-denial and death. All his earnest longing was to be convinced; his greatest difficulty that what he heard was too good to be true. No one can tell what it cost him to have to wait ; yet he would bear it all, rather than purchase ease by self-delusion or a dishonest profession. Was there nothing gained by the presence of such a man with his cautious, inquiring, well-balanced mind, in the midst of the twelve? The church has often been saved by such men from running into fanaticism and adopting wild