“Therefore Thomas, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.'” (John 11:16)
The disciple Thomas is almost universally known for one thing: not believing, without having seen, that Jesus had been resurrected. The phrase “doubting Thomas” has come to our language because of that episode. And yet, that well-known failure was not the only chapter of his life.
Here we find Thomas on another occasion, exhibiting great courage. When Jesus indicated that He was going back to the Jerusalem area to minister to Lazarus and his family, :8 says that His disciples were dismayed, because the Jews were just seeking to stone Him there — was He really going back there? But Thomas displays great courage and exhorts his brothers: “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” He evidences a commitment that every Christian should have: we are to be willing to follow Jesus wherever He leads us — even to death. It is an exemplary moment, worthy of our imitation.
Unfortunately, for most Christians this episode has been completely overshadowed by the “doubting Thomas” response of John 20. Thomas is primarily remembered for his doubt, instead of for the faith and courage he exhibited — or his subsequent confession of Jesus as “my Lord and my God” following his initial doubt.
How often is that the case: that we allow one negative episode in a person’s life define them for us, instead of considering the whole body of their life’s work? “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” ALL of us have fallen short of God’s perfect standard, and the only way of salvation for any of us is by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus. Understanding that, we ought to be more charitable in our consideration of other people’s shortcomings. Let us not stigmatize them from one negative experience, or one great sin. Let us not label them a “doubting Thomas”, a “sinful Sam” or “gossiping Gabby.” Let’s be as charitable to their memory as we would want them to be to ours.