Thomas in India Though Reluctant
Thomas wasn’t afraid to confront Yahshua with hard questions that the other disciples hadn’t even considered.
April 7, 2002
John 20:19-3119. When therefore it was evening on that day, which was the first day of the week, and the doors shut where the disciples were, through fear of the Jews, Yahshua came and stood in the midst, and says to them, Peace be to you. 20. And having said this, he shewed to them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced therefore, having seen the Master. 21. Yahshua said therefore again to them, Peace be to you: as the Father sent me forth, I also send you. 22. And having said this, he breathed into them, and says to them, Receive the Set-apart Spirit: 23. whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted to them; whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. 24. But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Yahshua came. 25. The other disciples therefore said to him, We have seen the Master. But he said to them, Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe. 26. And eight days after, his disciples were again within, and Thomas with them. Yahshua comes, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst and said, Peace be to you. 27. Then he says to Thomas, Bring thy finger here and see my hands; and bring thy hand and put it into my side; and be not unbelieving, but believing. 28. Thomas answered and said to him, My Master and my Elohim. 29. Yahshua says to him, Because thou hast seen me thou hast believed: blessed they who have not seen and have believed. 30. Many other signs therefore also Yahshua did before his disciples, which are not written in this book; 31. but these are written that ye may believe that Yahshua is the Messiah, the Son of Elohim, and that believing ye might have life in his name.
I’m going to sketch the character of the Apostle Thomas, a man known only by a nickname. Thomas means ‘twin’ in Hebrew. In the King James Version, John 11:6, he is also called Didymos, which is Greek for ‘second twin.’ Thomas wrote a little book containing 114 sayings of Yahshua; we know it as The Gospel of Thomas. Therein we learn that his given name is Yehuda or ‘Judah.’ He calls himself “Judah Didymos Thomas” in his book. The Bible just calls him ‘Twin.” But as we will see, “the man known only by a nickname” accomplished great exploits that are not recorded in the Bible, but in later histories.
If “Thomas” means “twin,” who was his twin? Since the disciples were sent two-by-two, one idea is that Matthew was his twin, for, according to Luke 6:15, Matthew and “Twin” are pared up, just like the other brothers Peter and Andrew, James and John. There is another tradition claiming Thomas to be Judas, brother of Yahshua, who is mentioned in Matthew 13:55: “Is not this the carpenter's son? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?” This Judas the brother of Yahshua may have been Judas Didymos Thomas. Thomas was also a carpenter like Yahshua.
Thomas the Twin was a very brave and loyal disciple; if he were here today he might be a supporter of first and second amendments rights: freedom of speech, the right to bear arms. We see him as an assertive leader in the Lazarus story of John 11:16. The disciples hear about the death of Lazarus in Bethany. When Yahshua finally decides to go into peril several days later to save Lazarus, Thomas rallies the disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." Unlike Peter, who was all bluff, Thomas had some guts.
A further look reveals that Thomas wasn’t afraid to confront Yahshua with hard questions that the other disciples hadn’t even considered. In that very tender moment when Yahshua was explaining eternal life (a Scripture that we often recount at memorial services),
John 14:3. “When I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4. And you know the way where I am going."
the brave and impulsive Thomas rushes in: "Master, we don’t know where you’re going; how can we know the way?" He really did want to know – he was no “doubting Thomas” then. If he was willing to die with our Master in Bethany, then he was serious in his commitment and bound to go with Yahshua no matter where, even to death. “What road are we taking?” he demands.
Thomas elicits a response from Yahshua – one of his best-known revelations,
6. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. 7. (Thomas,) If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him."
Yahshua tells Thomas personally that since Thomas knows Yahshua he also knows Yahweh. This is an important key in understanding Thomas’ final appearance in Scripture. Now how many can boast of an intimate relationship with Yahweh? Do you know the Father in heaven? Do you heed his commandments? Do you even know them? Maybe some of us can’t honestly boast that we do. However, Thomas could. He knew the Father because he knew the Son.
After the terrible trauma of Yahshua’ death and then three days of terrified waiting, the disciples are in a ‘safe house’ hiding from the authorities, who are out to get them, too. They are rebels against Judaism and Romanism, and now their cause has died on a tree. It’s Sunday night and the doors are locked and guarded. When the heat’s off, the disciples plan to abscond to save their lives. Despite the appointment of the risen Yahshua with the women at the cemetery, verse 9 tells us that the disciples, with the exception of the beloved disciple, did not expect any kind of resurrection to take place. Yahshua was dead. Hysterical, unreliable women manufactured reports of him being alive. What did these women have to lose? Women aren’t crucified; men are!
Thomas isn’t in the house. He’s outside, guarding the door, when Yahshua enters the sanctuary. Yahshua doesn’t come in through the door. Thomas never sees him. Yahshua doesn’t want to see Thomas yet. So Yahshua just appears inside. Do you think that when he appears, the disciples just calmly recognized him and go about their planning? Hardly. They must have been flipping out. When Yahshua says, “Peace!” he gives a command for the ensuing hysteria to cease. The spirit of confusion is cast out and reality descends upon the disciples in the room. He is risen, just as he said! Oh, now they remember!
Yahshua invites his disciples to inspect his body. He shows them his wounds as a means of identification. There are some ancient texts in which Yahshua says to them, “Take hold, handle me, and see that I am not a bodiless demon.” A bodiless demon is what we call a ghost. This is not the ghost of Yahshua; neither is it Yahshua’ spirit floating around the room. He makes a point to be recognized by the marks in his flesh.
This is the same Yahshua who they knew for years, who walked with them, who taught them, and whose sufferings they had observed. And his scarred and bloody body brands led these disciples to add the following phrase to their statement of faith: “We believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting.” Yahshua didn’t die just so his spirit could fly off to heaven; the Scripture says he rose from the dead with the marks of his execution intact. That implies a bodily, rather than merely a spiritual, resurrection.
And Yahshua breathed air. How else could he have talked? How could he have breathed on them? When he breathed the breath of life, the disciples received the Set-apart Spirit. They were not spirit-filled believers before this, else they would have believed what he said about resurrection before the fact. So with the infilling of the Set-apart Spirit, Yahshua gives them a command that, if they follow it, would assure them that they couldn’t live in Judea any more. Yahshua commanded them to do the very same thing that got him crucified. He told them,
“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
Forgiving and Retaining Sins
To learn the gravity of this command, we hearken back to the story of the paralyzed man in Matthew 9:2-7
When Yahshua saw their faith he said to the paralytic, "Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven." Some of the scribes said, "This man is blaspheming." But Yahshua said, "Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins"--he then said to the paralytic --"Rise, take up your bed and go home."
Forgiving sins was blasphemy punishable by stoning, but Yahshua proved that his ability to forgive on Yahweh’s behalf was genuine by healing this man. Physical healings are proofs that the healers may forgive sins. So Yahshua fills these men and women with the Set-apart Spirit and commands them to go out and forgive sins. He also tells them to retain sins – which means, to withhold Yahweh’s forgiveness. Yahweh will not forgive that which is not repented or repented in vain; however, it is clearly up to the disciple as to whether the sins of those they minister to are to be forgiven or not. I didn’t make this up; read it yourself!
Verse 29 indicates that this infilling and power is for all generations, including ours. Forgiving or retaining sins constitutes an awesome responsibility with eternal consequences. This commandment effectively transforms common people like you and me into the very ears and mouths of Yahweh, able to bind and loose, able to open and close eternal doors. Watch what you say about Yahweh and his people! Your word retains Yahweh’s power.
Thomas Will Have No False Messiah
Yahshua goes away for a week and in the meantime Thomas is informed of the Master’s visitation by his cohorts. Despite the testimony of ten friends and five women, Thomas will not believe Yahshua rose from death. He could believe that they saw a ghost or the spirit of Yahshua, or that they had a hallucination. But Thomas was not about to believe that a piece of flesh, beaten with Roman whips and fists, lacerated by poisonous thorns, nailed to a tree and pierced with a sword, was going to get up and walk out of a tomb.
Not only did this make no sense at all; but also didn’t Yahshua himself say,
(Matthew 24:4-5) "Take heed that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, 'I am Messiah'”?
“I will not be led astray by false messiahs,” Thomas thinks. Then he states clearly, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe." This is how he came to be known as “Doubting Thomas.” His doubt came out of his fervency in following the Master to the letter. In regard to obedience to the word, Thomas was more ardent than any of the rest, and Yahshua left his proof until last.
Bargain Counter Religion vs Personal Revelation
It’s easy to follow the crowd and see what the crowd sees. It’s inexpensive to buy bargain counter religion; but it takes time, money and prayer to show yourself approved. It’s much simpler to follow what old Aunt Myrtle told you to believe or what your childhood Sunday School teacher taught you than for you to acquire your own revelation or work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Thomas was a bulwark of faith in Yahshua Messiah. He became a powerful man of G-d by not following the crowd, but following the master only. His ‘doubt’ led to a visitation, a life of service and a martyr’s death.
When the risen Yahshua returned the next week, he went straight to Thomas and, knowing what was in his heart, invited him to test for ghosts. "See my hands. Put your finger in my side. Doubt no longer, but believe.” Thomas did just that. He wouldn’t go half way on anything. Thomas looked Yahshua in the face closer than ever before. “Looks like ‘im!” He took Yahshua’ hand and inspected the horrible stab wound. He placed his finger into the gaping gash in his side and drew out blood. It was the blood that finally convinced him. “Master!” he cried as he humbly knelt. A real man knows when to be humble. He humbles himself before a better man. And Yahshua was a better man.
He said, “Blessed are those that haven’t seen me yet believed!” That’s us. We have yet to put our fingers into his wound. Still, what do we, who haven’t seen, believe? We claim that: “He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. On the third day he rose again.”
It’s this belief that sets us apart from the rest of the world and makes fools of us: that Yahshua, a man, rose from the dead not as a spirit or a ghost, but as the same man; and that we who are dying daily will also partake of a resurrection in kind. This belief, when fervently held, has a powerful transforming affect on men and women of faith. It resurrects us in a very real sense while we are yet alive. The power of resurrection changes us. This is why Yahshua says that some of you will never taste death; resurrection breaks in and death never breaks through. Believers who never die never fear death!
Thomas in India
We hear nothing else about Thomas in the Bible. Though he’s not mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, we have several other writings that recount his missions. Let me read you one short story of how he came to find his ministry. One disciple writes:
We apostles divide the regions of the world, casting lots where we will go. India falls to Judas Didymos Thomas. He does not want to go; "How can I, a Hebrew, go preach truth among Indians?" At length he considers his mission and rejects it. The Savior appears to him by night, "Fear not, Thomas. Go to India and preach my Word, for my grace is with you!" But Thomas will not go, and he tells the Master, "I am not going to the Indians. Send me wherever else you want, but not there!"
How would you like being ordered to some poor area in the world, having lived your whole life in extravagant luxury? You say, “I don’t live in luxury!” I say, “Oh yes, you do!” And some folks right here have been called to go forth -- and said no.
The King of India sends a buyer to Galilee named Abban. Abban is to purchase a carpenter for the King. Yahshua sees Abban walking through the marketplace and calls to him, "So you want to buy a carpenter? I have a slave; I will sell him to you." He points out Thomas from a distance. They agree on three pounds as the sale price. A receipt is written: “I, Yahshua the contractor, confirm that I have sold my slave Judas Thomas to Abban, the buyer for the king of India.”
The Savior then goes after Thomas and leads him to Abban. Abban asks Thomas, "Is this your master?" The Apostle answers, "Yes, he is." Abban replies, "No longer, I have bought you from him." The Apostle is struck dumb.
The next day, Thomas capitulates in prayer, " I will go wherever you want, Master Yahshua; thy will be done!" Thomas then departs for India as a slave with nothing, in the charge of Abban the buyer. En route, the Master Yahshua meets them and tucks the three pounds of money into Thomas’ cloak, saying, "Take your price with you wherever you may go, and take my grace."
“Reluctant Thomas” arrived in Cranganore, Kerala, India in 52 AD. There he preached the Gospel with great signs following him. He lived twenty more years before his martyrdom on the mountain that still bears his name. In that time, he used the grace of Yahshua, three pounds of money and his skills in carpentry to build seven congregations. Today, there are many active churches in India named for the Apostle Thomas, including the Church in Malankara, which he founded, one of the longest-lasting Believer communities in the entire world.
Though doubting and reluctant, Thomas still accomplished great and mighty acts of faith and grace. You can, too. Yahshua has paid your price by dying and has empowered you through living again. His life is in the blood of his resurrection. And he has accomplished all this so that, as the Gospel writer concludes today’s Scripture portion, “you may come to believe that Yahshua is the Messiah, the Son of Elohim, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”