Thomas is mentioned among the number of the Apostles in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke but it is in John’s gospel that his significance is revealed. Firstly, he is heard encouraging the other disciples to go to Judæa with Jesus; then, not knowing what Jesus meant when he talked about where he was to go elicited the answer that Jesus was himself the Way. But probably most famously he was the Apostle notably unconvinced by reports of the resurrection of Jesus, causing Jesus to show him the marks in his hands and feet and side. Thomas then proclaims the words that have been described as the great climax to John’s gospel by saying to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”
O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Almighty and eternal God,
who, for the firmer foundation of our faith,
allowed your holy apostle Thomas
to doubt the resurrection of your Son
till word and sight convinced him:
grant to us, who have not seen, that we also may believe
and so confess Christ as our Lord and our God;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
Incline your ear to me;
make haste to deliver me.
Be my strong rock, a fortress to save me,
for you are my rock and my stronghold;
guide me, and lead me for your name’s sake.
Take me out of the net
that they have laid secretly for me,
for you are my strength.
Into your hands I commend my spirit,
for you have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.
I hate those who cling to worthless idols;
I put my trust in the Lord.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘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.’
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’
Today the Church’s calendar invites us to remember Thomas the Apostle. History has led us to remember Thomas principally for his unwillingness to be deceived by stories of Jesus’ resurrection, but there is more to Thomas than that.
There are three key moments in the gospel narrative when we hear of Thomas. Firstly, he is fearless in his encouraging the disciples to set self-interest aside and to accompany Jesus into dangerous territory. Secondly, it is Thomas who asks Jesus the question that elicits the answer: I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. And, thirdly, it is Thomas who seeks evidence of Jesus’ resurrection.
In the gospels we read of Jesus transforming his disciples into apostles, that is he encourages them to turn their willingness to follow into the more practical role of messenger. We are called to be both disciples and apostles as well. We, like those first disciples, are called to tread hostile paths in the name of Christ. When we think only of Thomas’ so-called ‘doubt’ we conveniently set aside his zeal to take the Good News into the dark places of the world. Let us pray that we might hear again the message of Thomas’ evangelistic zeal and become active bearers of the Word and Light of Christ.
Like us, Thomas sought to understand fully the message he was proclaiming. As he lived through the days that would lead to Jesus’ crucifixion he became confused and uncertain. Thomas was the one who was willing to speak up and ask Jesus what he meant. Thomas was the one who was told by Jesus: I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. By asking the question that others did not ask, Thomas gained for us the truth of Jesus Christ. Let us pray that we may follow the Way that is Jesus, as we hold on to the truth that is Jesus, and as we gain the Life that is Jesus.
Then comes the moment of ‘doubt’! Thomas had heard Jesus warn of false prophets, and Thomas remembered that teaching. Thomas would not have known that the other disciples had already asked for similar reassurance when they first encountered the risen Jesus. So, Thomas expressed his very human scepticism. But, it did not stop there. Thomas was ready to be convinced, and he was convinced. We all have moments of doubt in our lives. Let us pray that we might be ready for Jesus to prove our doubt as being shallow and worthless. Let us pray that our doubt might always be turned back into true faith.
And, finally, let us join Thomas in something else. Let us pray that we might always declare Jesus to be: My Lord and my God!
Prayers of intercession
In faith and confidence let us pray to the Lord.
Bless the Church with the assurance of faith and empower her people to show their faith in their words and in their lives. Cast out all doubts and fear from those who have not seen but have believed.
May the light of truth shine in a world where so many live with uncertainty and find no direction in their lives. Lead the rulers of the nations to knowledge of their true and only Lord.
When we are anxious and fearful, make us confident so that our faith shall be a blessing to others. May the presence of the risen Christ sanctify our homes and our workplaces.
We pray for all who desire to believe but cannot find the way, and for all who have lost the faith they once had. May the wounds of Christ heal them and restore their peace.
Receive into new life those who in this world struggled with doubt but held firm to the end. May they share in the eternal light of glory, with blessed Thomas and all the saints.
We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God.
Prayer for the week
Lord of all,
in whom we live and move and have our being,
renew our hearts through your Holy Spirit,
that we may long to draw close to you in prayer,
that we may have the faith to hear your call on our lives,
and that we may have the courage
to tread the path you have set before us,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.