There is no doubt in my mind that there is one of Jesus apostles that has received a “bad rap.” To mention his name will automatically conjure in ones mind a certain characteristic about him based upon one isolated incident. When I say the name “Thomas” most people automatically place the description in front of his name “Doubting.” But there are other recorded incidents of Thomas life that have been ignored. In this lesson I want to look at the character of Thomas that will give us a new perspective of his life. Few people know that the apostle Thomas was a great example of discipleship.
Dedication To Follow Jesus Anywhere (John 14:1-6)
In John 14:1-4 Jesus is in the last moments before he will be arrested. Jesus is taking the opportunity to teach his apostles about what is about to happen. In these first four verses Jesus tells the disciples that he is about to go to his fathers house to prepare a place for them and how he will come back and take them with him. Jesus continued by saying, “You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Thomas has something to ask of Jesus, however. In verse 5 we read, “Thomas said to him, “Lord, we dont know where you are going so how can we know the way?” Jesus is offering comforting words that the disciples hearts ought not be troubled. Jesus tells them he is going away but he will come back after preparing a place for them. Thomas jumps, desiring so greatly to follow Jesus, wanting to know where Jesus is going. Thomas is declaring that they do not know where Jesus is going, so how can they follow after him.
We sing a song called “Anywhere With Jesus.” In that song we are declaring that we will follow Jesus anywhere he goes. We see this kind of dedication in Thomas. He is concerned because he does not know where Jesus is going and he wants to follow Jesus. Who would not want to follow Jesus when he is speaking about a comforting place that has many rooms! This is also when we like talking about following Jesus, when he is speaking of going to the place of paradise and comfort. But notice that the dedication of Thomas existed not only when Jesus told his disciples to follow him during the good times, but also during dire circumstances.
Dedication To Follow Jesus Even To Death (John 11:1-16)
In John 11 we read about Lazarus being sick in Bethany, just a couple miles from Jerusalem. Earlier in John 10:31 we read about the Jews in Jerusalem were picking up rocks to stone Jesus. The Jews tried to arrest Jesus, but Jesus eluded their grasp. This attempted arrest and stoning caused Jesus and his disciples to flee to the other side of the Jordan River (10:40). It was too dangerous for Jesus to be in Jerusalem. The next time Jesus would enter Jerusalem the Jews would arrest him and kill him.
Lazarus was sick and he dies. After a couple days, Jesus tells his disciples, “Lets go to Judea again” (John 11:7). His disciples respond by reminding Jesus that the Jews had tried to stone him and it did not make any sense to try to go there again. Jesus responds to the disciples concern by encouraging them to walk in the light. The disciples refute what Jesus says by pointing out that if Lazarus is sick, he will get well (11:12). The disciples do not see the need to risk their lives for something that a person will recover from over time anyway. If Lazarus is sick, he will get well. So let us not go to Judea. Eventually Jesus tells the disciples plainly that Lazarus has died and it is time for them to go to him. Thomas responds in verse 16, “Lets go so that we may die with Him.”
These are amazing words. The disciples understood that going back to Judea, particularly to a city so close to Jerusalem like Bethany would certainly be death. The disciples understanding is correct because this would be the last time Jesus would enter Jerusalem. The Jews would kill him. It was certain death to go to Judea. Knowing that their lives were on the line and seeing the certainty of death, Thomas says “Lets go so that we may die with Him.”
Under these circumstances would we still willingly sing “Anywhere with Jesus?” When Jesus declared he is about to die, would we simply jump in declaring our readiness to die and try to encourage the other disciples to go to their death to be with Jesus? I do not see a wishy-washy, doubting Thomas from these passages, as he has been so often painted. It took a great amount of faith and a great amount of courage to be ready to go to Judea with Jesus.
Changing Our Lives
Thomas shows us what true discipleship looks like. Jesus is going to lead us places that we may not want to go from time to time. Jesus is going to take us out of our comfort zones and require us to do things that are not easy. Disciples do not stop following the Teacher simply because where he leads is difficult. Thomas shows us the proper question to ask Jesus: where are you going because I want to follow you?
Americans have been trained to do what we like, what we feel like, what sounds good, and what is convenient. But that is not discipleship. Jesus would tell the crowds to count the cost because not every person can be his disciple. Jesus made it challenging to follow him, even challenging us to be ready for death. Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mark 8:34). Jesus demanded sacrifices in life to be his disciple. This is not a popular message in our society today. We want a Jesus who allows us to do what we want. We want a Jesus who had followers of convenience and ease. While churches are offering that Jesus, it is not the true Jesus of the scriptures. We must be ready to go anywhere with Jesus. Thomas showed us the dedication we are to have toward Jesus.