PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: Thomas, the Twin – Our Twin? By: Ron Woodrum
There are a lot of famous twins. Most people know the actor Ashton Kutcher. But did you know he has a twin brother named Michael? Most know of President George W. Bush-so it follows that his twin daughters Jenna and Barbara are famous now too. Since their successful sitcom most people know about the Olson twins-Ashley and Mary-Kate. Keifer Sutherland is known for his successful acting career, and his father Donald, but did you know he has a twin sister named Rachael? Everyone knows of the brothers Gibb-i.e. The Bee Gees. But two brothers of that trio-Maurice and Robin were twins. The world knows of the King of Rock and Roll-Elvis Aaron Presley. But did you know that he was the surviving baby of twins. His brother Jesse Garon Presley was still born at the delivery, and is buried in an unmarked grave in Tupelo, Mississippi. Anyone visiting Graceland can see his stone included in the family memorials along with Elvis, Vernon, and Gladys Presley. And then of course who can forget the Biblical twins of Jacob and Esau? But today I want to bring to your memory another twin. His name is Thomas. The Bible speaks of “Thomas, who is called Didymus, meaning twin”. Actually both names-Thomas and Didymus means “twin”. One is Aramaic-Thomas. The other is Greek-Didymus. They both mean twin. Who was the Apostle Thomas a twin to? We are not told. When lists of the disciples are given he is usually linked with Matthew-so some assume that is his twin. Tradition tells us that Thomas took the gospel to India in A.D. 52, and died there as a martyr to the cause of his Lord Jesus Christ. You can visit his tomb in Edessa today. Tradition also tells us that Bartholomew worked alongside Thomas in that commission. Many have caused that fact to link him to be Thomas’ twin. In the Apocryphal book written in the 200’s called the Acts of St. Thomas, he is called “Judas Thomas”-or “Judas the Twin”. Some have linked him with James, the Son of Alphaeus then as a twin. All of that is speculation. We do not know who his twin actually is. Frederick Buechner, in preaching about Thomas, says “I can tell you who his twin is-I am! and I am not far off the mark to say that you are too!” You see when it comes to being disciples that trend toward doubt, and find ourselves being disappointed in Jesus, due to circumstances that suddenly throw us into discouragement and despair; we may just be identical twins to Thomas, called Didymus!
We are told in the Gospel of John that when Jesus appeared to the ten disciples who were gathered in the upper room on the first Easter evening that Thomas was absent. They had the joy of seeing the Lord alive again. They inspected his wounds. They were commissioned to a new mandate. He breathed on them to receive the Holy Spirit. The passage describing the event emphasizes that “they were glad when they saw the Lord!” Thomas missed it all. He was disheartened, discouraged and disengaged from the rest! When they sought him out to tell him he frankly told them that their word and witness would never be enough for him. He would have to see with his own eyes, touch with his own hands, experience Him for himself in a personal, intimate, and vital way or he would never believe! That kind of demand of evidence has earned this twin the reputation and name of “Doubting Thomas”. But what about doubt? Was Thomas wrong for wanting to see before believing?
Some of the greatest minds of history have spoken candidly about doubt. Bertrand Russell said, “It is a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on a thing you have long taken for granted”. He also said, “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always certain of themselves, but wiser people are full of doubts!” The great Christian Scientist, thinker, and Philosopher Francis Bacon said, “In contemplation, if a man begins with certainties he shall end in doubts; but if he is content to begin with doubts he shall end in certainties!” Shakespeare said, “Modest doubt is the beacon of the wise”. Alfred Lord Tennyson said, “There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the world’s creeds” One of the best quotes I have come across comes from Tryon Edwards, the grandson of the Revivalist Preacher Jonathan Edwards. Tryon Edwards wrote, “Doubt, indulged and cherished is in danger of becoming denial; but if it is honest, and bent on thorough investigation it may soon lead to the full establishment of truth”. That kind of sounds like modern day philosopher-baseball player, Yogi Berra who said, “You can observe a lot by seeing!” I believe that is what Thomas needed. He needed some empirical evidence that he could witness with his own eyes. But when he encountered the Lord, risen in all his glory, he saw not only with the eyes of his head, but with the eyes of his heart, and his doubt was transformed to devotion. He then became the example for the Lord to talk of greater blessing than what Thomas experienced on the 8th day of Easter. We can learn a lot from examining Thomas’ journey from Doubt to Devotion by doing an Autopsy on a Doubting Disciple. I want to share with a poem about what Thomas experienced on the 8th Day of Easter. May we too be so transformed by our Risen Lord?
When Thomas afterward had heard That Jesus had fulfilled His word, He doubted if it were the Lord: Alleluia! “My hands, my feet, my body, see; “And doubt not, but believe in Me”: Alleluia!
No longer Thomas then denied; He saw the feet, the hands, the side; Thou art my Lord and God,” he cried: Alleluia!