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Feast of Thomas the Apostle



Let’s not call him doubting Thomas. It wasn’t how he was known by those closest to him. He was known as the twin – in Greek Didymus, in Hebrew Ta’om from which has come the name Thomas.

So Thomas - Ta’om, Didymus - wasn’t his given name, the name by which he came to the Torah, as they say at a child’s dedication in the synagogue. It was a nick name.  A name by which he was known in all the gospel accounts even if the synoptic gospels only mention him in the list of the twelve. This nickname is the only name that the writers of the gospels give us and the first thing this particular lectionary reading tells us. So it must have meant something. It mattered.

Why was he called that?

Tradition suggests that his real name was Jude or Judas and that he was one of Jesus’ brothers, and the writer of the epistle of Jude in the New Testament.

But whether he was a blood brother or not, whether he had another twin sibling or not, perhaps the nick name evolved within the group because he happened to look like Jesus: and the nick name stuck.

 He was loyal to Jesus and clearly loved him, worried about him. Didn’t want to lose him. When Jesus was on his way to Lazarus the disciples knew that the religious authorities were already against Jesus, it is Thomas who says to others, “lets go with him even if we are to die with him.” Bethany was only a couple of miles from Jerusalem. Perhaps Thomas already sensed what awaited Jesus there. And he was right about what would happen in Jerusalem.

The disciples were there when Jesus was arrested. They knew he had been executed even if they could not bear to be at the cross to witness it. And when Mary Magdalene returned from the tomb on the morning of the resurrection with her astounding news, we’re told that it seemed to the disciples like an idle dream. None of them found it easy to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. The others believed only when they saw him and they happened to have been altogether, hiding for fear of the authorities when Jesus appeared in the upper room and said, don’t be afraid.

Perhaps Thomas the twin wasn’t there because he had something else to do despite his fear.  Perhaps he had been given the nickname 'the twin' because he not only looked rather like Jesus but because he was learning to become like him in his discipleship. Perhaps he was the natural one to be comfort others.  Perhaps his nick name, Twin, was because he had become like another son to a grieving family.

It wasn’t that he didn’t want Jesus to have risen. But he had known this man closely, he had travelled with him, eaten with him. Jesus was flesh and blood, earthy, a man who had suffered and been in pain, and bled and died. He knew what Roman crucifixion did to a human being, a physical body.

And Thomas’s grief ran deep. He longed for Jesus’s presence with an almost physical ache. And he had been out there in the world long enough to see what a world without Jesus would look like. A world that so needed him and what he had brought to them.

And then he gets back to the place where they’ve been hiding, perhaps bringing food or news, and they tell him, “We have seen the Lord,” what sort of idle tale that must have seemed!

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.

Jesus took him at his word. He saw his need, understood his loss, and recognised in this man who was growing to be like him, that he needed not just a reason to go on, a reason to believe, but also a calling to live by. He comes to Thomas and says, “peace be with you.

Now put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”

Thomas understood exactly what Jesus meant: that if the followers of Jesus were to truly be the body of Christ then there was yet more suffering to ease, more injustice to mend, more pain to touch. And we are called to be as Christ to that suffering world, become like Jesus.

This is expressed so beautifully in a liturgy from the Iona community.

Put you hand,


on the crawling head

of a child

imprisoned in a cot

in Romania.

Place your finger,


on the list of those

who have disappeared

in Chile.


Stroke the cheek,


of the little girl

sold in prostitution

in Thailand.

Touch Thomas

the gaping wounds

of my world.

Feel, Thomas,

the primal wound of my people.

Reach out your hands,


and place them at the side of the poor.

Grasp my hands, Thomas

And believe.

Pattern of our Days – Liturgies and prayers from the Iona community edited by Kathy Galloway.


Our call is not to put Thomas down for his dis-belief. Who amongst us has not doubted the power of the apparently impossible in the face of grief, loss, disappointment or suffering.

Our call is to be alongside Thomas in reaching out our hands with gentleness, compassion and courage to touch the needs of the world, the wronged and abused and oppressed of our world in the name of Jesus. To ourselves be that twin, that didymus – to become as Christ to them. For Christ is already out there in the world. Our call is to recognise where he is at work. To see him in the unexpected places and situations even while we were hiding behind doors of fear and disillusionment.

Not a bad accolade to be called the twin, even in the face of a momentary doubt that love is stronger than death. As Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus when we recognise that we are called together and connected as the Body of Christ then we can be Christ to the world. And in doing so grow together into a dwelling place for God. So that the gaping wounds will heal and God’s kingdom will become on earth as it is in heaven.


Page last updated: Sunday 26th June 2022 6:53 PM
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