Note: My analysis in this post has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I share this name and have heard the ‘doubting Thomas’ moniker far more than I ever should have.
Poor Thomas, the apostle who doubted. I’d like to break this story down so we can talk about what might have caused a complex for the poor guy if everyone else at the time looked at it as we do now.
First off, Jesus was constantly chiding the Apostles for their lack of faith. I have no reason to read this as anything other than playful banter with them (yes, I ascribe to a laughing Jesus model, in which Jesus had a lot of fun on his ministry. Challenge me on this, or better yet, go back and delete morose Jesus and try rereading the Gospels and see if it doesn’t fit.) More often than scolding the disciples, this reads as Jesus saying, “Guys, when I say hold my beer and watch this, you will not be disappointed. Seriously.” So when Jesus says this same kind of thing to Thomas after he needs to stick his hands in the wounds, it serves to set the tone for the rest of the time they will all have together, it returns them all to the ministry they left at Gethsemane.
Secondly, Thomas wasn’t doubting God, he was doubting a collective group of guys that had been huddled up inside for too long. It is likely that he was one of the first to go out an do something with his faith after Jesus’s death, I mean, where was he the first round? They had all abandoned their livelihoods to follow Jesus for the last three years, it’s not like he had gone off to get work just a few days after such a major event in their lives (not to mention Jerusalem would have been mostly closed / too busy, it wasn’t his home town, etc.) Thomas was *doing* something, where the rest of them were sitting there trying to digest what had just happened. I’m not trying to paint a picture of the first missionary here, but he did get the furthest out of the lot of them.
Third, the Holy Spirit had not been imparted to the Apostles yet. After Pentecost, most of the people who come to faith in Jesus, do so because of a miracle (which might as well be seeing Jesus himself, but I’ll let that point slide.) Thomas is rightfully doubtful of his friends, even if they are well intentioned because they can’t back it up. It’s a pretty wild claim to make, ‘guy that I saw dead is now living.’ And if all of them claim it at to have happened at one time, it’s worrisome at best. And if Jesus is alive, where did he go?
Finally, what Thomas did was likely hope more than doubt. “I seriously want to believe you guys, but I also want to see Jesus. If you are right, that’s surely not going to be the only time he shows up.” That’s hopeful, not doubting. That’s looking forward to the promise, not back at the death.
It’s a darn good thing that the apostles didn’t feel the way we do about Thomas, because if they did, he might’ve been crippled by scrupulosity.