MATTHEW 10:3c (part one)
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 10:3c (part one) “. . .Thomas,. . .”
Simon the Leader, Andrew the Usher, James the Thunderbolt, John the Beloved, Philip the Analyst, and Bartholomew the True, are followed by Thomas. We begin his story by looking at lonely Thomas. Since his name means twin, we have to wonder where the other twin was. Peter, Andrew, James, and John had the joy to labor side by side as brothers in the Lord’s work. Thomas did not share this honor. He was faithful, but his brother did not follow him. Many share the pain of unbelieving family members. Don’t castigate or blame yourself for their lostness. Pray for them, live a godly life before them, never give up hope for them.
Though lonely, unsupported by family, he proved himself a devoted Thomas. When Jesus announced his intent to travel to Bethany, near Jerusalem, the disciples argued with Him, believing the animosity of the religious leaders would make this a suicide mission. When Jesus remained adamantly resolved to go, Thomas told the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him” (JN 11:16).
As a pessimist, Thomas expected the worst, but was resolute anyway. He had fallen in love with Jesus, and the thought of life without Him was unthinkable.
Thomas was willing to die for Christ because he totally believed in Him. Like the other disciples, Thomas forsook Jesus on the eve of His crucifixion, but at this juncture he looked death in the face and chose death with Jesus rather than life without Jesus. None of us can know for sure how we would respond if faced with a life or death decision for Christ. We will cross that bridge only if it ever presents itself to us. In the meantime, we need to resolve to accept any consequence for our faith in Jesus. This indomitable spirit has ever marked the spirit of believers. A no-quit, never-give-up mentality is engraved in the true faith.
Half a century ago, all Christian missionaries were cast out of a large country. The dictator who expelled them and sought to obliterate Christianity from his land, now lies in a grave. One of our International Mission Board personnel, on a recent tour, walked up close to his grave and whispered, “We’re back.” The Gospel message keeps returning. It cannot be stopped, once it gains a strong root.
Thomas feared, but refused to quit. Nothing is wrong with being afraid, but it is wrong to let fear stop us from doing right. If unafraid, courage is not necessary. Real courage means carrying on even when we realize the worst could happen.
In addition to being lonely and devoted, he was a questioning Thomas. Jesus, speaking of Heaven, said to the Twelve, “Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.” Thomas replied, “Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?” (JN 14:5). It’s okay to ask questions. An inquisitive mind is the seed-bed of learning. Thomas Edison asked so many questions as a child that his teachers thought he was mentally handicapped. We can make little progress in life if we are unwilling to inquire about things we do not understand.
Thomas, though, blatantly refuted the words of Jesus. Christ said, “Ye know.” Thomas objected, “We know not.” Thomas just didn’t know what he knew. He knew Jesus, and without realizing it, that was all he needed to know.
Thomas did not yet fully appreciate all he had in Jesus. We too tend to underestimate the value of what we have in Christ. This is why ministries like Neil Anderson’s “Freedom in Christ” are so helpful. Much of Christ’s beauty and comfort lie undiscovered by us. Every thing our innermost being yearns for can be found in Him, yet we stumble around seeking our heart’s delights elsewhere.
We are like people seeking everywhere for keys that are in our pocket, searching high and low for the money we deposited in the bank, traveling near and far to find the ring we put in our safety deposit box, scrounging through our desk to find the pen that’s in our shirt pocket. We act the same way with regard to the Lord’s abundant provisions and promises. Worry is never justified, but alas! much of Christ’s potential lies dormant in us. We face difficulties by pouting “we know not,” but Jesus replies, “Ye know,” for He supplies sufficiency for every situation.
We fall into the trap of trying to wrest virtues from Jesus when the solution lies in drawing nearer to Him in relationship. We ask for power, peace, love, and faith, as if these traits are given independently of Him. This is not the case. Blessing flows from increased and enhanced relationship. In knowing Him more fully and loving Him more deeply, we find the power, peace, love, and faith we need.
In addition to lonely, devoted, and questioning, he was a missing Thomas. He missed history’s greatest Sunday night worship service. When Jesus arose, He came that night to see the disciples, who had come together, but Thomas missed it.
It is for our own good that we are commanded to not forsake assembling together (HB 10:25). Special joys transpire when God’s people come together, and the miss-ers are the losers. As a boy, I developed a friendship with Henry Rone, an elderly unsaved man. For a long time I prayed for Henry to become a Christian. One Sunday night, at age twelve, I faked sickness to miss church so I could watch the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show. I can’t remember one thing about their performance, but vividly remember the stab I felt in my heart when Mom came home and said, “Henry Rone got saved tonight.” To this day, the story of Henry’s conversion remains etched in the folklore of our family, and I missed it.
I was absent due to the Beatles. Why was Thomas absent? Probably due to anguish and embarrassment. In forsaking Jesus, he did nothing worse than the others, but he was the one who had verbalized his determination to die with Jesus.
The death of Jesus was what Thomas had expected, but he was shocked at his own reaction to it. He had openly committed himself to the death, but in the fateful moment, he miserably failed. He broke and ran away like the rest.
Faced with failure, Judas went out and hanged himself, Peter went out and wept bitterly, Thomas went out and hid himself. Ashamed, he was unable to look the other Apostles in the eye. Brokenhearted, he wanted to mourn by himself.
Wanting to grieve alone is a bad trait of melancholy types like Thomas and me. Depression was a deep hole for me, but God dug me out of it. For this to happen, though, I had to accept some painful truths. Depression is more anger than sadness. It is not a natural disposition, but a learned behavior whereby I received attention I wanted. I was not strong enough to beat it alone. When depressed, I was not thinking clearly. At age 35, with God’s help, I decided I would no longer accept depression as acceptable, I chose to deal with my internal anger, and asked Ruth to help me by thinking for me when I was depressed. When depressed, a person’s thinking goes awry. Any hope of improvement is deemed unrealistic, any positive word is offensive, all is skewed, dark. Sitting alone on our velvet-lined pity pot seems the only refuge. Thus, depression prompts an isolating effect that in turn worsens the depression. Once I admitted I was unable to break this cycle on my own, and abdicated decision making to Ruth, she took charge. When she saw me slipping into a deep blue funk, she forced me to go out with her or others, go to a party or someone’s house, go eat with people. It was like ripping my flesh to go, but in doing so, I broke old habits that had for years spiraled me downward.
Thomas had no one to rally his spirits. Thus, when the disciples assembled, he did not have the heart to go, and stayed away. He paid dearly for his absence. It was a disastrous mistake, making him miss the one thing that could have made him feel better. When Jesus came in love and forgiveness, Thomas missed it.
We always miss plenty when we separate ourselves from the fellowship of believers. Depression makes us want to be alone. Satan uses this instinct to our disadvantage, reinforcing the isolationism, and trying to keep us out of church. Don’t let him fool you. When we least want to be in church, we need it most.
Burdens are lightened through contact with believers. Sermons and songs help cheer us. The very sermon or song we miss may contain the precious word from God our soul needs. Lessons and music do not edify pews. Timber and cushions are not blessed by hugs, fellowship, sermons, or songs. Every empty seat has its own discouraging eloquence, “Someone who needed to be here is absent.” Don’t decide every Sunday and Wednesday whether or not you will attend church. Settle it once for all and stick with the habit as long as you live. Choose never to be a missing Thomas. This will keep you “near the spout where the glory comes out,” and yield good mental and spiritual therapy as long as you live.