Then he said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.”
The disciples said, “Lord, if he is sleeping, he will soon get better!”
They thought Jesus meant Lazarus was simply sleeping, but Jesus meant Lazarus had died.
So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.”
Thomas, nicknamed the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go, too—and die with Jesus.” (John 11:11-16)
Relate: Every time I read John 11:16, my mind takes me back to a camp I went to for years growing up. I don’t remember how long ago it was when I was sitting in a particular Bible lesson, the years all blend together. If I am remembering correctly, the camp had an evening Bible time that was led by a guest speaker and there was also a morning devotional time that one of the camp counselors would lead. During one of the morning times we were talking about Lazarus and when the camp counselor got to this point, in a very whiny voice, she said something like, “And here comes doubting Thomas. Come on guys. If we’re all gonna die, we might as well do it in Jerusalem.” I don’t even remember that camp counselor’s name. All I remember today is how I felt she got it completely wrong. One random judgment by her and my judgment of her is forever changed.
You see, I strongly disagreed with her assessment of his statement. I did back then and I still do today. I think Thomas gets a bad rep. He didn’t happen to be there the first time the rest of the disciples saw Jesus and so he doubted them. Naturally. I wonder if Philip was away and Thomas had been there if we wouldn’t all be saying “Doubting Philip”. Or perhaps Andrew. What about James? Because Thomas had a moment of skepticism, for the last two thousand years he has been known as Doubting Thomas.
React: The way I see it, Thomas statement here was a bold act of faith or, at the very least, one of loyalty. It is an honorable declaration. When Jesus first said He was returning to Judea, all of the disciples were reminding him that they wanted to kill Him there. They all knew the situation. When Jesus says Lazarus is asleep, they all try to dissuade Him by saying, “Oh good. Then he will be getting better soon.” It is only Thomas who says to the others, “If He must go, let us all go with Him… even to death.”
Like all of us, Thomas had his highs and his lows. He had moments of great faith and he had moments of doubt. Unfortunately, it was one of those low moments that defined his character to the rest of us for the rest of time. We never know what’s going to stick. We never know what moments will define us. Nicknames are born at the most random times. Life changing moments are usually not recognized until after the fact. Am I going around judging someone based on one brief moment of weakness in their past? Are my expectations of someone lowered or tainted based on one brief poor encounter in their past? Is it hard for me to realize that other people, like myself, are still a work in progress? God, help me to have the grace to forgive, to overlook, and to truly see and value someone else the way You see and value them.
Father, give me Your eyes. When I see others, help me to view them as You do. Help me to not make snap judgments based on one moment of weakness or offense. Help me to forgive. Help me to forget. Help me to look deeper and see the way Your grace is still shaping their life. Help me to understand how I could have just as easily made the same mistake had our positions been reversed. Help me to speak life and encouragement into others lives and not tag them with shame.