Saint Thomas Characteristic
Characteristics of Apostle Thomas according to the New Testament is certain that Thomas was a Jew and probably a Galilean (Acts 1:11), but we know absolutely nothing about his family, place of residence, or occupation.
What do we know about Thomas? He was present at the raising of Lazarus, where he showed his loyalty to Christ (John 11:16). During Jesus’ last Passover, he asked the way to God the Father (John 14:5).
According to the characteristics of the 12 Apostles, Apostle Thomas was absent when Jesus first appeared to the disciples after the resurrection (John 20:24), and when he was told of it, he was skeptical (John 20:25).
Later, Christ appeared in his presence at least twice. Apostle Thomas was believed to be a doubter yet possessed certain characteristics that are worthy of emulation.
Three Admirable Traits of Apostle Thomas
But, in the way of spiritual example, there is much more to Thomas. In John’s account, he exhibited three positive traits which should be an integral part of every Christian’s character.
First, when Thomas saw what he ought to do, nothing kept him back. When Lazarus became ill, Jesus expressed his intention of returning to Judea. Thomas urged the disciples to accompany Him even though they might die doing so:
“Let us also go, that we may die with Him” (John 11:16).
Thomas backed his statement with action. In contrast, Simon Peter’s boast lacked commitment when he said,
“Lord, I am ready to go with you, both to prison and death” (Luke 22:33).
Second, when Thomas saw what he ought to do, he urgently wanted to know how to do it. At his last Passover service with Jesus Christ, not afraid to show his ignorance, he asked,
“Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” (John 14:5).
Thomas’ question reveals him to be a seeker of truth and understanding. His naturally cautious temperament did not close his mind to further knowledge.
Third, when Thomas saw what he had to believe, he urgently wanted to prove it, and when he did, he had no doubts. Thomas was not present when the other disciples saw Christ appear as a mystery (John 20:24; John 20:25; John 20:26; John 20:27; John 20:28; John 20:29).
Some commentators suggest he may have retired to some quiet spot to mourn Christ’s death. Even after hearing the accounts of Christ’s appearances to the others and Mary Magdalene, he refused to believe that it had happened. He replied,
“Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (verse 25).
Scripture is silent about the reason for his doubt. Maybe he thought his friends were only trying to cheer him up. Maybe he remembered them being wrong before on the Sea of Galilee when they had mistaken Christ for a spirit (Matthew 14:26).
All he wanted was the same evidence they had received. The other disciples had not believed until they had seen the resurrected Christ either (Mark 16:11; Mark 16:12; Mark 16:13; Luke 24:11; Luke 24:12). The news Thomas heard seemed too good to be true. But he did not reject what he heard; he simply wanted to test or prove all things (I Thessalonians 5:21).
When the resurrected Christ appeared to him eight days later, Thomas’ immediate reaction was wonderful: “And Thomas answered and said to Him,
‘My Lord and My God!'” (John 20:28).
Because of Thomas’ positive character traits, God was able to open his mind and work with him. His faith was instant and strong.
Characteristics of Apostle Thomas
We have already dwelt on the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Still, we return to this passage today to focus on the thoughts that were going on in Thomas’ heart as Jesus contemplated returning to Jerusalem. Remember, the Jews had earlier accused Christ of blasphemy (John 10:33) and had prepared to stone Him as prescribed by the law of Moses (Leviticus 24:16).
Despite the obvious ill feeling against Him, that existed in some Jewish circles, Jesus decided to return to the Jerusalem area and visit Mary and Martha at their home in Bethany. Thomas’s declaration of loyalty is significant and quite moving:
“Let us also go, that we may die with him” (NIV).
Jesus has just been teaching His disciples about His imminent departure to heaven, promising that after He has prepared a place for them, He will return to take them to their heavenly home. One of the statements Jesus makes is this:
“You know where I am going and how to get there”.
Thomas strongly disagrees with this statement and says:
“No, we don’t… We haven’t any idea where you are going, so how can we know the say?”
Thomas doesn’t hesitate to challenge anything about which he is uncertain. Although some may regard his approach as rude or impertinent, obviously Jesus does not think so, for He responds to him by making His point clearer still:
“I am the Way and the Truth and the Life….”
When Thomas, who was absent from that first post-resurrection meeting of Christ and His disciples, is told the thrilling news that he is alive is utterly bewildered. The disciples insist that they have seen the very scars that the nails made on Jesus’ body at His crucifixion.
Thomas, however, will not be swept off his feet by the testimony of others, and the independence of judgment we spoke of earlier comes again to the fore:
“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it”.
At least Thomas confesses his doubts—something many Christians are too ‘spiritual’ to do.
Although no clear explanation is given to us in Scripture as to why Thomas missed that first post-resurrection meeting with the Lord, he appears to have been committed to staying in close touch with his fellow disciples—despite his doubts. We should not overlook that characteristic of Thomas.
When next Jesus appears to the disciples, Thomas is present and experiences the wonder of seeing the risen Christ face to face. Jesus responds to Thomas’s plea for physical proof in the most gentle and non-judgmental manner:
“Put your finger here; see my hand. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
As Thomas’s doubts are removed by seeing for himself the physical evidence in Christ’s hands and side, the unbeliever suddenly leaps beyond the other disciples and cries:
“My Lord and my God!”
Up until this time, none of the disciples had actually addressed Jesus as God.
They had called Him “Messiah,” “Son of God,” “Son of the living God”—but not “God.” This was probably one of the greatest and most revealing statements to have come from the group of disciples. And all the more significant because it came from a man who, up until the moment of seeing the physical evidence of Christ’s wounds, was a doubter and an unbeliever.
Summary Characteristics of Apostle Thomas
Multitudes of Christians have been grateful that the Scripture has turned a spotlight upon Thomas and his doubts. Those who have struggled with doubts—or perhaps still do—find great comfort in the fact that Thomas, the doubter among the disciples, came through to radiant conviction and great spiritual achievement.
Tradition claims that Thomas traveled to many countries preaching the Gospel and finally landed in India, where, after founding a church, he was martyred. We cannot be sure about this, but this is what many of the Early Church writers, such as Eusebius, believed.
One on One
Have you ever thought about a Sacred Haven in your home or garden with a statue of Saint Thomas? Create your personal religious environment to pray.
#1. According to tradition, when did apostle Thomas land in Kodungallur?
#2. Thomas's bone was relocated to India from where?
#3. Which other Greek word for Thomas is apostle Thomas known with?
#4. How did Jesus describe those who have not seen but yet have believed in Thomas?
#5. Which village was the Gospel of Thomas discovered?
#6. In what year did an Indian king return the relics of Apostle Thomas to Edessa?
#7. Thomas Appears how many times in the scriptures?
#8. When was the Gospel of Thomas discovered in a Coptic translation?
#9. Thomas in Syriac is equivalent to didymous in Greek and means what?
#10. Who was Jesus going to visit that made apostle Thomas insists they all go with him so they could die?
Resources Characteristics of Apostle Thomas