Thomas’ experience of the risen Jesus eventually led him to his martyrdom, believed to have taken place in Tamil Nadu.
Today Christians celebrate the feast of a direct disciple of Jesus — Thomas the apostle — who is believed to have landed on the coast of Kerala in 52 AD, even before a clear word on the life of Jesus was written, notwithstanding several references made to Him in the Old Testament.
Despite the hazardous journey that Thomas undertook to come to a land with a completely different culture to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, the poor Thomas is known more for being a “doubter” than the herald of precious good tidings. The gospels report that he was the first to express doubt in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, stating, “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.”
Though one is not sure why he was absent when Jesus appeared the first time to his companions, one surmises that being deeply shocked with the whole tragic death of his trusted Lord and Master Jesus, he was somewhere alone grieving the unspeakable misfortune. No wonder then, as it often happens with us too — that precisely in such grief-stricken moments and suffering — doubts cropped up in his mind. Bogged down in sorrow, he could not even recall Jesus’ prophesy about himself, “…the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests… and that he must be killed and after three days rise again”.
I can vouch from my own personal experience that my doubts about God’s love and care are the strongest when a tearing personal tragedy, through injustice or betrayal, hits me. It is in those moments, a bit like Thomas, despite having first hand experience of Jesus, that I am most vulnerable. Like him, I tend to forget God’s enduring promises of love. How easy it is to use sweet words of praise, adoration and thanks to God, when the going is good, faced with little opposition from people.
Unlike many of us, who often doubt if our prayers fall on deaf ears, Thomas was lucky to have a direct encounter with Jesus then. This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t reveal to us through indirect ways. Though I hold no authority to testify when and how exactly God reveals himself to us, one common element about Christian spirituality is that God’s loving assurance comes to us mostly through sharing, at least in small portion, Jesus’ own pain, shame and humiliation unjustly meted to him, particularly in the last hours of his earthly life. Thomas’ experience of the risen Jesus eventually led him to his martyrdom, believed to have taken place in Tamil Nadu.