The Bible doesn’t tell us very much about Thomas, and although we can learn a little bit about what happened to him after the resurrection, we know almost nothing about his beginnings.
Of course, he is always remembered as the one who doubted the risen Christ, and is generally presented in a negative light. This is a really unfortunate twist of Christian history, since Thomas’ life is really an example of faith in action.
We like to think that we are very scientific, wanting physical evidence to support every theory. We also tend to believe that people who lived prior to the 1700's were less logical. But people are people, only the theories change. Thomas was quick to state what he thought, and expected answers to questions that bothered him.
In one recorded conversation, Jesus began telling his disciples that he was going to go somewhere and get things ready so that they could come join him. He then told them that they already knew how to get there. Jesus spoke in what seemed like riddles to his followers a lot of the time, and it often looks as if they had a talent for not understanding what was going on. But Thomas was not about to let this riddle go. I can almost see him stamp his foot in exasperation and say, “But we don’t even know where it is you are going, so how is it that you think we know how to get there? You aren’t making any sense.” Of course, the answer is the famous John 14 passage, where Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Another example of Thomas’ boldness is his response to learning that Lazarus had died. Again, the disciples did not understand. Jesus had told them that Lazarus wasn’t going to die, but that his sickness was meant to glorify God. So, when Jesus later told them that Lazarus had died, Thomas spoke up and said, “Let’s go die with him!” I think that what Thomas had in mind was to do more of whatever would bring more glory to God. Of course, we know that no one else died, and in fact, Lazarus was raised from the dead.
The most infamous anecdote arises from the fact that, for some reason, Thomas was not with the other disciples when the risen Christ first appeared to them. Remember that Thomas liked facts. Maybe he had noticed over the years they had spent together that all of their group had a difficult time understanding what was going on. So he declared that he would have to see the wounds in Jesus’ hands, and touch the wound in his side before he was going to believe this resurrection stuff. No rumors for him!
And, Jesus did appear once more. He invited Thomas to touch the wounds. Thomas fell to his knees and said, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus’ response praises those who are able to believe without that physical proof, but he doesn’t even rebuke Thomas, really.
Other early writings (not the Bible) indicate that Thomas took the gospel to India, and that he was martyred there. He was speared to death on the orders of King Misdeus, because members of the royal family had become Christians.
Thomas is an example for us of a man who wanted to be sure that he had the truth in hand, but once he did, he committed his life to that truth.