“Let us also go, that we may die with him”, Thomas urged the other disciples (John 11.16). What a contrast between this word from Thomas and the almost parallel assertion of Peter that he would lay down his life for Jesus (John 13.37)! Peter’s claim sounds brash and self-assertive. Peter was evidently over self-confident and thinking only of his own committed loving discipleship as a dedicated follower of Jesus. He needed to learn more humility and trust in the Lord’s strength to keep him rather than his own determination to follow Jesus whatever the cost. Jesus therefore gave him something of a warning and foretold that Peter would deny him three times before the cock crowed the next morning. Peter’s failure must surely have taught him some deep lessons about himself. Did this experience play a part in him becoming the strong rock/’Peter’, a trustworthy leader for the early church?
Thomas – John 11.16
In his willingness to die for Jesus, Thomas was in no way self-confident. The Greek of this verse implies that he was thinking more of Jesus than of himself. He realised that Jesus was heading for terrible danger in moving from the relatively safe Galilee to Judea (11.7/8). Even today Jewish believers in Jesus often still feel the contrast between the tangible peace of Galilee and the spiritual opposition often found in Judea, particularly in the city of Jerusalem itself. Thomas was deeply aware that Jesus might well be killed there. He did not want Jesus to be all alone in going to Judea. He loved Jesus and so urged his fellow disciples to join him in going to Judea with Jesus so that they could also join Jesus in death. It would seem that he had Jesus’ welfare more in mind than his own. Unlike with Peter, we notice that Jesus in no way rebuked Thomas for this suggestion, but quietly proceeded to go with his disciples to Bethany to reveal himself as the Resurrection and the Life through the raising of Lazarus . Actually we know that Thomas’ assertion of being willing to die with Jesus ended also in failure. We read later that all Jesus’ disciples forsook him and fled when the cross loomed before them (Matthew 26.56), so Jesus finally did face the agony of the cross in loneliness without the comfort of having his disciples with him.
Thomas has become known as ‘Doubting Thomas’ because of his rather rationalistic refusal to believe in Jesus’ resurrection without visible and tangible proof. But in 11.16 we can only admire his unselfish proposal to the other disciples that they should all join Jesus in going to Judea with the inevitable danger of suffering and death. Rather than concentrating on his own love for and dedication to Jesus, he was lovingly concerned for Jesus’ welfare. What a model for us that we too might be less like Peter in his brashly emotional self-confidence and more like Thomas who was thinking of Jesus’ best interests. We too should think less of ourselves and more of what brings honour to Jesus and gives him pleasure.