We know very little about Thomas but what we do know gives us a real insight into this character.
Jesus chose a Double Introvert to be one of his disciples and entrusted the ongoing work of the church to him. This should encourage all Double Introverts who can so easily doubt their value.
Loyalty and courage
Jesus wanted to go to Bethany because his friend, Lazarus, had died (John 11:1-16). The disciples were concerned because Jews in Judea had recently tried to stone Jesus. Thomas replied, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’ That is loyalty. He was a very ‘black and white’ person. He was prepared to die with Jesus – however illogical that might appear to be if he believed he was following the Messiah! There was no doubting his courage and determination.
When Jesus was telling his disciples that he was going away to prepare a place for them and that they knew the way to the place where he was going, Thomas replied by saying, in effect, that they didn’t have a clue as to what he was talking about. He said that we don’t even know where you are going so how can we know the way. Jesus tells them that they are already on the way because they are following him, and he is that way.
The disciples’ hearts were troubled (John 14:1). They still held on to the notion of an earthly kingdom, but Jesus has been talking about being betrayed and Peter’s denial. There are tough times ahead. Now he is talking about leaving them and going to his Father’s house. It may be that Thomas understood that Jesus would die and go to Heaven, but he couldn’t see how there could be a way to this earthly kingdom that would go via heaven. He was the one who voiced what they were all thinking.
Even when Thomas doubted that Jesus had risen from the dead, at least he was honest with his doubts. He didn’t pretend (John 20:24-29). When a Double Introvert lives in their Melancholic, you will get honesty.
Thomas felt everything – and he acted and spoke out of what he felt. When Thomas shared his confusion about what Jesus was saying, his heart and mind were troubled (John 14:1). He was downhearted and he was saying to Jesus, ‘you think we all know but it all seems dark. We don’t really know what is going on.’ Sadness had dimmed their eyes. Jesus hadn’t attributed too much to them; Thomas credited himself and the rest with too little.
How did Jesus respond to his negativity? Not with a rebuke, but a gentle explanation of the fact that they know more than they realize because they are already on the way – because he is the way – and they are following him. Things are not usually as bad as a Melancholic feels them to be. Jesus lifts them up by pointing them to the truth. He is not only the way, but the truth and the life as well.
Why was Thomas not present in the Upper Room when Jesus appeared to his disciples on that first resurrection day (John 20:24-29)? He should have been there. He was ‘one of the Twelve’ (John 20:24) and there were other disciples present other than the Twelve (Luke 24:33). He had responsibilities. Had his emotions got the better of him? Was he so despondent at Jesus’ death that he couldn’t see the point in getting back with the disciples? After all, the whole reason for their being together as a group was as followers of Jesus. Perhaps his qualities of loyalty and devotion now seemed to mock him. He was wrong to follow Jesus – how could he have been taken in? Perhaps his disillusionment was with himself – so he stayed away.
The result was another week of unnecessary pain. It is hard to believe when you are disillusioned. Better to stay away. But the disciples told Thomas that they had seen the Lord. In the fog of his emotion, that was too good to be true, and he said so. After all, he had believed once and look where it got him! Why allow yourself the possibility of being hurt again? By nature, Thomas wouldn’t allow himself to hope for anything good – because he didn’t deserve it; look forward to anything good in case it doesn’t happen; enjoy anything good that might happen because it will only be taken away. The cross fulfilled Thomas’ worst fears. Why should he believe now?
How did Jesus teach Thomas?
Jesus was firm but kind in the way he admonished Thomas for his unbelief. It must have been a shock for Thomas to see Jesus – and then to have him virtually recite back to him his own words from a week earlier. The mist of doubt and disillusionment was blown away in an instant.
Then Jesus gave Thomas a lesson in trust. It wasn’t so much that it was wrong to have to see the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus’ miracles during his ministry and his appearances after his resurrection were all to demonstrate once and for all that he was who he said he was. Thomas’ fault was that he didn’t believe the other disciples. It was an issue of trust. A Phlegmatic Melancholic can so go in on himself that trust goes out of the door. He retreats into his own world and his view of others becomes distorted. Sight is important but, in the future, there would be many who would believe because of the word of the apostles and the inner witness of the Spirit. We need each other. We can learn to trust each other. We need fellowship even in our sadness and despair.
For Thomas, faith was restored. Never again would he doubt. He witnessed Peter’s restoration at the lakeside (John 21) and was present with the other disciples in the Upper Room (Acts 1:13). Tradition has it that Thomas spent the rest of his life as an active missionary, being martyred for his faith in India.
Every team needs a Double Introvert. While the outgoing ones can lose their bearings and be so outgoing that they are not sure where they are going the cautious ones will hold to their values and see through the superficiality of the extroverts. We need each other. Thomas was the one who said to the other disciples, ‘Let us also go that we may die with him’ (John 11:16). He did not know what he was going into, but he knew enough about this Jesus to know he was worth following whatever the consequences. When the dust has settled, and we look around to see who still stands with us almost invariably it is a faithful Thomas. He recognised loyalty in another person, and he would be loyal to that person! A Thomas may take his time, he may need answers to many questions but when his trust is gained, he will prove to be a loyal friend. Helpful Bible passages: John 11:7-16; John 14:1-7; John 20:24-29
Return to Bible study page Click here for more information about the temperaments - and here to read about the Double Introvert temperament in more detail.