Thomas was chosen by Jesus to be one of His disciples. He was also known as Didymus (the Twin). Apparently his twin was not of the same spiritual fabric and wasn’t chosen to be a disciple.
Thomas is best known as doubting Thomas because of the events just after the resurrection. For some reason, Thomas wasn’t with the disciples when Jesus first appeared to them (John 20:19-24). The disciples excitedly tell Thomas about Jesus’ appearance, but in reply, he utters the words that made him forever famous: “Unless I shall see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand in His side, I will not believe” (John 20:36). At that moment he’s christened Doubting Thomas. But is he really?
The eleven were hiding in the upper room on Resurrection morning. The women came and told each and every one of them that Jesus was alive, but none of them believe (Mark 16:11). John and Peter have to see the empty tomb for themselves. John sees and believes, but Peter marvels and wonders (Luke 24:12), not necessarily believing. Not until Jesus appears and eats something do the other nine believe. (Judas Iscariot is dead, John believed at the empty tomb, Thomas is absent.)
The disciples tell Thomas what they have experienced, but it’s not good enough for him. I don’t think it was simply doubt.
Thomas was apparently a deep thinker. Look at John 14:5. Jesus is in the midst of His last conversation with His disciples. To comfort them, He tells them He’s going to prepare a place for them. Their minds haven’t been opened by the Holy Spirit yet, so Thomas asks the question no one else dares to. “Lord, we do not know where you are going, how do we know the way?” He wasn’t just listening, he was absorbing and trying desperately to understand.
Look at John 11:16. Lazarus has died. Jesus is going there – right into the heart of enemy territory. Jesus has repeatedly told His disciples that He would be betrayed, be crucified and rise again on the third day. Thomas is the only one who gets step two (and perhaps step one in not wanting to abandon Him). “Let us go also, that we may die with Him.”
If Thomas got that part, perhaps he also understood Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24:4-5. “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying. ‘I am the Christ’, and will mislead many”. He must have known Proverbs 14:15-16 as well. “The naïve believes everything, but the prudent man considers his steps. A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil.”
I admit there was doubt in Thomas, but perhaps not as much as we blame him for. Perhaps Thomas was just making sure that no one, not even his fellow disciples, was going to mislead him.