I would suggest that when you get to heaven you don't call him “Doubting” Thomas. After all, how would you like to be known by your sin?! Yet even after all these years, poor Thomas is still known by this name. He can’t seem to shake his well-known moniker.
From the pages of Scripture we learn that Thomas was more than just a doubter. Thomas plays an important role in the Gospel of John.
The first time we meet Thomas is when Jesus was about to raise Lazarus. Thomas recognized that Jesus was putting himself in grave danger by traveling to Jerusalem. Even so Thomas said, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him,” (John 11:16). Thomas gave courage to the disciples who weren't sure that they were ready to suffer and to die.
When Peter heard that Jesus would be killed in Jerusalem he once said, “Far be it from you Lord, this shall not happen to you!” (Matthew 16:22), but Thomas understood the necessity of Jesus’ death. Thomas knew the sentiment of that beloved hymn well. “Let us gladly die with Jesus.” (LSB # 685) Jerusalem did not mean death for Thomas, but later in life Thomas would die as a martyr. While many of the other apostles faded off into the annals of history, we have a good idea that Thomas went to India.
While the Apostle Paul is often seen as the greatest preacher and the greatest missionary of the Christian faith, others like Thomas also followed the Lord’s command to take the gospel to all nations. By going to India, Thomas took the good news even farther than St. Paul! Trade routes at that time were open to India, and there is a long history of Christians there, some even tracing their founding back to St. Thomas himself. When you see your Indian neighbors, or eat some good Indian cuisine, you should be reminded of St. Thomas’ love for the people of India, and his work among them that they might know Christ.
In spite of his later greatness, the story of Thomas’ doubt has stuck. It’s not really that we wish to insult him. Thomas expresses the doubt that is in all of us. In Thomas we see a picture of ourselves, those who do not always believe, but are still loved by the Lord. Isaiah 42:3 says, “A bruised reed I will not break, nor a smoldering flame will I snuff out.” (Isaiah 42:3) The Lord has mercy and compassion on us amidst the weakness of our faith.
The claim is made that people in Thomas’ day were gullible about matters of faith and science, that they were simpletons, or would believe anything. In this story we see that Thomas wasn’t so naive. “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25)
Thomas could later say to the people that he preached to, “I believed my Savior to be dead, but then I saw Him.” “I realized who this man had always been.” We have our skepticism too. Strangely enough, the Lord did not choose perfect saints, but doubting sinners, those who when confronted with the message of the resurrection did not always believe.
The greatest confession of faith in the pages of Scripture doesn't come from the mouth of St. Peter or the Apostle Paul. The greatest confession comes from Thomas’ lips. When Thomas finally saw Jesus and touched His hands and side he said, “My Lord and My God.” (John 20:28) Thomas’ confession brings it home. Jesus is more than just a good friend or a special guy. The Jesus who has triumphed over death and the grave is my God and Lord. He has brought me life, forgiveness, and salvation.
Thomas is often shown with a spear (see picture above). It is not because he was known to carry a spear, but because it was the instrument he is thought to have been killed with. As Thomas was preaching the gospel of Jesus’ resurrection in India, the very one who once doubted and would not believe it was killed because he would not deny it.
God grant us such a measure of faith as “Doubting” Thomas had.