Thomas is also called “Didymus” (the twin), yet it is unclear why he had that nickname. He was a Jew living in the Galilee. There are no recorded facts of how he met Jesus. Thomas first appears in the gospel as a symbol of strength, encouraging the others to follow Jesus to Judea to visit His sick friend Lazarus, even though it was extremely dangerous: “Then Thomas said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’ ” (John 11:1-16)
The Death of Lazarus
Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you,and yet you are going back?”
Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”
After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”
His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
At the Last Supper, Jesus told the disciples that he was going to prepare a place for them. Thomas didn’t understand his words: “Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ ” John 14:5-6
Thomas becomes the “Doubting Thomas” after Jesus’ resurrection:
Jesus Appears to Thomas
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
The Great Missionary
Thomas went to India in 52 AD, landing on Kerala, the southwestern region on the Malabar coast. Thomas raised the first cross in India and performed one of his earliest miracles: When he encountered a group of Brahmans throwing water into the air as part of a ritual, he asked why the water fell back to Earth if it was pleasing to their diety. My God, Thomas said, would accept such an offering. He then flung a great spray into the air, and the droplets hung there in the form of glistening white blossoms. Most onlookers converted on the spot; the rest fled. (1)
Thomas built seven apostolic churches in Kerala. He later moved to the east coast of south India. Thomas was stabbed with a spear during prayer on December 21, 72 AD, and was buried in Mylapore, on the east coast of India.
The Saint Thomas Cross
The Saint Thomas Cross is an icon of the Holy Trinity. God the Father is the foundation. The cross stands for Christ. The four ends of the cross are growing to the four ends of the world and flowering. The dove represents the Holy Spirit. And He makes the cross (Christ) lively. The lotus is the representation of ancient Indian civilization. The cross in the lotus flower indicates the serene reception of the faith by the ancient civilization.
STAMP OF INDIA – St Thomas 19th Death Centenary 72-1972, SEIYAKU by Paul Harding
Saint Thomas Basilica in Chennai, India
Tomb of Saint Thomas the Apostle
lies beneath the main altar of The Basilica of Saint Thomas in Chennai, India
The faithful in India still call themselves “Christians of Saint Thomas.” Saint Thomas’ feast day is July 3.
(1) IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE APOSTLES by Andrew Todhunter, National Geographic March 2012