To me, St Thomas is a larger than life figure, who was not the sort to let his master (Jesus) get away with something that he, Thomas, did not understand.
No doubt (forgive the pun) we, as Christians, should be thankful for Thomas’s enquiring mind and questions, as from this we learn so much about faith and ministry in the answers given by Jesus. Here we see the practical, down-to-earth ‘seeing is believeing’ disciple of Jesus, whose doubts of the resurrection dissolved in the presence of his Risen Master.
St Thomas is known by several names, i.e. ‘Doubting Thomas’, also ‘The Twin’ from the Syrian Aramaic word and from the Greek ‘Didymos.’ His true name was Judas Thomas, but Judas was not used in Gospel texts, so that he would neither bear the name of the Betrayer, nor be mistakenly identified with him. Thomas’s history is so interesting. He visited many countries, and also became known as ‘The Apostle of India’ which led me to enquire further about this fascinating Disciple.
Later traditions claim that Thomas found his way to Persia and Southern india, and it is said that he even had doubts about his mission, but in his own way he taught the message of Christ to those peoples.
Whilst in India, Thomas received news that the Virgin Mary was near to death at Ephesus. He returned to Ephesus but missed her passing, and on approaching her tomb beheld the Virgin’s body ascending. Thomas cried out for Her not to leave him desolate, when she took from her waist the belt she habitually wore and gave it to him with words of blessing. Thomas returned to India with this most precious relic and it became the most valued treasure of his disciples, whose descendants came to be known as the St Thomas Christians.
It is interesting to note that when Thomas returned he was also in the company of a community of Essenes and they settled in Kerala, Southern India, in AD52.
The St Thomas Christians, represent one of the oldest Christian traditions in the world. They are still vibrant in their communities, and in the 21st Century there are about
4 million St Thomas Christians in India. Even today there are ceremonies held with Christians, Hindus and Muslims all celebrating the life of the Virgin Mary, a testament to those adherents of all religions uniting in love and harmony.
St Thomas was martyred in or near Mylapore in approximately AD72, and it is ironic that his murderer King Mazdai eventually became converted to St Thomas Christianity.