Thomas was well-known as a scholar, a gifted teacher, and a talented playwright. He had the respect of the townspeople and was often called upon to help settle disputes or solve pressing problems. Noble families sent their sons to him to prepare them for the University. When learned men came to town, it was expected that Thomas would entertain them with his generous hospitality, and offer his home for use as a lecture or banquet hall. He had hosted philosophers, poets, scientists, and theologians.
It did not hurt Thomas' reputation that he had been educated in the palace alongside the king's own sons. Thomas' father had been the king's butler, and the generous king had provided an education in the palace school to the children of all his servants. What was not well known was that Thomas had been a lazy student and that he had left the palace after his involvement in an incident of dishonesty had been discovered.
Thomas knew he profited from his close ties to the palace and was ashamed of his own hypocrisy. He lived with the fear that some day someone who knew the whole story would reveal the shameful details and his reputation would be ruined.
Today, though, Thomas was occupied with other thoughts. A religious teacher was rumored to be coming to town. His arrival was expected sometime in the coming week. This theologian had been fabulously well-received and he was gaining quite a following. He was known for his inspired teaching and his ability to touch the hearts of his listeners. Thomas hoped that he would be honored to host the man in his home. Perhaps a banquet would be appropriate, with invitations going out to all the learned people in this and nearby towns. Thomas instructed his servant to plan for an event that could be held on short notice.
The next day Thomas was working in his study when a servant rushed in to tell him that the teacher was just outside of town and a crowd had gathered in a field to hear him speak. Thomas threw down his pen, wiped his ink-stained fingers and rushed outside. The teacher had arrived earlier than anyone had expected. Thomas was grateful he had planned ahead for a banquet.
When Thomas arrived, a crowd had already surrounded the teacher and Thomas was forced to stand a long way off from him. The crowd continued to grow and press around him. In spite of his distance, though, Thomas had no trouble hearing the strangely familiar voice of the teacher. His words filled him with a glorious vision of the holiness of God, His love for His children, and His willingness to forgive. Thomas was filled with wonder at thoughts of this awesome God, yet, at the same time, he was filled with shame for his own life of hypocrisy.
The man finished teaching and the crowd began to break up. Thomas pressed forward to issue his invitation. He hoped that the teacher had heard of Thomas' fine reputaion in the town. He rehearsed his invitation in his mind. Finally he burst through the crowd and found himself face-to-face with the teacher.
"Sir, my name is Thomas," he blurted out. Then he stopped. He knew this man. This teacher, this man who had been teaching the crowd was a son of the king! Why had he not identified himself as the crown prince? Why was he here wearing the clothes of an ordinary man? Thomas was about the same age as the prince. They had grown up together in the palace, but of course Thomas was a mere servant--and not a very good one. This prince knew all about Thomas' transgressions and Thomas was filled with horror.
This was it. This was the moment Thomas had always feared. Now his shame would be revealed.
Thomas was stunned. He stared into the eyes of the prince. No words came. Suddenly he burst forth, "Forgive me, please!" Nearby townspeople stared in curiosity.
"May I sojourn at your home for a few days, Thomas?" The teacher took him by the arm and walked with him toward the town, away from staring eyes.
Thomas whispered, not wanting to reveal the prince's secret identity. "But I know who you are! Don't you recognize me?"
"Then why are you willing to speak with me?"
"I forgive you, Thomas. That is behind us. Now we have work to do."
"Work to do?"
"We will teach this town about the wonders of God's grace."
"I have been a teacher all my adult life, but I do not think that…"
"I will do the teaching for now," the prince smiled, "but I will need a host in this town."
"Oh, yes, of course. Well I had made some plans. You see I had hoped that you--well that was before I knew you were you--I had hoped you would be a guest in my home and we could invite the learned townspeople to a banquet."
"Invite all the townspeople."
"All of them?"
"Yes. I want anyone who wants to come to be able to come."
"But, where shall I seat them all, and the food--"
"There will be enough."
"Yes, Sir, if you say so, but what about—"
The prince clapped his hand about Thomas' shoulder."I am most pleased to see you today, my brother Thomas. We have been apart too long."
Tears filled Thomas’ eyes. He calls me his brother.