I have learned to live with it … but it still frustrates me. It’s almost as if I was going along the interstate, driving the same speed as the rest of the cars around me, but I get pulled. I’m the one that gets the ticket. I’m the “speeder,” but I just got caught doing what all the others were.
It was like that right after the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. I had been part of this group of guys that left everything to follow Him. For three years, we had a front-row seat to his teaching, his miracles, and had tons of personal conversations. It was amazing and, like the rest of the 12, I had such high hopes for Jesus and what He was going to do.
Then there was that last Passover, and things took, what I thought was, a dramatic turn. Jesus is arrested; he’s beaten. All sorts of malicious and false things are said of him. In a matter of days Jesus went from being what looked like the hero of Jerusalem to hanging on a cross. I couldn’t even bear to watch it.
When I heard Jesus had died, I felt like all my hopes died with Him. What could be never would be. The Friday he was crucified was bad, but Saturday felt, in some ways, worse. I woke up that morning and my first thought, “Was this all just a dream?” Unfortunately, it wasn’t. I was living the nightmare. Three years of my life, wasted. My hopes for my family, my people, even my relationship with God, dashed.
By Sunday night, I was hearing some strange reports from some of the other guys. There was talk about an angel, the stone at Jesus’ tomb rolled back, and Jesus’ body gone. I was even hearing reports from some travelers about how they encountered Jesus actually alive earlier in the day.
So, I said it. I said what I just know least many of the others were thinking. When they were talking about Jesus actually being alive, being resurrected, I said that I wouldn’t believe until I could actually see and even touch where the nails went into his body. That’s when the name started —Thomas, Doubting Thomas! What’s so wrong about wanting to make sure of something before you commit your integrity, your name, even your life to it?
It’s kind of a long story, but a week later, I was with the 12. I have no other way to describe it except to say that all of a sudden, Jesus was in the room, physically in the room, with us. Somehow, He knew about what I had said and he invited me to see for myself – to see and touch his hands where the nails went in; to touch where they pierced His side. I did, and honestly, it changed everything. I was Jesus’ follower before, but nothing like now. There’s no way I can or would walk away now. He is fully who and what he said.
Honestly, I don’t love the whole “Doubting Thomas” name. As I mentioned, I said what I’m sure others were thinking. In the end, though, it’s not that big of a deal. Just remember a couple of things. A personal experience with Jesus can and will change everything. And that personal experience, there’s no substitute for it.
You don’t have to take the word of others — you can have your own encounter with Jesus. It changed me; it’ll change you.
Michael Owens is the pastor of Gate City Baptist Church.