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.” -John 20:25Over the next week I am going to be exploring the life of Thomas with the students at a local High School and figured I might as well share it here. However, rather than doing this as some dry Bible study, I want to treat portions of the journey as a mini-series on TV. So if you are reading this, I invite you to put away your analytical self and instead embrace the child within. Children love stories, and that's what I want to do as I explore the life of Thomas.
The first episode kicks off. A group of ancient, middle-eastern men are running as fast as they can. In the distance they spot the man they are looking for. "Thomas!" They each yell. But he doesn't hear them. He's walking through a field only a short distance away now, but is lost in thought. In his mind, scenes from recent years play themselves over and over as if a person had hit "repeat" on the DVD player. There's a mix of emotions in Thomas' heart, a knot in his stomach, and a confusing web of thoughts flowing through his mind. For the past three years, Thomas had given up everything to follow a Jewish carpenter named Jesus. Thomas thought that Jesus was the hero that he had always dreamed of. The superman who would deliver him and his people from the evil Roman empire. So he believed Jesus' stories about coming to earth from another world. About being the son of God himself. He got excited when he saw Jesus read men's thoughts and control the weather like X-men characters Xavier and Storm. But he saw Jesus do even crazier things like multiply food, heal diseases, and raise the dead. So Thomas stuck close to Jesus with the hope that at the right time Jesus would use his power to overthrow the Roman army and take the throne of men. But two days before, just when Thomas expected Jesus to take control he was captured by his enemies, arrested, tortured, and finally murdered on a cross. The entire time, Jesus did nothing to defend himself and now he was dead. Thomas' hopes were shattered and in a sad attempt to gather his thoughts together he went into isolation where he could think and pray. But the isolation only made things worse. "Thomas!" The group of men continued to yell. At last, Thomas turned to see a group of his friends running toward him.
"We have seen Jesus!" they said.
Thomas paused, No way he thought. Then replied, "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." And with that he turned to walk away. The screen goes black and we read: "3 Years earlier". And so our story begins.
Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give (Matt. 10:1-7).Thomas is forever remembered as doubting Thomas because he refused to believe Jesus was alive without proof. But there is more to Thomas' story I think we have missed. The first time we run into Thomas in the Bible is Matthew 10. Thomas, we learn, is one of the 12 disciples of Jesus and is sent out by Jesus to preach, to heal the sick, to raise the dead and to go toe to toe with demons and win. In my time as a pastor I have had people approach me with all kinds of issues including the demonic. A couple of years ago I was asked to join some of my church mates to go to the home of a boy who was having demonic issues. The family had come to the point that they didn't know what else to do. And I remember going there and thinking, "boy this is scary". All kinds of things go through your head when you are faced with this type of reality. The presence of evil is something we naturally recoil from as human beings. But here we have Thomas who has Jesus look him in the eye and say, "Go toe to toe with them. Drive them out." How cool is that?
Thomas certainly seemed to think it was cool. When they returned from their mission this gang of Jesus followers came up to Jesus and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your name" (Luke 10:17). But notice Jesus' response: "do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven" (20).
So what do we know about Thomas? We know this: He was a Jesus-follower, a preacher, a healer, he had power to raise the dead, he could go toe to toe with demons and win, and his name was written in heaven. But the most interesting part about Thomas is found in Matthew 10:2-4. Here is what the text says,
Jesus called His twelve disciples to Him. He endowed them with the authority to heal sickness and disease and to drive demons out of those who were possessed. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.Now lets look at that text again and zoom in a little more:
Jesus called His twelve disciples to Him. He endowed them with the authority to heal sickness and disease and to drive demons out of those who were possessed. These are the names of the twelve apostles: Simon [the swearing fisherman who would soon hack a guys ear off] and his brother Andrew; James and his brother John [the angry thugs who wanted to kill all the Samaritans]; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas [the doubter] and Matthew [the con-artist]; James, son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the [terrorist] and Judas Iscariot [the traitor].Not a very impressive list is it? The text doesnt say that Jesus chose Peter the body builder, James and John the male runway models, Thomas the brave ninja, Simon the hip-hop artist, and Judas the Freo Dockers captain. No! It was Thomas the doubter along with a traitor, a terrorist, two thugs, and a loose cannon who eventually denied ever knowing Jesus. Why were they casting out demons? Better yet, why were their names written in heaven? Even better, Why did Jesus choose these guys? They were a gang of nobodies. And Thomas was one of them.
As you read this I want you to pause and ask, who are you? What is your story? Your identity? Would you fit in with the rag tag 12 misfits that Jesus called to follow him? Are you a rebel? Never do your homework. Fall asleep in class. Do you come from a broken home? Are you poor? Do you have anger issues? Are you a skeptic, a hypocrite, or a troublemaker? Have you ever betrayed, abandoned, or denied a friend? Are you prone to violence, depression, anxiety, fear? Are you arrogant, conceited, or a phony? Are you a misfit? An outcast? Or perhaps popular for all the wrong reasons? Do you find it hard to believe that God could love you?
Why did Jesus call Thomas? The clearest answer to that question is given to us in the book of Mark which says:
Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him (Mark 3:13)."...and called to him those he wanted".
Those he wanted.
He wanted them. He wanted Thomas.
Doubter? Yes. Skeptic? Yes. Ugly? Maybe. Poor? Most likely. Uneducated? Most definitely. But Jesus wanted him. And Jesus wants you. God called Thomas, a nobody, and I am here today to tell you that he is calling you. He wants to give your life purpose, direction, and drive. He wants to fill you with his power to change this world. And most of all, he wants you to know that he has written your name in heaven. Despite what you may think you remain the object of Gods supreme desire.
Throughout this series on the life of Thomas I am going to explore one basic question. How can I experience God? And the first step to discovering the answer to that question is to realize that you are wanted by God. To see that God is overwhelmingly interested in who you right here right now. So at this moment I invite you to put aside the preconceptions and lower the walls. Allow yourself to be swept away by your father. Allow yourself to enter into community with him. He has already called you. Answer him.