What’s in a nickname?

Nicknames aren’t always the most pleasant things. I had several at school, mainly due to my surname. Some were ok, others were annoying. Some seemed to fit, yet others were just unfair.

One of the disciples of Jesus in the Bible has been given the unfortunate nickname, ‘Doubting Thomas’. Whenever I hear that name, I always feel a little bit sorry for him. In his place I think I would have been exactly the same.

It all goes back to the Sunday after Jesus had died on the cross. The Bible tells us that Jesus had risen from the dead and appeared to his disciples, all except for Thomas who wasn’t there. By the time Thomas joined them, Jesus had left.

You can imagine the excitement of those who’d been there. Jesus, who they knew had died, was alive again. The one they had pinned all their hopes on hadn’t remained in the grave. He had died but was now alive. I can imagine them telling Thomas, probably all speaking at once.

How did Thomas respond? He responded in the way that I think I would have done; he didn’t believe them. The news seemed too unreal to him and he wasn’t going to be taken in, no matter how enthusiastically he was told. Thomas told them clearly that unless he saw Jesus with his own eyes and touched Jesus’ wounds with his own hands, he would not believe that Jesus was alive.

The next week things changed. The Bible tells us that the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. Jesus appeared and when he did, he spoke to Thomas. He offered Thomas his hands and showed him his wounds. He gently challenged him to leave his doubts and believe.

What follows are not the actions of a ‘Doubting Thomas’, but those of a believing man. The Bible tells us that Thomas got on his knees and said, ‘My Lord and my God!’ These words go far beyond an acceptance that Jesus was alive; they are words of worship and of commitment to follow Jesus.

Easter is at the end of this month. This is a time when Christians celebrate the death and the resurrection of Jesus. For me it is a time when I am challenged to think about what I believe. Do I believe that Jesus came? Do I believe that Jesus died? Do I believe that Jesus is alive? Yet, that’s not all. If I do believe these things, is it making a difference in my life?

Over this Easter I want to encourage you to think of those questions too. Maybe, like Thomas, you have heard the claim that Jesus rose from the dead. Do you doubt it, as Thomas did, or do you believe it? If you believe it, have you thought about what that means for you? Is it a truth that’s making a difference in your life?