Picture this: your world has just been shattered. And you did not see it coming.
Well, maybe you kind of did. You’re not stupid. Things weren’t going exactly well, but they were going magnificently. Something larger than life was happening, right before your eyes. You’d heard the prophecies all your life, of course, but you’d never dreamed you would live to see them be fulfilled. But you did, and you had a front row seat. He was your best friend. It amazed you, filled you with wonder.
But it didn’t blind you. You knew not everyone was pleased with him, not everyone believed in him. You knew some people, powerful people, wanted him dead. But you couldn’t imagine living without him. That was why, when he insisted on returning to a town where they had tried to kill him before, you told the others, his other friends, that you were going with him anyway. It was dangerous, yes. But you decided then that you would rather die with him than live without him.
But you didn’t die in that town, and neither did he. Instead you saw the strongest miracle yet, and for a moment, things looked better. It seemed that the people really realized who he was.
And then everything fell apart. They took him, and before you could think what to do, they killed him. And to twist the knife, it’s one of your own who betrayed him. And you can’t understand it. Somehow, you feel like he let you down. Like he let this happen to himself. Some part of you believed that he could do anything, and yet they killed him.
A week before you said you would rather die than live without him, but now that he’s dead and you’re still alive, you find yourself less willing. You’re scared, all of you. They killed him. You’re his closest friends, his strongest supporters. The ones who believed in him most. Won’t they come after you, too? So you lock all of your doors, and you sit and you wait. It’s a paralysis, cold in your heart, freezing your bones.
It’s dangerous to stay all in one place, might make you easier to find, but you gather as often as you dare. You need each other. No one else understands the pain and the despair of losing him. Everything you hoped and planned, shattered, ashes in your mouths.
But then one day you come in to find them all already gathered. They crowd around you, words falling over each other, trying to tell you something impossible. He’s alive. They’ve seen him. Talked with him.
But there’s no way. You saw him die. You know it. Dead is dead. Yes, he raised Lazarus, but he was alive then. And bringing someone back from beyond the grave – that’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing. You don’t doubt their sincerity, but they can’t be right. Most likely Jehovah sent them a vision to comfort their hearts. Which doesn’t seem quite fair, because your heart could do with some comforting as well.
They’re insistent, every single one of them, but you’ve never been one to take up an opinion just because it was popular. It’s clear that they really believe their message, but you, well, you doubt it. And you tell them so. You’ll believe it when you see it. When you touch those wounds that tore open your heart. And not a moment before.
And then he just shows up. Really, truly him. The same man you followed and loved for three years, but different somehow. Bigger. More joyful. He lets you touch him but he reproaches you a little for thinking you have to see him before you can believe. Not everyone will have that privilege, and they will be blessed for their faith. And as you look into his eyes and listen to his words, something ripens and blossoms, something that has been growing in you ever since the day he first told you to follow him. You fully and absolutely realize, at last, who he is. There is no room for doubt here.
“My Lord and my God.”
It’s not the end of your story. He has fulfilled his mission, and now yours begins. Your task is to tell his story, to go into all the world and make disciples of all the nations. And you do it. You live many years after that, long enough to see a new kingdom rising. His kingdom. And at the end of your life, the thing happens which you once feared most, but which you are honored to face now: you die because you are his friend.
But you are not forgotten. Year upon year passes until everyone you ever met has died, and still your name is not forgotten. Down through the ages you are remembered, but not for the reason for which you lived. Not even for the reason for which you died. As far as history cares, there is only one moment in your life that really mattered – those few hours in which you were Thomas, the Doubter.