I know, you read the title and you said to yourself “Thunder has lost what little mind he had left.” Some of you are probably saying “am I who or who?” Well believe it or not there is a purpose for the question and yes there really are two people with those names. In the biker world many of us are only known by a nickname and if someone were to mention our given name we would not know to whom it referred. In this case these two names were given because they had meaning for the person they were bestowed upon. Take a chance and read on.
Thomas, one of the first twelve disciples of Jesus (found in Mark 3: 18), was also known as “Didymus.” The name Thomas and the name Didymus both share the meaning of “a twin.” I think there are many men living their daily lives with the mindset that Didymus displayed. I am sure you are thinking but wait, wasn’t he one of Jesus apostles? Yes, yet he displayed some interesting behavior even after all he heard and saw of Jesus ministry. For example, when Jesus learns of Lazarus illness, He waits two more days and then He tells His disciples they are going to return to Judea. The disciples responded with “But Rabbi, a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” (John 11: 8) Even after all they had experienced first hand with Jesus, they still did not understand that they were in the presence of the Son of God. Because of who He was, He did not have to fear anything or anyone. Didymus makes an interesting reply to his fellow disciples when in John 11 verse 16 he says “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” While many theologians have referenced this verse to demonstrate Didymus loyalty to Jesus, we can’t ignore the reason he states they should return to Judea with Jesus. It is not a faith statement that implies they should return to see the tremendous miracle that will be performed when they get there. Oh no, it is a statement of traveling with Jesus so that they can die with Him when the Jews stone Him. While Didymus may have demonstrated loyalty, he also demonstrated pessimism. He sees the return trip as one for death and not for the purpose of bringing one who is dead back to life.
Didymus later demonstrates his lack of understanding when he ask what would seem a rather foolish question when Jesus was explaining to his disciples that He will be leaving soon. In John 14 Jesus says to his disciples “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms (in some translations the word mansions is used); if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” (Verses 1-4) Didymus makes an interesting reply when he says “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (Verse 5) Jesus has to state what would seem to be the obvious when he replied “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (Verse 6-7). Didymus once more demonstrates his lack of understanding when the other disciples tell him they have seen Jesus after He was crucified, pronounced dead and put in the tomb. Didymus was not present when this occurred and so his response was ‘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 it.” (John 20: 25) Hence the other name Didymus is known by and that is “Doubting Thomas.” To his credit he does actually acknowledge that Jesus has indeed risen from the dead when a week later Jesus again appears and provides the proof that Didymus stated would be necessary before he would believe. In John 20: 28 Didymus replies “My Lord and my God!”
The second name in the title can be found in the 4th chapter of Acts. Acts 4: 36-37 states “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet. Wouldn’t it be awesome to be given the nickname “Son of Encouragement?” Barnabas was all about taking the gospel to the Gentiles. While there is not a great deal of scripture that mentions Barnabas, we know that he was a companion to Paul on a number of occasions. In Acts 13 it describes what happened at the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch. Verse 46 states “Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: ‘We had to speak the word of God to you first (speaking to the Jews). Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.” In Acts 14 it tells of Barnabas and Paul going to Iconium and verse 3 says “So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders.” Acts 14: 8-15 states “In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, ‘Stand up on your feet!’ At that, the man jumped up and began to walk. When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, ‘The gods have come down to us in human form!’ Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: ‘Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them.” Here is an opportunity for two men to be treated as gods yet they stay true and faithful to their message and that message is they are simply men bringing the good news of the living God. While we know from scripture that Paul was often the speaker at these events, I think we can infer that Barnabas is there because of his ability to be an encourager. No question that Paul often found himself in very discouraging circumstances on these journeys and so it is no surprise that God would send with him the one they called “Son of Encouragement.” I believe that Barnabas not only provided encouragement to Paul but to the new converts and the churches that were being formed. He is described as one who spoke boldly for the Lord.
Too many of us guys are living out our relationship with God like Didymus. We approach our relationship with great pessimism and doubt. While we are professing with our mouths that Jesus is our Lord and Savior, our behavior speaks much louder. We demonstrate our lack of confidence in the promises God has made. Why else would so many of us continue to fight the daily battles of life (spiritual, emotional and physical) on our own. We are a present day Didymus. While we say we have faith, we are often just like Didymus and our behavior says “Jesus you must prove to me who you are before I will believe.”
My Brothers, wouldn’t you rather be remembered as a Barnabas? Wouldn’t you want to be known as someone who is providing encouragement and boldly representing our Lord even in the most difficult of circumstances? I challenge you to look at you relationships and the role you play in those relationships. Are you a Didymus or a Barnabas? God’s man relies upon his Heavenly Father and conquers doubt and pessimism! God’s man is known as a “Son of Encouragement!! AMEN