John 20:28-29 (ESV)
28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
“I got to see it to believe it” is a phrase that is bandied around a lot in our culture. As a people, we are so steeped in the idea that for something to be true we must be able to rationally explain it or empirically prove it. We are constantly observing, experimenting, analyzing, and rationalizing every experience or hypothesis to make sure things are true and valid based on human understanding or human methods of proof. Looking at today’s scripture we can easily see that reliance on our own experience and understanding is not just isolated to our time. We find in the verses in John 20 prior to the verse highlighted above that the disciple Thomas is slow to believe the other disciples’ claim to have seen Jesus risen from the dead. The claim is just too much for Thomas to handle to the point where he indignantly proclaims, ““Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” (John 20:25, ESV, emphasis mine)
Thomas uses pretty strong language in his affirmation of disbelief. He refuses to believe without seeing. I know for myself there was a time when I echoed Thomas’ sentiments. I know there are still times where I feel like if I can just present to non-believers concrete evidence of the validity of the Bible and proof of the resurrection that they all would believe. In the exchange recorded in John 20 Jesus does indeed show up to give Thomas the proof he needs, but in doing so Jesus also challenges and encourages future generations of disciples saying, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” The implication here is that not everyone who comes to believe in Jesus will need to see Him to get to that point.
So what is the application?
Today’s verse points out something significant about our relationship to God. The relationship between God and man is God initiated and God sustained. We have to remember that the first disciples did not seek Jesus out. They were called to discipleship by Jesus and in this exchange in John 20 Thomas does not come to his own understanding about his relationship with Jesus. Jesus shows himself to Thomas to sustain the relationship between them. It is the same for us today. Jesus calls us. Think about it when you first heard the claims about Jesus’ life did you say to yourself “well that makes sense, God becoming man, dying on cross, rising from the dead, that seems logical” or did you wrestle with the fantastic claim of book written so long ago. Do you still wrestle with it? I have described my relationship with Jesus before as and unexplainable draw to something I don’t understand. I have had moments in my life since I first felt drawn to Jesus where I have tried hard to do anything but yield to that drawing. I’ve spent years at a time trying to fill my life with things that would quiet the voice in me that says “follow me”. It is hard to be a Christian, not because Jesus lays a bunch of rules on you but because He asks those who follow Him to die to the lives they know and live a new life in the Spirit. He asks us to no longer worship the god of self and worship the God of universe. Think about Thomas. All he wanted was the self-satisfaction of knowing. He wanted assurance on a personal level. It was about him. He was completely missing that idea that because Jesus had risen that the whole creation would be changed. He missed that because of the resurrection humanity itself would have a chance to be reconciled to God. Jesus was faithful to sustain Thomas because He called him to follow and I think that is the take-away. Jesus calls us and Jesus sustains us in that calling.
What about you? Is Jesus an inescapable reality?
How has the Lord sustained you?
Heavenly Father, thank you for your kindness and love and your calling. Thank you that you call us to relationship and that you sustain us in that relationship. Thank you that you never leave or forsake us and that thank you that you will see to completion the good work you have begun in us. Help us in our imperfect understanding of you. I pray for greater portions of faith and I pray for the power of the Holy Spirit that I may testify boldly of your love. Lord Jesus thank your for your life and sacrifice. We offer praise to you. In your name, Amen.