Not Seeing, Yet Believing

The presence of the risen Christ is enough for everyone: For devotees of Jesus, for the penitent, for disciples on the road, for thinkers and doubters, and even for the resolute unbeliever. Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.” That’s what the apostle John, known as Jesus’ “beloved disciple” writes in chapter 20: 24 of his gospel. He does not tell us the reason for Thomas’ absence. Yet he appears to suggest that it was a dereliction of duty! Can we perhaps understand Thomas’ absence from the group and his attitude a bit better if we consider the other two facts the evangelist records concerning Thomas? In ch. 11:16 Thomas he had said, with what appeared to be and intense and brave devotion to his master, “ Let us also go, that we may die with him” . This was the occasion when Jesus had announced his intention of returning to the grave of his friend Lazarus. It was certainly not an expression of confidence that Jesus, if he should die, would rise from the dead. Nor was that other statement of Thomas “ Lord we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” ( John 14:5) Though Jesus had answered him, with those words of self-revelation, “ I am the way and the truth and the life” ( John 14: 6a) Thomas’ statement was really a contradiction of Christ’s saying, “ You know there way to where I am going”. (John 14; 4). It appears that Thomas confidence in Jesus was falling apart. A faithful bible commentator (Alexander MacLaren) of more than a century ago says, For Thomas, “ The hub was taken out of the wheel, and there spokes fells apart.” Thomas appeared to have been saddled with a melancholy character. Did he leave the company of his fellow disciples on purpose, to brood in a corner by himself perhaps? Did he in this way, embrace, not the very glad tidings of the risen Christ but instead did he hug his despair? He has been called Doubting Thomas but that is really a misnomer. Her was not doubting but he was unbelieving. In this he was not alone for there gospels testify that this was the case with many of the other disciples as well. I think it was Alfred Lord Tennyson a Poet Laureate of Great Britain who said, “Solitude is the mother-country of the strong” and yes there are those who would think one’s strength and nobility is found in isolation from the crowd. “Yet if you deliberately cut yourself off from the company to which you belong and from the Master who is the Great Gatherer of his people you leave yourself open to the evil one who would exploit you being alone. It is not for nothing that Christ promised to gather his people and to be with them. It is his promise to his disciples even when he was on the point of going back to heaven ( Matt. 28: 20). The worst thing a person can do when disbelief or doubt or coldness shrouds his vision and blots out the starts is to go away alone and shut himself up with his own, perhaps morbid, or, at any rate, disturbing thoughts. The best thing is to find the fellowship of his fellow mortals, or better, toy seek communion with Christ! Is that not why Jesus spread out his hands to his sheep and urged all those who labour and are heavily burdened to come to him? ( Matthew 11: 28-30). What better company than the company of Him who has risen from the dead, the Victor, triumphant over all the gloomy powers of death and the grave? Thomas was unbelieving. When Thomas came back to his brothers, they told him they had seen the Lord but he answered them as they had the women who had brought the same message to them. Matthew tells us they “did not believe the women because their words seemed to them like nonsense” ( Matt. 24: 11). Thomas however adopted a far more defiant tone than any of the others had done. He makes a demand that was really quite arrogant. “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). What right had he to say this? He showed his hand as well when he gives an ultimatum as it were, “ Unless this…. unless that…I will not believe” No, this man doesn’t typify the attitude of a doubter but an unbeliever. Today there are still many, many unbelievers. There are those who are quite prepared to put their trust in horoscopes, or in some other idols of their own making but who scoff at the witness of the Holy Spirit concerning the living Christ. What about you dear listener? To what hope, what belief do you cling? Are you estranged from the Lord because of your insistence he meet your demands? Don’t be foolish. Only consider how Jesus Christ turned the denier into a rapturous confessor. A week passed, and it appears the disciples/apostles became quieter, and steadier. Did they spend some time meditating on what was involved in the amazing fact of a risen Saviour? When Jesus came back to them he concentrated his attention on the unbeliever. Amazingly enough, rather than rebuking him and cutting Thomas off from bids fellowship he grants him his proud conditions! O in the words of Jesus those conditions must have sounded far different from when he, Thomas had uttered them. We could say that in ganging Thomas’ request it seas Christ’s sharpest rebuke at the same time! Yet there was also this penetrating warning “ Stop doubting and believe!” ( John 20: 27b). What it meant is this; Thomas, it is not a question of evidence; it is a question of disposition. Your failure to accept the fact of my resurrection is not that you do not have sufficient evidence on which to build tour belief but it is due to your attitude of mind and heart. It is a question of faith Thomas! MacLaren says, “There is enough light in the sun; it is our eyes that are wrong, and deep below most questions, even of intellectual credence, lies man’s disposition. “Be not faithless but believing” ( KJV ) It is clear that Thomas did not reach out his hand and touch. There was a rush of instantaneous conviction that was created by the appearance and there words of Jesus. Who knows but Thomas thought, “ So then he was here all there while; He heard my foolish words; Yet he loves me still!” And Thomas “smitten as by a lightning flash with the sense of Jesus’ all embracing knowledge and all-forgiving love, forgets his incredulity and breaks out in rapturous confession “My Lord and my God.” 16 No this did not come about by accident. It is the mighty work of God who can take a dread branch, and make it alive and graft jot into the Vine. Yet there is more for Jesus then speaks a last beatitude that extends to all generations. “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. “The object of the Christian’s faith is not a proposition; it is not a dogma nor a truth but a Person!” It is frosting in the master. Wholeheartedly. You might acknowledge the truth of the Gospel and you do well. Yet there may not be a spar of faith in the Christ revealed by the Gospel. What is the blessing of this faith? It delivers us from the tyranny of sense, sets us free from the crowding oppression of “things seen and temporal” Faith is sight, the sight of gather inward eye! It is the direct perception of the unseen. We see, when we trust greater things than when we look. Ask yourself if the things that are seen and temporal are great enough, lasting enough to satisfy you. Then remember these words of Jesus. Later Peter would write. (quote 1 Peter 1:8)

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