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Hard to Believe?

April 29, 2019

Scripture John 20:19-31

“Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

John 20:27b-29 NRSV

The full scripture lesson above begins in the evening of the first day of the resurrection of Jesus, the event we know as Easter. In the Gospel of John, Jesus has appeared to Mary Magdalene at the open and empty tomb. She encountered Jesus, heard his words, and believed in the Risen Christ. Quickly, she informed the disciples, producing amazement at the news and the prospect of the scriptures being fulfilled. Then, after a week Jesus appeared to the disciples and breathed the Holy Spirit upon them. They believed through this act of God through Jesus, the Risen Christ.

What follows remains the most memorable portion of this scripture lesson for most of us. One disciple, Thomas, was not present on Easter Sunday when Christ appeared and brought God’s Spirit to those gathered in the room. He has doubts about this astounding event. But, he has not experienced any of these previously described means of obtaining faith. He has not seen or witnessed Jesus in this new aspect. He had no experience of the presence of Jesus. Of course, we can identify with this, but as I heard it stated in a recent sermon the doubting by Thomas is not the essential teaching here. Instead, we should consider that Thomas gained his faith through experience: Truly, this is a new type of encounter with the Risen Christ, but one that results in total belief in him. The response by Thomas is familiar to many us:

“My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28b)

At any time and on any day, we can experience God in a variety of ways. Thomas demonstrated that the act of obtaining our faith truly is an individual experience and nearly impossible to fully describe. Whether by divine intervention or experience in service and ministry, our faith comes to us through our experience of God; and, like Thomas we come to that experience through the Risen Christ.

So, many things have changed in society and in human achievement in 2000 years. But, our experience of Christ and our means of gaining and living our faith differ little from those earliest days among the disciples and followers of Christ. As Christ says, perhaps we have not seen him, but we certainly can feel his presence and experience him in many other ways and “come to believe” in him (John 20:30).

Through Christ, God offers us grace, forgiveness, mercy, and the abiding presence of God’s Spirit, so that we, too, can believe.

Stan Reid


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