Laity Reflection: Seeing is Believing . . . Or Is It?

Sun Courier note: Due to space issues, this column will publish in next week’s print edition.

Looking back we remember that Easter was not only an end, but more especially it was a beginning. However, Jesus’ disciples, even though they had been told of the upcoming events at the end of Jesus ministry on earth, didn’t see it yet. They were pretty blind to the expectations Jesus laid out for them and after his crucifixion, huddled together in fear and disbelief in a locked room, so the Jewish leaders and soldiers couldn’t find them.

Then it happened. The tomb was reported empty, not just by a passer-by that no one knew, but by Mary Magdalene and then by John and Peter themselves! As they wondered and discussed this finding together, oscillating between thoughts of tomb robbers and the possibility that Jesus actually had risen, there he was, standing among them. You will recall the passage from John 20, which describes His appearance, first to the group in the locked room and then again later when Thomas was also present.

Thomas was like many of us. We let our skeptical side show and Thomas did, too. He said, “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.” (John 20:25b)

Now that Jesus was actually present, Thomas recognized that it was really true. This was the Jesus they had lived with and followed. This was the Jesus that had been crucified and buried in the tomb. This was the Jesus who had proclaimed his resurrection and the forgiveness of sins of those who believed and followed him. Thomas exclaims to him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)

“Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Now we shift to a scripture passage from Luke. This continues the conversation and reiterates the disbelief still present among the disciples. Starting with verse 41 it reads, “While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat? They gave him a piece of broiled fish and he took it and ate it in their presence.’ (Luke 24:41-43) And he opened their minds to understand the scriptures that were written about him in the Law of Moses, the prophets and the Psalms.

When had they last eaten with Jesus? Wasn’t it at the Last Supper, when he shared with them the bread and wine? He was reminding them that when they gathered together to share a meal, he would be present. His presence was to signify and remind them of their repentance and his sacrifice for the forgiveness of their sins. Even more it was to remind them to proclaim this message to others.

Now they understood. Luke wrote it down this way in verse 46, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:46-48)

Luke makes sure we make the connection between the sharing of a meal with Jesus and his reminder to us that we are witness to these things. Whoa! Wait a minute. Did I say “we,” meaning you and me? Surely that was a mistake. I’ve never “seen” Jesus. I’m quite certain you’ve never “seen” Jesus! To be a witness, don’t you need to “see” something?

Is it possible for us to believe something that we haven’t actually seen with our own eyes? I expect I would hear a “yes” from most of you in answer to that question. Do you know that a strong magnet will pick up a metal washer without seeing it? Yes! Do you believe the words of someone you trust, without having to be present at the event they are telling you about? Yes! Can we believe these disciples who have written God’s word for us to read today, even though we were not present to witness Jesus’ life over 2000 years ago? Yes!

There are two keys here to our belief without seeing: trust and the Holy Spirit. On our own, we would not believe such an unlikely, improbable event like Jesus being raised from the dead and being visible to his disciples again. However, when Jesus departed to go to heaven, he promised God would send us a counselor, power from on high, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit enables us to trust the Word of God in the scriptures in this Bible. We are blessed by the Grace God has given us to believe without seeing.

But what about today? What does it mean to be Christian “Believers” on this side of Easter? Jesus’ very words in Luke say that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations! To proclaim is the task left to each disciple from the first century until the day Christ returns. To proclaim is to make a public announcement, to speak with boldness and clarity so that no one can mistake what is said.

It is the job Jesus has left for us. We are now the ones to tell all peoples everywhere about the repentance and forgiveness that are the gifts of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We do claim to be his reconciled and forgiven people, raised with him to walk in newness of life and called to be witnesses here and around the world.