#18 LIVING BY FAITH

There are two things about the Gospel of Jesus Christ that make it difficult to believe:

Firstly, the idea that an ordinary human, Jesus of Nazareth, is actually the almighty and eternal God.

Secondly, that through his death he secures eternal salvation for all who believe in him.

Both of these concepts – the concept of the full deity of the real human, Jesus Christ, and the concept that his death is a substitutionary, sin-bearing death – are proved invalid if Jesus did not rise from the dead. But the concept of Christ’s resurrection adds a further hindrance to belief in the Gospel, because real and permanent physical resurrection simply does not happen.

Thomas expressed his anguished doubt when the other disciples reported their meeting with the resurrected Jesus:

‘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].

For Thomas, as for the other disciples, all the hopes generated by the words of Jesus, and all of the glorious expectations generated by the miracles of Jesus – all had been dashed to pieces by the death of Jesus:

The hope, the certainty, that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah.

The expectation of a restored kingdom, even more, of a restored earth.

The hope that the age-old, deep human longing to really know God was here, in Christ, satisfied.

The joyous expectation that here, somehow, because of Christ, the equally age-long rift between God and humans could be removed.

So great was Thomas’ anguish and disillusionment that he could not bring himself to accept the testimony of his friends. So much was at stake. He would not allow his hopes to be revived only to be dashed to pieces again.

Only if he saw.

Only if he touched with his hands.

Only then would he hope again.

Only then would he believe.

Then Jesus came. He stretched out his hands. He pulled aside his robe to reveal the pierced side.

Provided with the visible, physical evidence, Thomas believed, and responded with his confession of faith – ‘My Lord and my God!’

Jesus said to him:

‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed [verse 29].

Perhaps Peter was remembering this when he wrote:

‘Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the salvation of your souls’ [1Peter 1:8].

None of us reading this meditation have seen the incarnate Son of God. We have not physically heard his voice. We have not touched him with our hands as the disciples had. But we have believed in him. It is to those who thus walk by faith, without seeing, that the blessing pronounced by Christ applies – and along with it the inexpressible and glorious joy of which Peter wrote.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2017