Jump Start # 2575
John 20:29 “Jesus said to him, ‘Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.’”
Our verse today is about Thomas. We can hardly say his name without sticking the tag, “doubting” on the front end. Doubting Thomas—that’s how we know him. He was absent when the resurrected Jesus first appeared to the apostles. To be fair, all the apostles doubted at first. When the women, who first went to the tomb, rushed back to tell the apostles that the angels said that Jesus was risen, they didn’t believe. When the two on the road Emmaus came and reported that they had seen the resurrected Jesus, the apostles didn’t believe. Jesus appeared to the apostles and they believed. Thomas wasn’t there. He said he wouldn’t believe unless he saw and he touched. A week later, Jesus appeared. Thomas was there. He declared, “My Lord and My God.” This is where our verse today fits. Blessed are those who did not see, yet believed.
How could this be? How could others believe without seeing? It was based upon the testimony of the witnesses. The preached word and the written word would be all the proof that the world would need. All of this seems fairly simply and straight forward to us.
I saw a show recently about religious relics. This is a part of the Catholic faith, and every altar is supposed to contain some important relic from the past. Most times, it’s pieces of bones or fabric of clothing that came from a supposed saint. A long time ago, simple people would make pilgrimages to come and see these relics. The relics were housed in special ornate and expensive containers. The pilgrims would look upon these relics with great hope. Some would pray. Some would kiss the container of these relics. These poor pilgrims gave money which was used to upkeep those beautiful shrines. Sometimes the relics were taken on the road so others could see them. The most sacred relics were connected to the apostles and especially to the Lord. Strands of hair from the apostle John was part of the show I watched. Blond hair, which just doesn’t seem to fit with the looks of most from that region, was revered as the real thing. A thorn from the crown of thorns that Jesus wore. A small splinter of wood from the cross. A tiny piece of cloth that supposedly had the blood of Jesus on it. I’ve seen many relics myself when I have toured ancient cathedrals. Some of these seem a bit creepy. The show I watched included a dried eye that belonged to a saint that was killed during the Reformation uprising in England. It didn’t look much like an eye, but it was definitely creepy.
Today, some may have a picture of Jesus on the wall or wear a tiny cross around their neck. While those things may be important to some, we must ask ourselves, what gets you through the day? What helps when you face that long journey through the valley of death? What keeps both of your feet on the ground during this period of social distancing and coronavirus? The news is bleak. Everyday we given updates about how many have died. Some are getting restless and weary of staying home. How do we stay with it? How do we keep the faith?
The answer is simply faith. We walk by faith and not by sight. We don’t need a relic, nor do we need a church building to keep us going. We don’t need a pulpit or a pew to keep us believing. The point of Jesus’ words in our passage is just that. Blessed are those who have not seen, yet they believe. They believe when word is told to them by credible witnesses. The apostles wouldn’t believe, not at first. Thomas wouldn’t. But we will. Our faith is not in a physical building, or a person, like our preacher or our shepherds. Our faith is in the Lord.
So, how do we keep going?
First, none of the Scriptures have changed. Just as we believed in the sunshine, we believe in the storms. Just as we have believed in good times, we believe in hard times. Just as we believe in a crowd, we believe when we are alone. This is important to grasp. It is easy to live our faith through someone. A preacher leaves or dies and suddenly some give up. Why? Has the Scriptures changed? Their faith was not in the Lord, but in the person who stood behind the pulpit. Now that he is gone, so is their reason to believe. The same can be said of church buildings. There are those who continue to hang on to a dying and dwindling congregation that lacks vision, leadership and hope. Just a handful meet. Why not close the doors and merge with a nearby congregation? Can’t do that. They will keep doors open until the last man standing is no longer standing. It’s sad to see this. The few that are there are so discouraged and dead. But it will remain that way. Our faith is wrapped around the Scriptures. That’s what keeps us going. The Scriptures never change.
Second, faith looks beyond what is visible. This was Paul’s point in 2 Corinthians. There he said, ‘we look not at things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen’ (4:18). What is it that is “Seen”? That’s the visible. That’s the problems. That’s the bad news. That’s death. That’s what everyone sees. However, the people of faith are looking to the Lord. They see what others do not see. Through their faith they see the invisible. And, just what is “invisible”? God is. Promises are. Hope is. And, why is it that others cannot see these things? It takes faith. It takes faith in the Lord. It takes faith in the Scriptures. The faith is not in simply believing things will get better. The faith is not in ourselves. The faith is not in our country. How is it that the sheep could still follow the shepherd when the valley was dark? They kept their eyes on the shepherd. They saw nothing else. They stayed so close to the shepherd that they could know that he was there. By faith, we do the same. How do we see Jesus when things are so dark? We look at nothing else. We stay so close to Him that we know He is there.
Third, wrapped in this faith of ours is hope and promises. These promises are from God. God keeps His promises. He never forgets. This storm we are going through will pass. Some will be stronger because of this. Some will fail through this. Some will come out on the other side with great lessons learned. Some will only complain. This is not the worst thing that can happen. Jesus said, do not fear the one who can kill the body and after that do no more. There is a limit to what can be done. Our breath can be taken, but not our spirit. Our worry and fears are overcome by a great faith and love for the Lord.
No, we don’t need to stare at some old bone, hold some piece of history to help us keep our faith. The Scriptures are powerful enough to do that. They are powerful enough to save us. They are powerful enough to give us freedom. Will we come through this? It’s a matter of faith. Those who have it will make it. Those who don’t, won’t. Remember the Lord’s story about the wise and foolish man who built their houses. What was built upon the rock, stood. You can’t be building in a storm. It’s too late.
Blessed are those who have not seen, yet believe.