“Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”–John 20:27-29
Is seeing believing? Consider all the things you see everyday. Do you believe in them? That is somewhat of an odd way of understanding what is seen, isn’t it! Do you believe in the weather or is it more of an acknowledgment or a knowledge of it. How the sun rises and sets each day is not really a belief in the Sun but more of an expectation. True, you can believe, in faith, that the sun will rise and set everyday but doesn’t mean the Sun or Moon or anything in all creation can provide for your spiritual needs. Is seeing believing? What about those whose eyes are weak or are blind. Are they unable to believe? It seems seeing isn’t believing at all! When you see magic being done on the stage, do you believe it is real or an illusion? How about a Biblical example when the LORD spoke to Cain concerning where his slain brother was; Cain in rebellion didn’t believe or trust the LORD and unrepentantly lied saying, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper (Gen. 4:9b)?!” How can Cain, speaking with the LORD himself, not believe in him? Seeing isn’t believing, hearing God’s own voice isn’t believing, so what is believing!?
Having faith is believing. All people, even the so called non-religious, believe things on faith. In faith, they believe their car will start. In faith, they believe they’ll get or go safely from home to work. If faith were not to exist, all the world would be hermits living in constant fear of the unknown.
Who is your faith founded in? Your fallen sinful nature, and Old Adam, wants you to trust yourself–as some have gone. These are they whom Scripture has said, “Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain… (Jude 1:11).” This faith is outside of trusting in the True God, it is faith in the self, and not in the Savior, who is the True God.
The disciples, like the rest of the fallen world, falsely found their faith in seeing to believe. Rather than being bold confessors of the faith they placed themselves under lock and key for fear that the Jews would come after them next. But Jesus is not hindered from this sheltering, instead he comes through those locked doors and appears to them as the Risen Lord saying, “Peace be with you (v. 19).” And standing before them Jesus showed them his hands and side. They too, only after seeing Jesus alive, are glad and believe.
But Jesus isn’t there to show off or make them believe, he’s there to commission them to the noble task of preaching all these things to the whole world as his pastors. Jesus chooses the greatest moment of fear to give strength to his disciples. He does this by breathing on them saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any it is withheld (vv. 22-23).” It is written that he breathed on them the Holy Spirit to draw the connection between God’s creating Word and the Holy Spirit as the source or Creator of that life giving Word. Jesus commissions his pastors to forgive sins in the stead and by the command of the Lord Jesus Christ. And also, the painful task of withholding forgiveness where no repentance is present. It is then that pastors bestow the gifts of Christ crucified for sinners through the Holy Spirit in Preaching the Word and Delivering the Sacraments. Pastors bring the same peace Christ gave his disciples to you in the forgiveness of sins, this peace of God, “surpasses all understanding, [and] will guard your hearts and your minds… (Phil. 4:7).”
It turns out that Thomas gets a bad wrap because he is just as much of a doubter as the rest of the disciples, but seemingly more adamant. For even as the others testify to him what they have seen he refuses to believe unless he sees for himself Jesus and his wounds and seeing him, touch his body to verify what they say is true. Thomas is more than just like you, he is just like the rest of the unbelieving world who test the Lord and challenge Him to appear before them as a sign that God exists. But to those who seek after signs none will be given to them for God has promised to be present only to those who believe and when the Last Day comes. Any who test the Lord to appear are really calling down judgement upon themselves, for in the day they see God either in Heaven or on Earth they will be judged according to their faith. Faith in the True God or faith outside of the True God. Faith outside of the True God only leads to destruction and hell.
Jesus again passes through the locked doors to greet his disciples and especially Thomas that he might see and touch and believe. Thomas, only gazing upon Jesus, confesses, “My Lord and my God!” to which Jesus responds, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (vv. 27-29).” Jesus places no stock in faith by sight. He wants faith by trusting his promises. Trusting Him that when He says He’ll Rise in three days it shall be done. Jesus appearing to his disciples after the resurrection wasn’t so they would believe it but that they might witness that Jesus fulfilled the prophecy and thereafter preach “Jesus is the Messiah,” to the masses!
Because of sin, you are like Thomas, seeking belief through what you see. Scripture guides hearts to trust in God alone, for in Christ you “walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:6-7).” And, being in Christ, “faith is…the conviction of things not seen (Heb. 11:1).”
The Gospel of John points out that Jesus did many other signs, other than his appearing after his resurrection, in the presence of the disciples. What we have and know of Christ was written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and by believing have life in his name (Cf. vv. 30-31).
Two questions remain: How does one have life in Jesus’ name? And, what’s the final word on faith?Life in Jesus’ name come from being Baptized into the True Triune Lord. That just as Jesus was baptized to take on your sins, by His cross, the opposite is true for you. By your Baptism your sins are crucified and forgiven. It’s no illusion! No magic trick, just real raw grace given to sinners in need of the Savior.
Faith then, is not in seeing but walking in the way of the Lord by His Holy Word with the assurance that Jesus Christ is the one hope (Cf. Eph. 4:4), the true Messiah, the Risen Son of God. It is in this conviction that our mouths confess Christ, his resurrection from the dead and on the Last Day, our resurrection from death and grave. For as Christ received his body, all will receive theirs too, and for you who are in Christ’s forgiveness the Glory of God is and will be your reward. All thanks be to Christ, the True Son of God and Risen Savior!