Sometimes, we need to be reminded that there is truth about the world that we simply cannot yet see.
This week, Pastor Aaron recounted a (hilarious) story of a rigorous backpacking trip with his family and some friends. The 9-mile hike to the lake was grueling and Aaron honestly told us that several miles in, he was ready to quit! Of course, the group persevered and discovered, when the tree line parted in front of them, the grand beauty of the mountain lake. And they were able to enjoy a couple of days of heaven-on-earth.
“The worst thing is not the last thing.” –Frederick Buechner
Jesus’ disciples had just endured the worst thing they could have imagined — not an uphill mountain hike, but an uphill death march to Jesus’ crucifixion. For centuries, Christ’s followers have tried to imagine what it would have felt like to see the one they called Teacher, Master, and Friend betrayed, shamed, and executed. No wonder, then, that they all had to process Jesus’ resurrection in their own way. The gospel of John spends ample time on a disciple named Thomas, and the way he responded to the news: “So the other disciples told [Thomas], ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘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 20:25).
The question is: what did Thomas really need? Was he doubting the news the way we typically think of doubt? Or was Thomas a pragmatist, unable to simply take his friends at their word (and a seemingly outrageous word at that!), and instead wanting to experience this news first-hand? In any case, Thomas’s realistic view of his world is one that most moderns like ourselves can certainly empathize with. We live in a post-Enlightenment, “scientific” age that claims everything we can know and need to know is attainable by way of empirical evidence and sensory experience. Many of us are like Thomas. So we can learn, as he had to learn, that there are truths (even facts, gasp!) about the world we inhabit that we have not nor cannot apprehend without God’s gracious revelation.
This is why Thomas utters such a profoundly repentant statement when Jesus does give him the gift of first-hand experience. Having touched Jesus’ wounds with his own hand, Thomas said: “My Lord and my God!” Is there any more profound way of turning away from trying to occupy a place of omniscience and turning toward the freedom of faith?
This Easter, and really every day of the year, God invites us to new experience of the resurrection life Jesus began, and therefore to a much larger vision of the paths that each of us are walking along. Jesus even gave a blessing to you and me, and countless people that would follow him in the years to come: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). What is that blessing? It is to have our vision widened from the small and temporary kingdoms of this world, to the large, eternal, and life-giving reign of God as we await the completion of the new creation begun in Jesus’ resurrection.
– In what ways are you like Thomas today, facing obstacles to your belief in Jesus’ resurrection?
– Beyond intellectual “faith,” what obstacles might be standing in your way of letting go of your vision for your life and beginning to learn about God’s vision for your life?
– Is there a relationship in your life that needs to be reconciled?
– Is there a disappointment in your life that you need to confront God about?
– Is there a wrongdoing you’ve committed that you need to confess and be free of?
May you know new life this Easter!