Those Who Have Not Seen

Faith is not the poor cousin of sight.

I spent part of my young years on a rural property in Louisiana.  We grew a lot of our own vegetables, plus had ducks and chickens and horses.  The horses kept escaping, so we installed an electric fence to discourage them from going near the perimeter of the property.  

My brother and I were curious young lads, so my Dad tried to explain the dangers of the electric fence to us.  He said, “Inside that wire is an invisible energy; you can’t see it, but it’s there, and it will hurt you if you touch it.”

But I figured when people resort to reasonings that involve invisibility, they’re trying to prove something that’s not true, like the Great Pumpkin.  Since I couldn’t see that wire glowing, or doing anything, or even making noise, maybe the alleged electricity in it wasn’t such a big deal.

One day I touched it.  

But rather than touch it with my hand, I decided to touch it with a stick.  That way I could watch what electricity would do to a stick, and then decide whether it was something real.  

In the moment I touched the stick to the wire, I got an education. A free one.  I realized some things should be believed, even if you can’t see them.

Now here’s something you didn’t see: About 2,000 years ago this last Friday, Jesus died on a cross, and about 2,000 years ago Sunday morning Jesus rose from the dead.

You didn’t see either one happen.  

But you don’t have to have seen it to be deeply affected by it.  

Now maybe you’re thinking belief in the Easter miracle works best when you already kind of subscribe to it—maybe with the help of Christian parents who primed you with plenty of bedtime Bible stories—but there was a time when nobody in this whole world believed that Jesus rose from the dead, even after He had resurrected.

Nobody!

Hostile religious authorities of the day flatly denied it, saying, “It’s a hoax!  His followers stole his body and now they’re going around saying, ‘He’s alive!’”

We’re not surprised by their reaction. Haters gonna hate.

But some of the most devoted followers of Jesus, specifically a group of women, went to his tomb early that Sunday morning, in order to pay respects to his dead body. They believed they would find Him there, but certainly not resurrected.  They would find out otherwise, of course, but for the moment, they loved their dead Jesus.

Later, when the twelve disciples began to hear rumors that Jesus had risen from the dead, the Bible tells us they treated it as nothing more than idle tales.  They might have thought, Okay, we loved Him, but He’s gone now. Let’s not comfort ourselves with made-up stories.

Even Peter went to Jesus’ grave and saw the body was missing, but walked away, puzzled over it.   

But in each of these cases, no one immediately assumed that Christ resurrected.

The question is, what changed their minds?  

That Sunday evening the disciples as a group had still not seen Christ raised.  They were scared, and had locked the door of the place where they’d gathered, for fear that the hostile Jewish mob that killed Jesus was going to get them, too.  

That was when Jesus came to them.  It doesn’t say how, because the door was locked. He simply came.  He said “Peace be with you,” and showed them his hands with the big spike holes in them, and the gash in his side, where a Roman soldier had ruptured his heart with a spear.  In history, nobody had ever come back after being crucified, just like nobody comes back after the guillotine, or the electric chair. Plenty of smart, rich, influential people have lived on this earth, but after they died, they stayed dead.  Yet there Jesus was, alive after a gruesome death, showing that He’d done something unequivocal in the history of our world. Those disciples saw it, and were glad.

But you weren’t there and you didn’t see it.  This is the typical response from a lot of people.  You may consider your lack of firsthand witness an insurmountable disability.

But one of the disciples, Thomas, wasn’t there, either.  We don’t know where he was, maybe running errands, late, or sitting at home moping.  But when he showed up later, the rest of the disciples tried to tell him that they had seen Jesus.  Thomas made his now infamous remark, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”  This was not only a strong commitment to unbelief, but to his five senses, especially that of sight—I will have to see before I believe.

But  “Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them.  Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, Peace be with you. Then he said to Thomas, put your finger here; see my hands, and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe” (John 20:26-27).  

Jesus had heard what Thomas had said that night about not believing.  He had been there, but Thomas had been so committed to sight, the deluded disciple hadn’t detected his Lord’s invisible presence.  In verse 28, “Thomas answered him, My Lord and my God!”─not like the irreverent “OMG” used in social media, but as a repentant, positive confession.  

At this point we might conclude that the cure for doubt is sight.  But Jesus had something to say in verse 29 about those of us who refuse to believe until we see:  “And Jesus said to him, have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  

Pure faith doesn’t rely on sight, but ends up with something as blessed as sight itself.  For one thing, you’re not reliant upon miracles, or special events to notice Jesus. With faith, every ordinary day is full of the resurrected Christ.  If you’re looking with your eyes, you’ll always miss Him. If you believe, you’ll always have him.

According to 1 Corinthians 15, about five hundred other people at the time eventually saw Christ alive after death.  Yet right there on that first Easter evening, Jesus identified a whole different category of people beyond the group that saw Him.  These are people who would believe, not because they saw, but because they heard.  

You potentially make up that group, because today you have nothing more than a report.  There’s nothing to see, but there is something to hear: Jesus died for your sins and He resurrected from the dead.  

Believe and be blessed.    

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