C Cycle – 2nd Sunday of Easter 22
John in the beginning of his gospel writes, “in the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God……in him was life and the life was the light of men.” Then he lays out in his gospel exactly who Jesus was and why he came. In fact, in his closing chapters he tells us, “These things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that believing you may have life in his name.” The real issue for us today and every day is do we believe or are we like Thomas, in need of something to justify our belief.
Thinking back on my interaction with individuals struggling with faith issues that there must come a time when we need something to reassure us. That something that moves us beyond a faith based on what we have been taught. A moment or encounter when our faith must move from a child’s acceptance of things to an experience of God through an encounter with God. There must come a point when we appropriate for ourselves the faith we have been taught. It can no longer be a blind faith, but one based on a decision to believe.
John, inspired by the Spirit, was clearly giving us a reason to believe in Christ and what his death and resurrection accomplished. His gospel is not just giving us information it is demanding a response from us. It challenges us to admit what we believe, Christ asks Thomas, if he believes because he has had an encounter with me, or do you believe because of those who witnessed to you.
Clearly, we see the contrasts in the apostle’s belief in Christ after Pentecost. They began proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah and performed miracles. No more was needed for them to believe but to have the Spirit change their hearts. Thomas on this day of Christ first appearance demands proof of his resurrection. The apostle’s believed without proof but they still did not grasp the meaning of his resurrection. Remember they thought he was a ghost not a real live human person. We know the people they evangelized believed because of their zeal, their absolute belief, and the miracles they performed. Does a lack of a miracle diminish our belief today? Or is our faith in God strong enough to be one of those “who have not seen and yet believe?” We know the disciples after Pentecost went out and did exactly what Jesus told them to do and that was to make disciples of all the nations (Mt.28:19).
It was when the disciples grasped the meaning of the resurrection that they began to help others believe. Believe Jesus came from God to give us a rebirth and a life of abundance here on earth. We can and will experience extreme trials and difficulties, but those things will not diminish our belief that God is still with us, and he will never abandon us? The night he was arrested the disciples ran in fear for their own lives. They had believed he was the one promised by God. Yet their faith was not strong enough to help them stand firm at that moment in their spiritual growth.
But after his resurrection and Pentecost they became bold in their witness. Do we need proof to believe in the promises of God about eternal life is ours by believing? In one sense, the answer to that is yes, we need something to move us from a belief based on our faith formation via instruction to a faith based on a confident assurance that comes from our hearts and the very center of our being.
What will it take for us to have that kind of confident faith? Something must happen to us that makes us stop, reflect, appropriate what is revealed and respond. We need to have our own Thomas moment with Jesus. John’s gospel tells us we can come to that kind of belief by reading his gospel. If we do not come to that belief does that negate what John wrote and why he wrote it? It might seem that way to someone who is not reading it to encounter Christ. His gospel in that case would be a good attempt to sway a person to accept what he is saying without their having to believe it would happen to them.
In fact, if we read the scriptures to encounter God, to discover his plan for us and how we are to respond then the entirety of the Scriptures has the power to move us from unbelief to belief. They show us God’s plan to restore what we lost because of the sin of Adam. They reveal God’s plan was to take away the barrier of sin which separates us from himself by Jesus taking upon himself the penalty of our sin. That act alone gave us free access to the fathers embrace even when we believe we are unworthy of that embrace. But that was only the beginning of us becoming a bold in our witness as the disciples were. Following Jesus, the plan of God was to send us the Spirit to transform our hearts (EZ. 36:26) and have us feel the love of God poured into our hearts.
Imagine what Thomas was feeling as he touched the wounds of Jesus. Imagine what the prodigal son felt when the father embraces him and restored him. Imagine the woman at the well when she realized Jesus knew her every sin but did not condemn her but offered her what she most needed which was to be drenched in his love. Imagine what Peter felt on the shore as Jesus comes to him to embrace him to feel his love and forgiveness not condemnation. Imagine what Saul of Tarsus felt on the road to Damascus as Jesus appears to him and later pours the Holy Spirit upon him changing him from a denier to a declarer that Christ is the Messiah.
That is what awaits us if only we dare to seek what God offers us…forgiveness, love, mercy, and a transformed heart.
What happened in that room awaits us if only we would have the courage to do what Thomas did and say I need something more than your word. I need an encounter with the risen Lord and with the Holy Spirit. John wrote his gospel so that we might believe, I encourage you to ask for that vision to see Jesus in the John’s gospel, experience Jesus in John’s gospel and have Jesus touch you as you declare your desire to encounter him in John’s gospel.