“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.” Thomas, the Apostle. (John 20:25)
Jesus response to Thomas’ doubt was eight days later to repeat His mystical entry into a locked room, and show Thomas the marks in His hands and invite him to touch His side where the spear had pierced. Thomas was convinced. He declared Jesus to be his Lord and God, no small admission for a devout Jew who knew the shema of Deuteronomy 6; a text Jesus Himself had quoted to the scribes and Pharisees in Mark 12: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”
Then Jesus went on to teach His followers, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29) Was He calling us to “blind faith or intelligent trust?” Many have assumed the former, because they think that only a fool would believe that Jesus actually arose from the dead. After all, none of my relatives who have died have come back to this life. Not that I blame them; why would my grandfather even want to come back to his Kansas dirt farm and work from sun-up to sun-down again? Why would my mother want to return to her decaying body that considered ‘exercise’ moving about in her Barcalounger lift-chair and getting to and from her bed and bathroom?
Yet Jesus chose to return to this earthly frame, in order to show us that He could, in fact, do it. Death had and has no power over Him like typical mortal men. He could take a spear into His heart and invite His followers to do a living autopsy! This would give credence to His claim that any who believe in His name would also live forever, just not in the mortal framework of this earth.
“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31) So the skeptic asks why does not God “prove” Himself to us now? If He came back from the dead, why not stick around and get Himself elected to World President? Surely, if He was still here after 2000 years, no one would question His power to live forever! Why leave the earth and let the story of His resurrection be up to a couple hundred men and women, some of questionable reputation and some less than full of faith (Mark 16:9; Matthew 28:17)??
The answer comes down to the element of trust! This is that dimension that calls us to better lives than angels. Our experience should teach us that it is very difficult to convince someone of anything he does not want to believe, even if given so-called “proof.” Read Matthew 28:17 and see men and women who knew Jesus living on earth, had seen Him crucified, were present as He appeared to them before His ascension . . . and some doubted! With our limited experience, how long do you think people would believe a present day World President had overcome death? They would each want to see Him die and rise again! Each of us, without trust, would put a spear in His side and fatally rewound the Lord of Life just so we could have our “proof.”
Trust requires integrity, strength, independence, ability and credibility. So Jesus left His instructions to a small band of believing friends who would call the world to trust their testimony of Him, and to trust HIM to enter into lives of those who choose to believe in His name. His little band of followers were scared and hiding from the Jewish authorities because they feared that they would be persecuted or killed as Jesus had been. But after His resurrection and ascension, He sent His Holy Spirit, the third person of the triune God, to live inside them (Acts 1).
This indwelling Spirit was better than a World President to whom they could point. Instead they could point to their own hearts and declare that there is no fear in death, only a promise of eternal life! The grave and any path to it would not deter these men and women from telling His story, one that did not require any special regimen, but only faith, trust in Him. It did not matter what one’s past had been; it did not matter how evil one had behaved; if he/she put faith in Jesus, they could be forgiven and gain eternal life with Jesus. Charles Colson, who knows something about the fear of death from his time in prison, said, “I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world-and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”
Look for integrity and you will find it in His followers when they testified before their court officials that Jesus, whom they had crucified, was alive. Look for strength and you will see “unschooled” men argue with the best legal scholars of their day. Look for independence and you will see men and women who, when persecuted in one city, did not retaliate, but went everywhere teaching that Jesus was alive. Look for ability and you will see people who would pray for the sick, help the poor, care for the invalid, open their doors to the needy, because of what Jesus had done for them. Look for credibility and you will see people who would never wound others, but would die for their faith, their trust, because the One they trusted is faithful and would not disappoint them.
The skeptic still asks for God to “show Himself.” Jesus told them while He was here in physical presence, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” (Luke 16:31) And then He proved it by rising from the dead. And still some will not believe! So consider, are we blindly following, or have we intelligently trusted?