Coming to Believe
Today’s readings have to do with faith in the name of Jesus. Through faith in Jesus we have forgiveness of sins and eternal life. The reading from the Gospel of John makes this very clear:
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30)
From the reading from the Book of Acts, Peter declares
The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. (Acts 5:30-31)
It is curious that in today’s Gospel reading from John we also read about the lack of faith on the part of the disciple Thomas. Thomas had not been with the other disciples when Jesus first appeared to them as a group after his resurrection. Thomas did not believe the testimony of his fellow disciples.
Then Jesus appeared to his disciples again:
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:26-29)
What does this reading tell us? It does indicate the weakness of Thomas’ faith. Faith is so important to our Christian walk. Nonetheless, Jesus did not condemn Thomas. He used his lack of faith as an illustration of two very significant aspects of the Christian faith that are often overlooked: the importance of Christian witness and the significance of spiritual growth.
We are blessed today because we have been witnessed to by others concerning the life and ministry of Jesus. We did not see him on earth as the early disciples did. Yet we have learned to believe in him. Faith development is an ongoing process.
Some might say that you either have faith or you don’t. It is as simple as that. The Book of James would say otherwise. This Book was thought to be so radical by Martin Luther he stated that it should have never been included in canon of New Testament scripture. He is one of the radical thoughts concerning faith by James:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. (James 2:14-19)
James seems to be suggesting that a person’s faith can be too shallow. Faith should inform one’s whole being. It should motivate us to do good works.
Thomas had a problem. He found it too difficult to believe in the resurrection of Jesus. Yet Thomas became a great missionary apostle. He grew in his faith. He matured over time. And he truly came to believe in his Lord and savior very deeply.
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:29)
Blessed people are those who have come to believe. God gives us what we need to get started. Thomas needed to see his resurrected Lord in the flesh. Others did not. The blessing is in the coming to believe. This coming is a process and God is behind the process. He is with us in our struggles and he teaches us to believe in his precious promise of freedom from sin and eternal life with God.
How important is our witnessing the Gospel to others? It is as important as life and death. We are given the opportunity by the Holy Spirit to help bring others to an understanding of Christian message. Jesus is not dead. He has risen.
If we still find it difficult to witness to others then, perhaps, our faith has not matured as God has intended it. Witnessing helps lead to maturity and maturity helps lead us to witnessing.
Today, are we a doubting Thomas today in our faith? That is not the unforgivable sin. Jesus does not condemn us. He wants us to recognize where we are, but he also wants to lead us forward. When Thomas understood that Jesus had risen from the dear, he said:
“My Lord and my God!”