2nd Sunday of Easter – A LSB #’s 525, 461:1-3, 5, 8, 490
Text – John 20:28-29
Thomas answered Him, “My Lord & my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen & yet have believed.”
SEEING IS BELIEVING!
The pastor’s family had gotten home from church & it was time for dinner. Still in their ‘Sunday go to meeting’clothes they waited for the signal from Mom. The sign that dinner was ready was the dreaded command, “Boys, be sure & wash your hands. We don’t want any germs at the table. Use soap & hot water.” That wasn’t what the boys wanted to hear.
Washing was a nuisance & seemed so pointless. All this talk about germs, what were they anyway? Was this “germs talk” just a trick to get us to wash our hands so Mom’s white tablecloth would stay clean? The 7 year-old reluctantly made his way toward the washroom mumbling, “Jesus & germs, Jesus & germs, that’s all I hear, & I never see either of them.”
Can you relate to the boy? Is your faith one in which you need to see in order to believe? Or, if you believe without seeing, you might be taken as the gullible type! In the Gospel reading for this Sunday Jesus says that those who believe without seeing are blessed!
That’s a handicap for someone like me because I am a visual learner. Show me a picture & you can save yourself a thousand words. But if you expect me to learn something just from hearing you talk, you have your work cut out for you. Business will go much more efficiently if you write things down.
Maybe some of you struggle as well with believing something when you have not seen it. You may recognize “the Show Me state” as the slogan for people from Missouri. It’s on their license plates. We have phrases like, “Put your money where your mouth is” & “put up or shut up.” They all have the same thing in common. People naturally want to see the “proof in the pudding” before they accept something as true. That’s a common sense approach to life, which we learn from experience. You get burned often enough & the lesson sinks in. Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.
Everything operating on the principles of this world is reflected in those rules of thumb. Doubting Thomas had learned his lessons well, & that is where problems for Christians begin. As we’re confronted with things that operate on God’s principles, we, like the Apostle Thomas, have some major gear shifting to do.
Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen & yet have believed.” That is counting your chickens before they’re hatched. It is not worldly wisdom, & it starts already the very day we’re baptized. Think for a moment, what do you see happening with your own two eyes at infant Baptism? You don’t see any kind of immediate transformation do you?
In fact, years later it may still be extremely difficult to tell that anything changed when the person received that unseen blessing from God. That’s why many Christians even do not accept infant baptism. They have not seen the results with their own two eyes. How many Christians do you know that don’t live like they are children of the Almighty God?
Now bring to mind some occasions when you did not believe simply because you could not see? I remember when a friend of mine was married; many people could not see that marriage lasting. This summer will be their 30thanniversary.
When my home congregation got their new pastor in 1990, people said, “He’s too good. We can’t see him staying more than 5 years.” He didn’t leave until almost 12 years later. I used to think that people who went running for exercise were about as crazy as a person could get. Then, I started running five days a week.
At the beginning of my 4th year at seminary some of the students, 10 – 15 years younger
than I, asked if I’d play soccer with them. I said they must be really hard up for players to be asking an old man like me. A month later I was playing & loving the game. The 1sttime it occurred to me that God might be calling me into the ministry I could not see it. I also never believed that one day I’d be leading Bible studies at the county jail. I did that for 2 years in ND.
If you think awhile you’ll realize just how many situations have occurred in your lives that you would not have believed until you saw them. Yet, they happened even without your seeing them in advance. They happened not because you made them, but because God did.
In other words, we don’t have to see the future in order for it to occur. Jonah never saw himself going to Nineveh, but God did. Each of us has failed in living like we are the children of an Almighty God. Far too often we demand of God to see, before we will believe.
To someone who’s watching none of us has given absolute proof of the power of God’s Baptism. Therefore each of us is guilty of teaching others to act just like Doubting Thomas: “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands, put my finger where the nails were, & put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25 NIV)
We live as if our God is a puny, no account weakling. We don’t trust Him; we don’t believe His promises & we forget that He even exists. When things don’t go well, we pat ourselves on the back as if we’ve learned some great lesson, like a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. Such wisdom may be fine for worldly things, but it fails miserably in the spiritual.
Remember this from Scripture, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men”? (1 Corinthians 1:25 ESV) Our wisdom is passed on through many clichés, yet none of them stand the measure of God’s Wisdom. The problem with a saying like “Seeing is believing” is that as human beings practice & experience it, it’s a lie.
First of all, how many times have two people seen that their love for each other will last
forever, & then been wrong? As many times as there have been divorces. How often has someone found a deal that could not miss, only to have the business fail in short order? Even what we do see is not always the truth.
Secondly, seeing is not always believing. The OT records the history of Israel as they were delivered from Egypt by great miracles, yet an entire generation of them died in the wilderness for their unbelief. They saw, but refused to believe. Just weeks before He was crucified Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Again, many saw & still refused to believe.
And for those of us who do believe, faith easily becomes an end in itself as so many of us show by the life we live & by the thoughts we express. NO! We do not graduate at confirmation. Faith in Christ is the means of bringing people LIFE. God wants us to live that life, not to graduate from it!! Jesus died that we might live the life He gives to us.
We let doubt & cynicism rule the roost, & then we call it being practical, sensible & realistic. We are confusing worldly lessons with spiritual. We are making excuses for our unbelief. Like Doubting Thomas, our sinful nature takes over & we are left clueless. We think that in being practical we’re being good Christians. The fact is we’re just the opposite.
We read of how practical the disciples were in the 20th chapter of John: “Eight days later, His disciples were inside again, & Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came & stood among them & said, ‘Peace be with you.’” (20:26 ESV)
Earlier in the chapter it tells us the doors were locked for fear of the Jews & that seems practical since the Jews had just crucified their leader. But the fear & common sense of the disciples were not able to keep Jesus away. Thomas has little time to take it all in though because as Jesus appears He addresses Thomas personally.
He even echoes the very words that Thomas used in his refusal to believe that Christ had
risen: “Put your finger here, & see my hands; & put out your hand, & place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” (John 20:27 ESV) Thomas finally sees the light: “My Lord & my God!” (John 20:28 ESV) Imagine the witness Thomas made from then on, “What a fool I’d been to doubt the resurrection.”
Now, Thomas must be thinking, “How can I ever repay the gracious love of my Lord & my Savior?” He had learned a new spiritual lesson, one that was in direct opposition to what we learn from our world. A person must believe before they can truly see. Now that Thomas believed, he could see exactly, & clearly, just who this Jesus was. He was his Lord & his God.
At the sight of Jesus, all doubts vanished. He didn’t need to apply any of his tests. In this, Thomas epitomizes both the bad & the good: Unbelief and Confession; the constant battle in all Christians between belief & unbelief, saint & sinner. Faith is something we view not only as an accomplished fact, but also as something that is alive, & either growing or dying.
Not seeing & yet believing is the very essence of faith, because our lives are lived with so many unknowns. The virus pandemic has highlighted that. Learning to lean on & trust in God, without seeing what tomorrow holds, is one of the greatest struggles for us as His children. So the Gospel of John tells us where our faith & trust in God comes from.
Chapter 20 closes with these words: “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, & that by believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30-31 ESV)
Whether you are a visual learner or not, whether you’re a realist rather than an optimist, & even if you are a pessimist, Almighty God is able to create & sustain the kind of faith in your heart that does not need to see in order to believe. That faith then, which the Holy Spirit creates within you, believes in the very means by which the Spirit does His work: God’s Word, Baptism & Holy Communion. If God’s Spirit can work in stubborn & defiant Doubting Thomas, He certainly can work in any of us. Which bring us to closing with the words of a man who also struggled greatly under trials in this life. Yet he believed, even though he could not see why those trials had come upon him. From the 19th chapter of the book of Job:
“Oh how I wish my words were written, that they were inscribed on a scroll, that with an iron pen & lead they were engraved in the rock forever! I know that my Redeemer lives, & that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own two eyes.” (19:23-27a)
That is the hope to which we’ve been called. A hope that although we cannot at this time see the future with our own two eyes, there is a day coming when our flesh, like that of Christ, shall be raised from the dead. On that day all who believe in His name will see Him with their own two eyes. Yes, Thomas, by the power of our Almighty God, believing is seeing! Amen.
He lives, all glory to His name! He lives, my Jesus, still the same; Oh, the sweet joy this sentence gives: “I know that my Redeemer lives!” Amen. LSB 461:8.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet