Believe! – April 14, 2023 (108-109/365)

“I may need to continue our analysis of John 20:24-29 in another article. For now, let me just sum up what I’ve gathered from all this writing:

  • The more you push and force people to celebrate, the more counterproductive it may be. Fortunately, the more we dwell and meditate and focus on Christ, the more the celebration comes out naturally.
  • If you insist on your own way without the consideration or consensus of the entire group involved, don’t be surprised if they don’t show up next time. Fortunately, wherever you are in the spectrum, you can draw peace from knowing that Christ is the common ground and the solid Rock on whom we all stand.
  • Visuals and audio have their effect, but your impact is in how you add value to people. We testify not primarily by advertising Christ, but by sharing how Christ added value to us.
  • The wounds in Christ’s hands and side were the receipt of Christ’s death and resurrection. They were the proof and confirmation that what Christ said was finished, IS finished. Amen and amen.”

Summarizing this further, I suppose I could say this: Focus on Christ, so you naturally act and react. We move from and into Christ.

Again, I apologize, because although I did get a couple of good points as I went ahead and did some clarifying for my brain in the last post, unfortunately it was not without me ranting. On the other hand, I am thankful because I more or less got all of it out of my chest.

Now with that being said, I have to say that I’m already seeing some potential conflict in the points I shared last time, compared to the rest of the Scripture I intend to handle here. We’ll see how it all plays.

John 20:24-29 continues: But he said to them, “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.”

Now here’s the thing – Maybe the rest of the disciples were detailed in their story, and they may have gone as far as telling Thomas about Mary’s account as well. Or, it could very well be just as the Scripture mentioned, and all they said to Thomas was, ‘We have seen the Lord’, assuming that this would have been enough.

However it could have transpired, Thomas disregarded everything else, and was very specific in his response: He didn’t just want to see the wounds of Christ, but he wanted to place his finger into the mark of the nails. He didn’t just want to see the wound on Christ’s side, but he wanted to touch it, laying his hand over it as well.

And not only was Thomas quite specific but also very staunch – If his conditions were not met, it’s not just that he won’t believe – no, he would never believe.

In our own dealings with other people – indeed, during the times that we ourselves would try our hand in intentional evangelism, we do encounter a diverse number of people with equally diverse responses.

I’d imagine they would fall under one of the four ‘categories’ Christ specified in His parable of the sower: Whether we share the Gospel with intention or we live our lives and people see Christ in and through us, the seed falls along the path and stolen and devoured by birds, or it falls on rocky ground, without much soil, doomed to be scorched by the sun.

If seed doesn’t fall on the road or on rocky ground, it falls among thorns, only to be choked to death; else, it falls on good soil and produces grain. Imagine that, our own efforts of evangelism have, at best, a one in four, or a 25% chance of success.

But here’s the thing. Thomas part of Christ’s own disciples, who have seen Him work. You’d think he’d have reservations at most… but no, not only does he have strict conditions, but an ultimatum.

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, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.

Once again the resurrected Son of God teleported into the room they were all gathered in, and just as He said last time, so He proclaims peace to them once again. But this time it was different – Thomas was present. Not wasting any time, Jesus specifically tells Thomas to do what he must in order to meet the stringent conditions he said in His absence.

And it seemed as if Christ was omnipresent because He responded to Thomas’ ultimatum; Thomas said ‘I will never believe’, and Christ responds directly – ‘Do not disbelieve, but believe.’

What happened, now that Thomas was not only hearing stories and eyewitness accounts? What happened, now that Christ Himself was in the room, and responded with grace to him?

Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!

Recently we’ve been talking a whole lot about how David referred to God as THE Lord, before calling Him his Shepherd, in his famous Psalm 23. We said that when we call God THE Lord, we’re calling Him Lord of Lords, or Lord over everything and everyone else that could be a lord over our lives.

Apparently, after being graciously confronted by the resurrected Christ, Thomas did not only say, ‘The Lord, and God!’; No, see here, he called the risen Christ, ‘MY Lord, and MY God!’, implying that he intentionally proclaimed that Christ was THE Lord over HIS being, and God over all that he was PERSONALLY… And it’s as if Christ wanted to keep pushing Thomas, even in his overwhelmed state.

Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.

Consider the response and the report of the other disciples. When they were telling Thomas what had happened, the accounts say that all they said was, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ (Jim Halpert to Dwight Schrute: ‘Not even an exclamation point!?’) At best, they were pretty chill with their response to the resurrection of Christ.

Compare this to Thomas. Most people like to bash this poor guy for not believing on the onset. But look – He’s the one who answered Christ, saying what I could only imagine as a exclamation of a response, ‘MY LORD AND MY GOD!’

Friends, I’m not about to say that you SHOULD believe without seeing. I’m not about to emphasize on Christ’s words when He said, ‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’, but I WILL direct our attention to where He said, ‘Do not disbelieve, but believe.’

First of all, the disciples could have rebuked Thomas the moment he shared his conditions and his ultimatum; No, I believe it was no accident that it was Christ Himself who would be the One to tell him, and consequently all of us, those powerful words.

Second, though we would probably be satisfied by telling others to believe, He tells us, as if to be sure to cover all bases, that we shouldn’t ‘not’ believe, and also believe. 

I think that the main point we ought to gather, and the biggest lesson we can take from all this, is not that we should believe without seeing, inadvertently putting the focus back on ourselves, but to consider – It is no less than the risen King Himself who calls us, no matter whether we see or not, no matter whether we want to see or not; He calls us to BELIEVE.

You can hear the report being shared to you, and if that’s enough for you to believe, well and good. But, you can also question what you heard, and even doubt the spectacular visuals and the meaningful words spoken to you by no less than Christ Himself – even then, this same Christ is willing to take you on your most stringent of conditions, just as He is willing to  graciously respond to whatever ultimatums you come up with… and don’t be surprised if you are absolutely floored and overwhelmed by God’s gracious, and glorious response.

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.

1 Corinthians 3:5-8

Friends, I have nothing against us making things so grandiose, that we downright overwhelm all human senses, in our efforts to evangelize and to testify. My point is that wherever we are in this… I don’t know, this spectrum of evangelism and testimony, there are two things that we can all have in common as believers in Jesus Christ:

  1. That the testimony of God’s goodness shall prompt a response in each and every one of us – whether we say, ‘We have seen the Lord’, or ‘MY LORD AND MY GOD!!!’; Friends, those of us in Christ will naturally respond one way or another when we take a moment to dwell on what we believe.
  2. As we can see here, we can go as far as to invest millions into theatrics, or spend much time on our words; We can go as far as to plant, and/or to water, but friends, let us never forget that it is Christ who was the One who appeared to the disciples, and it was Christ who was the One who went out of His way to talk to Thomas, if only to bring them to believe. We can do so much, but it is ultimately our Savior who gave the growth to us, and He shall give the growth to everyone else.

I’m obviously going to look at all this again, to review what I have in mind, and to prepare what specifics to say this coming Sunday. There will definitely be some changes here and there. I will add to some points, and there will probably be points I could remove altogether… and in fact, I shouldn’t be surprised if I do take entire points out, considering that I will be needing to cover all of this wonderful Thomas Sunday material this coming Sunday only, as the Sundays of the rest of April will be spent on (1) Reporting on the progression of the ministry between 2022 and 2023, and (2) Revisiting our Mission/Vision in the light of our adhering and observing this 2023 as the Year of Movement.

However I deliver all this, and no matter what I put in and leave out, I will definitely end with this Scripture. Some of you have heard me quote this for the nth time; and no, it’s not 2 Corinthians 5:21, or 5:17, but Hebrews 12:1-2:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Friends, I read this entire set of verses in the name of context, but I do want to emphasize: No matter how we’re built – whether we’re not so easily impressed, or just amazed by anything and everything, however we as individuals find ourselves to change the way we think when we take in the goodness of God, let us come into agreement, that it is Christ who is not only the finisher, not only the perfecter, but the FOUNDER, and the AUTHOR of our faith.

Our call is for one and all to believe, yes. We have come to believe, ourselves. But I suppose, in our celebration, the main purpose is the same as the main reason – We were brought to believe, and to believe is to say that we agree that God is who He says He is.

God is who He says He is – that’s a powerful line… for another time.

Ill end here for now. Will definitely revisit and refine this, but there’s other things in my head that I’d like to share.

Until the next post (which, again, is coming very soon), God bless you.

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