Who Is Jesus?
The Revealed One
Last week we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus through the story of Mary from Magdala. We heard Mary Magdalene’s story, a very ill woman, who met Jesus and her life was changed completely. We contrasted that with the Apostle Paul, a very educated and religious man but when he met Jesus, his life was also changed completely. Two totally different people, yet both having the same spiritual need of salvation. These are stories that speak clearly of the transforming power of the resurrection.
But often, you and I will read about people like the disciples who knew Jesus in His physical existence and we say something like, “If I could have met Jesus, I would have believed in Him. But all I have today is these preserved accounts written in our Bibles. How can I believe in someone I have never seen?” This struggle is not a unique one for us today. In fact, we want to look at one of His disciples who struggled deeply with having hard physical evidence before him, before he would believe.
You see, after the crucifixion of Jesus, His Apostles and most of those who followed Jesus, went away disheartened, discouraged, and not quite sure what to think of what just took place with their Master. In fact, many of them were so down cast, that the news of Jesus’ resurrection was unbelievable. They had forgotten what Jesus told them about His rising again. They thought it was over until they saw Jesus in His resurrected form.
I don’t know about you, but I like to imagine what it must have been like to see Jesus in His resurrected form. There are many writers and film producers that try to capture the essence of the life of Christ and what it must have been like. But in reality, we can only imagine based on what we are told in Scripture. I want you to know that uncertainly, doubt, distrust, hesitancy, and more were prevalent among those who knew Jesus after the crucifixion. Among even the most devote of His followers, there was uncertainty. The disciples were hiding in fear of what might happen next and even Mary Magdalene and the other women thought Jesus’ body was stolen. Times of uncertainly were prevalent.
Days of Uncertainty (John 20:1-28)
We know that on Sunday morning, Peter and John ran to the tomb and found it empty. We were told that John “saw and believed” in John 20:8. What exactly did John believe? Mary Magdalene just told them that someone took the body of Jesus. Is that what he believed? I don’t think so. No, John knew the Scriptures, but he didn’t understand how this all fit together with Jesus’ resurrection just yet. John certainly believes that Jesus has risen from the tomb, but still, what happens next? Then we are told that Peter and John went back to their homes.
Sunday evening, we find the twelve disciples all gathered together with one exception, Thomas wasn’t there. Keep in mind that they were living in fear of what the Jewish rulers might do to them after what they did to Jesus. We know this because, John 20:19 tells us that “the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews.” We are not told what their conversation was, but I imagine them talking about what Peter and John saw at the tomb that morning, possibly reviewing Old Testament prophecies about what has happened, and what will happen to them now.
Listen as the Chapel Readers describe to us what takes place with Jesus and His disciples now.
Jesus the Revealed – Chapel Readers
Yes, these were days of uncertainty, but the days of uncertainty became days of transformation in the lives of these followers of Christ. John’s uncertainly about the resurrection was turned to belief when he saw the empty burial cloths. Mary Magdalene’s uncertainly vanished when she realized the gardener was Jesus and she proclaimed, “I have seen the Lord.” The disciples’ uncertainty turned to confidence after Jesus appears to them and they proclaimed to Thomas, “We have seen the Lord.” And even Thomas, his doubt was turned to belief when he said to Jesus, face to face, “My Lord and my God.”
All of these followers of Jesus saw some kind of physical evidence that transformed their uncertainty to belief. Though we know that there was faith in their hearts concerning Jesus, after all their lives were changed by following Him during His years of ministry, but there was some kind of sight confirmation that was needed. In other words, when it comes to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, they needed a visual confirmation. Some kind of physical evidence. I have always felt bad for Thomas. Over the years we have labeled him “Doubting Thomas.” Makes me wonder what kind of label will be attached to my name after I am gone. But if we look closely, there was plenty of doubt and uncertainty in all their hearts not just in Thomas’. It was days of uncertainty.
Faith Without Sight (John 20:29)
What has always caught my attention is Jesus’ response to Thomas’s acknowledgement that Jesus is Lord and God. Look at John 20:29 where we see Jesus’ response to Thomas.
Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
I want us to focus on this phrase Jesus said to Thomas. "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." For many people, like Thomas, they want the hard evidence. Not just the testimony of others. They want specific revelation to them directly or they will not believe. But what I think Jesus is telling us here is that believing is not just about seeing! It goes much deeper than having a visual affirmation of the facts. It is about believing what you have not seen but you know it to be true. Faith without sight!
Many today would call that “blind faith.” But faith is never blind. In other words, we may not be able to visually see something, but faith is always based on some kind of insight or information. There has to be some evidence or faith cannot be conceived. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” We may not see something, but there is evidence of its existence through other means. Thus, our convictions and our assurances are based on something other than visual.
We know of many in our world today that struggle with believing in God. They think that because we cannot see God that we cannot believe in Him. Because of that, there is a sense in which we also live in days of uncertainty. How can we know without a doubt that Jesus is real, that His death was the end of His physical life, and that He arose to a glorified form? We were not there to see it, so how can we know for sure? It is because of other insight and information that is not visual. This reminds me of a story I read that illustrates faith without sight.
“In Paduka, Kentucky at Mt. Piska Church, there was a preacher with a 6-year-old daughter. One day the daughter was admonished by her mother not to stick her finger in the lamp socket because electricity could hurt her. She dropped a cookie on the floor and was admonished by her mother to put it in the garbage because there now were germs on it. This time the preacher's little daughter stomped her foot and said, "Electricity, germs, and Jesus. That's all I hear about and I have never seen any of them.” (Illustration from Adrian Dieleman)
We cannot see electricity, yet we see the power of it in light bulbs and motors. We may have not felt the effects of an electrical shock, but we have heard stories about it and read about people who have died from high voltage electrical shocks. We cannot see electricity, but our faith confidently says there is electricity in those outlets.
** Illustrate working on an electric outlet when you are unsure if the power is off.
We cannot see germs, at least with the naked eye. But we see the effects germs can have cause infections and illness. We read about the billions of germs our bodies face each day as we live and so we attempt to be careful not to live in a way that would cause us to be sick or spread it to others. Our faith confidently says there are germs out there though we cannot see them.
When we act in faith believing in God and what Jesus Christ has done for us on the cross, it is not blind faith because there is no such thing in my mind. Our faith is based on the transformation we see in other people, it is based on what the Word of God tells took place, the many witness accounts we have, and even the work of the Holy Spirit in conviction in our lives. That’s not blind faith. It is faith without sight.
It is like when Abraham went up the mountain to sacrifice Isaac. God tested Abraham’s faith by instructing him to sacrifice Isaac. But Abraham believed the promise God made to him that through his son he would be the father of a great nation. According to Hebrews 11, Abraham obeyed God in going to sacrifice Isaac because he believed that if Isaac was killed, God would raise him back to life (Hebrews 11:17-19). Abraham’s faith was not blind faith either. His faith was in the promise God made to him.
Genuine faith is not blind, it is faith based on things that are not seen but are confirmed in other ways. We can believe the promises of God for us because we have seen God fulfill promises over and over in the past. Our faith in eternity is not blind faith, it is a faith in a promise keeping God. We have evidence.
This is what Jesus meant as He was talking to Thomas. Thomas saw Jesus, but Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Faith without sight, but not faith without evidence. Most people think that this is Jesus admonishing Thomas for his lack of faith. I’m not so sure. I think that Jesus may be telling Thomas that he had the opportunity to see Jesus, but those who do not have that opportunity, like you and me, we are not at a disadvantage. Not at all. We are blessed!
Thomas loves Jesus, Thomas believes in Jesus, and Thomas has spent the last three years following and listening to Jesus. Thomas even said in John 11:16, that he and the disciples should be willing to die with Jesus. Thomas was a faithful disciple. Jesus has died, Thomas is alive, and rumors are spinning all around about this whole empty tomb business and a possible resurrection. Thomas isn’t there the first time Jesus visited the disciples and so when they tell him Jesus is live, he doesn’t call them crazy. No, he wants to see what they saw!
So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." 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."
Thomas needs the same evidence all the other disciples needed. He needed visual proof. He was granted the visual affirmation but Jesus made it clear that there will be many who believe, not by visual proof, but by faith in the witness and testimony of His disciples.
Walking by Faith (2 Corinthians 5:7)
As believers today, we often hear people say that we are walking by faith. What exactly does that mean? In fact, 2 Corinthians 5:7 says that “we walk by faith, not by sight.” I think it is interesting that people often attribute the quality of walking by faith only to religious beliefs. Then they try to give it the inaccurate label of “blind faith.”
But think about this for a moment. Whether a person is a believer or not, we live our lives by faith, not by sight. We get into our vehicles with faith that we will arrive at our destination. We base that on past successes, but in reality, we are relying on a sightless faith in the dependability of our vehicle’s mechanical abilities, faith in our driving skills, and sightless faith in the other drivers on the same road. It is faith, but not by sight. We may take a new job in faith believing the things we are told about it and in faith believing that it will be exactly what we want. But we enter the job having never experienced or seen visually what all the job entails or the character of those we will be working with. We are walking by faith, not by sight.
My point is that walking by faith is something we do everyday of our lives and walking by faith in a relationship with the Lord is not all that different from our end. There is a big difference on God’s end though. He is faithful to us. We can have faith in Jesus and His resurrection because we have so many eye witness accounts. It is not like we have only a few people making the claim that Jesus died and rose again, we have hundreds.
1 Corinthians 15:3-11
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
Our faith is based on eye witnesses of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Our faith is based on the created world around us. Our faith is based on the many fulfilled prophecies of Scripture and so we look in faith for the fulfillment of the promises of God that He has made to us. Our faith is based on the conviction of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Our faith is based on the reality of a transformed life. Our faith is everything but blind. Our faith is a faith without sight, yes, but not a faith without evidence of the reality of Jesus and what He did for us.
Jesus is talking about you and me when He says to Thomas, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." When we live our lives based on our faith in Jesus, we are walking by faith, not by sight. Everyday our faith in Him guides our decisions, our choices, our practices. Everyday our faith helps us to continue on through the tough stuff of life. Everyday faith in Jesus’ resurrection power gives us the power to live for Him. It is because of our faith that we find true joy and satisfaction in life!
1 Peter 1:8-9
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Listen, Jesus is the Revealed One. But He is not just been revealed to Thomas and the other disciples. He has revealed Himself to us through the Word of God, through the testimony of others, through the creation we live in, and through the evidence of Him in the lives of others. If you think that you need some kind of special appearance of Jesus in His resurrected form, you are wrong. Jesus has revealed Himself for everyone to see, we just need to be willing to open our eyes to the reality of Him in the evidences around us.
We live in days of uncertainty. The world around us is uncertain about the reality of Jesus and the prospect of their future. But we must come to salvation, believing in what Jesus has done for us on the cross. When we do, we exercise faith without sight, but not faith without evidence. And when we do, we begin living our lives out of that faith. We walk by faith, not by sight. Is that the kind of faith you have? This is not simple acknowledgment of Jesus. It is a life lived out in faith to the One who has revealed Himself to us.