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Believing is Seeing

May 1st 2011 by Joel Schultz

We have all heard that seeing is believing. Missouri is in fact called the "Show Me State" because of a famous politician who wanted to be shown proof before he would believe. The disciples on that Easter evening as they hid in fear and uncertainty also wanted prooof of Jesus' resurrection. They wanted to see so that they might believe. But Jesus shows them and us that believing is actually seeing. Read or listen to find out more...

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Easter 2A – John 20:19 -31 – “Believing is Seeing” - May 1, 2011 Have you ever been so certain of something that when you hear the opposite you just had to see it to believe it? Well, that was the disciple. They were very certain of a few things as they cowered in a locked room on that first Easter evening. Judas was dead, via suicide. Jesus was dead - crucified and buried. They were certain they could be next. But now, three days later, word was announced that Jesus was alive. The evidence kept pouring in throughout the day – reports of an empty tomb, of angels, even of several women claiming to see Jesus at different times – but it seemed too good to be true. Doubt was there natural reaction.

And then He appeared. Jesus came into their midst saying, “Peace be with you!” The Gospel according to Luke tells us that their initial reaction was disbelief and doubt. In fact, they were scared and thought He was a ghost. But then Jesus showed them His wounds. There was no doubt about it! He was alive! Christ had arisen from the dead!

But someone was missing from the group that evening, and despite the eyewitness claims of those in the room, Thomas remained a skeptic. Who could blame him? Thomas knew the Roman government. He knew how brutal a crucifixion was. Jesus had been beaten so severely that it must have been amazing that He had survived long enough to be crucified. And Thomas knew the survival rate of a crucifixion! Jesus was dead! The Roman spear thrust into Jesus’ heart made it certain. Thomas was focused on the cross and the certainty of death, rather than looking through the cloud of doubt at the empty tomb. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it!” (vs. 25).

Doubt comes naturally to the human mind. Thomas wanted proof! Even though he was a disciple. Even though he knew the reason for the crucifixion. Even though he knew the claims that Jesus made concerning Himself. He doubted. He doubted because he knew the certainty of death. Show me proof, show me evidence - then I’ll have to believe. Otherwise don’t bother me with your dreams and delusions.

Sadly, for many that is all last Sunday was... a dream, a delusion. Even some who call themselves Christian have doubts about the resurrection. People want proof, some sort of a sign. Especially if it doesn’t match up with their human reason. After all, “Seeing is Believing.” As a result, there are many “sign-seeking” Christians. The assurances of the Word of God are not enough for many Christians. It has to be backed up by miracles of healing, speaking in tongues, a reflection of Jesus on the side of a building, or other wonders.

What about us? We all experience moments of doubt. Jesus promises to always be with us, but when tragedy strikes it seems He has abandoned us. A loved one dies. Employment is lost. Suffering occurs from a long standing illness. We have feelings of loneliness. We wonder, “Where are you God?” At times we long for some concrete proof from God. Proof that He really does exist. Proof that He really does love us. Proof that His promises are sure. Proof that we are not deserted. Like Thomas we so often live by the philosophy, “seeing is believing.”

Well it was proof that Thomas wanted, and as we know, it was proof that Thomas got. One week later, our Resurrected Lord, in His great mercy, met each one of Thomas’ demands. There was no room for doubt when Jesus said, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” (vs. 27).

And immediately doubt gives way to belief as Thomas exclaims, “My Lord and my God!” Did you catch that? The person most associated with doubt is the one who gives one of the greatest confessions: “My Lord and my God!” In an instant Thomas recognizes that Jesus is indeed God and has triumphed over death. The certainty of fear and death was defeated by the certainty of the resurrected Christ.

One of our nation’s greatest intellects could not tolerate the notion of the supernatural. He could not see the possibility of miracles. So, he wrote his own version of the Bible taking out all the stories of miracles – the virgin birth, the raising of Jairus’ daughter, walking on water, and even the resurrection of Jesus. All his Bible contained were the moral teachings of Jesus and the historical events of His life. It ends, “There laid they Jesus and rolled a great stone at the mouth of the sepulcher and departed.” Thomas Jefferson, great man that he was, takes the power of the resurrection out of his Bible because for him seeing is believing.

But Jesus says to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (vs. 29), Jesus wants us to understand that “believing is seeing.” It is believing that opens the eyes to see through the cloud of doubt to see the empty tomb, the resurrection. It is believing that sees the victory won for us on the cross and sealed in the Resurrection – the victory over sin and death. It is believing that sees the certainty of Christ’s presence among His people. Believing is indeed seeing!

And this faith that we see by was created in us through God’s Word and Holy Baptism. It is in these means of grace that the Holy Spirit has created life-giving faith in our lives.

1) Faith to hear Jesus say: “Look at my wounds. With these wounds I hung on the cross. With these wounds I suffered for your sins. With these wounds I procured your forgiveness. These nail marks are a sign of my victory over sin and death.” 2) Faith to say : “There is no doubt, Jesus has risen from the grave.” 3) Faith which is nurtured by God’s Word and by the Lord’s Supper. 4) Faith which grasps the certainty of Christ’s presence among His people – as we again today come face to face with our risen Lord through Word and Sacrament. He comes to us according to His flesh through His Word and in His Supper gifting us with forgiveness, life, salvation, and a strengthened faith.

The one Thomas was so certain was dead... LIVES! And because He lives, we are raised with Him through Baptism to new life. We have the certainty of eternal life right now and into eternity. By waging war against sin and Satan, by paying the price for our sins in His death on Calvary, by rising from the dead on Easter morning – Death has been conquered. The fear of the disciples and our fear has been turned to joy! The doubts of Thomas and our doubts have been turned to confidence - faith!

As Christians, we need not doubt. Jesus died for us on the cross. We have the forgiveness He purchased by His blood. We have the certainty that the victory is won and the tomb stands open. And so Christ’s Words “PEACE BE WITH YOU” ring out loudly! Because we are certain that Jesus Christ is present with us today and every day, and we are certain that we too have victory over the troubles of life and even death itself. Fear turned to Joy! Doubt turned to faith! Through Christ our ever present and living Lord. Amen!

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