Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Unless I see...I will not believe.

Lectionary Readings for April 27, 2014. Acts 2: 14a, 22-32, Psalm 16, 1 Peter 1:3-9, John 20:19-31

The disciples are scared. They all ran away when Jesus was arrested because they were rightly frightened to be associated with a condemned man. The Romans and the high priests were formidable enemies, so the disciples hid. Now the tomb is empty, Peter, one other disciple, and Mary of Magdala had all seen it, but only Mary stayed behind and saw the risen Jesus.

Here in John 20, the disciples are still afraid and hiding. Maybe they just didn't understand and thought the body had been removed. Maybe they thought they would be blamed (like in Matthew's account where the story was spread that the disciples had stolen Jesus' body). Perhaps they had trouble believing that Mary had actually spoken with Jesus. At the very least, they certainly didn't know what to do next. Until they all saw Jesus, they simply couldn't get their heads around the fact that he was alive.

Thomas always gets a bad rap for doubting, yet all he asks for is the same thing that it took for the others to believe. He wants to see.

It should be enough for us that there are trusted witnesses, throughout history, who have passed on the story and lived their lives believing and following Jesus.But it is not enough for most of us, we are like Thomas, we need to experience Jesus before we can say; "My Lord and my God!"

And it seems very hard for the upper and middle class of us to claim that experience. I don't think we are very good at trusting God, at relying on God, and we are certainly not good at realizing that our lives are not truly in our control. While there are many poor people who also don't believe, overall I wonder if belief might come easier to those who have no other hope, no other way to "control" their lives.

1 Peter speaks of the great hope that has come into the world through Jesus' resurrection. The hope that suffering and death are overcome through him. That great joy can be had even in the midst of problems. Peter says; "even though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy..." v. 8.  Peter is speaking to a persecuted people. Victory over suffering is a theme throughout the letter. Perhaps they believe, even though they didn't see, because belief is hope that things will change.

Seeing and hearing from others is a very important way that my faith gets fed. Experiencing "God moments", times when I feel God is near and helping or guiding or encouraging me, those moments help feed my belief. I think in my own way, I am Thomas. I need to see.

What great hope keeps you going and gives you joy? What do you need to see to believe? How do you handle the times when you aren't seeing evidence of God?

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