It took one appearance by Jesus to turn the disciples’ unbelief into belief. It takes much more for us. Jesus is not visibly present among us. We cannot see His wounds. We cannot touch His hands and side. We need more than evidence in a book or from a pastor’s mouth to believe Jesus is alive.
Thomas said unless. We use if. If Jesus is alive, then He had better show His face somehow so I can believe He really exists. If Jesus really loves me, He will answer all my prayers the way I ask Him. If there is a God of the Bible, He will give me a sign. The faith that uses if is a faith that is centered in doubt or stubborn pride.
Today’s Introit from Psalm 81 says I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. In distress you called, and I delivered you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. Did God’s people hear Him? My people would not heed My voice, and Israel would have none of Me. So I gave them over to their stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? We fall flat on our face when we think we can fix trouble without the Lord’s help. When we realize we are helpless without our heavenly Father and we don’t really believe He will help us, where will we turn? We turn to the God of love and mercy Who rescues us only to see us return to our foolish and thankless ways.
Though we love to sing, “To the old rugged cross I will always be true”, we are not loyal to the One Who hung on the old rugged cross. Though hearing Jesus’ resurrection from the dead brings great joy every year, it’s a week later and we forget about the resurrection. If seeing is believing, we will never know what it means to believe in the God Who saves us from sin and death.
Jesus tells Thomas because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. We weren’t in the room behind locked doors when Jesus walked in either that first night or one week later when Thomas was present. We didn’t walk the road to Emmaus with a stranger and not realize He is Jesus when He broke the bread. In spite of ourselves, in spite of our idols, and in spite of our unbelief, we believe. We believe because these [words in John’s Gospel] are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Gut feelings and reason cannot believe Jesus died and rose again. Faith clings to Jesus Christ and receives the benefits of His death and resurrection. How can this be? The Holy Spirit taught us by showing us the water and blood of Jesus pouring from His side. How can this be? The Spirit draws us into the Word of God where Saint John writes the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.
Today Jesus breathes on men who, in spite of themselves, will proclaim the resurrection peace of Jesus Christ. Jesus could have asked people to set up crosses on a street corner and watch people be drawn to that cross. The cross of Jesus, the cross on a street corner, and even the crosses in this church building, does no one good unless the cross is delivered. The Spirit puts the Father’s Word with water in Holy Baptism. This living water calls us out of darkness into the marvelous light of Christ. The Spirit puts the Father’s Word with bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper. The True Body and Blood of Christ forgive our sins and strengthen our faith. The Spirit puts the Father’s Word with the proclamation of forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. These gifts give the Holy Spirit Who works faith when and where He pleases in those who hear the Gospel.
This Gospel is what the disciples hear from Jesus’ mouth: peace be with you. The sinful doubt of the disciples finally left them when they saw Jesus alive. Thomas once did not believe, just as the other ten disciples once did not believe. When Jesus shows Himself, these eleven men once again believed in the Son of God.
Jesus shows Himself again here today, proclaiming peace be with you. What He achieved for you does no good unless it is delivered. No doubt about it, His forgiveness, His life, and His victory are delivered today for you. Believe it for Jesus’ sake.