1 John 1:1-2:2
Peace be with you!
In a world full of false promises, it is difficult to believe Jesus died and in three days he would rise again. You know the false promises I am talking about: Take this diet pill and lose ten pounds in a week! Give money to this church or charity and be guaranteed healing from your ailment! Use this cream and have no age winkles!
When the disciples tell Thomas they have seen Jesus alive again after his death by crucifixion, he has a hard time believing them and asks for proof (John 20:25). Sure, Thomas had seen Jesus raise Lazarus from his grave. Sure, Jesus said he would rise again after three days (which Thomas may or may not remember). But can it be true? Can Jesus really have died and risen from the dead? Is it even possible?
In the past, we have disdainfully called Thomas the Doubter. But put yourself in Thomas’ position. Can you honestly say you would not ask for proof? Think of the last time you were challenged like Thomas. As a young child, the doctors thought I would never be able to sit up, talk, or walk. So imagine my mom’s amazement when my physical therapist told her I sat up for a minute by myself. Imagine my dad’s reaction when my mom went home and told him the news. I had to sit up independently in front of both of my parents before they would believe. They needed proof.
We all have asked for proof that God is real. “If you give me a sign, I will do ____.” We have all prayed that prayer. I have shared with you before my anxiety as I waited for my acceptance letter from Luther Seminary. I remember praying, “If I get accepted, I will answer your call.” I was accepted, so here I am writing these weekly devotions in answer to God’s call. But I find myself still looking for more proof. Now I am waiting for a bigger audience and more individuals commenting on my posts in order to affirm my calling. I am a bit like Thomas, because I am always looking for a way to confirm God is calling me. Am I touching on the right topics? Am I challenging myself enough? Am I reaching my audience?
Trying to figure out where you fit into God’s plan can be challenging. Imagine how Thomas felt when he heard that Jesus had appeared to the other disciples when he was gone. Thomas must have thought, “Why would Jesus appear to them and not to me? I followed Jesus just as faithfully than the others. In fact, I was willing to follow Jesus to the death. Yet Jesus appears to everyone but me.”
Thomas is asking for proof. He is seeking understanding of what God’s plan is and where he fits in. A week later Jesus appears to the disciples again, including Thomas this time. He greets them with, “Peace be with you” (John 20:26). The risen Lord gives the disciples peace in knowing he will always be with them. No matter where their ministry leads them, the risen Jesus goes with them. Jesus also shows Thomas his wounds – his pierced hands and his stabbed side – to prove he is Jesus who was crucified. Once Thomas sees, he believes and says, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).
Jesus asks us to come to believe, like Thomas and the other disciples. Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (John 20:29b). He is addressing his future disciples – the ones who will not physically see or touch his physical body. We are given sufficient proof in order to believe (the writings in the Gospels, the continued work of God in the Church). Ultimately, however, our faith comes primarily through the power of God at work within us.
And as faith is at work in us, that faith helps fuel belief in other people as well. As we believers, we walk in the light with Jesus in order to be in fellowship with him and with other disciples. We gather as a community of Christians who believe the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us of all our sins (1 John 1:7). We shine the light, so others can come to believe and the truth can be known to all. When we confess our sins, Jesus forgives us and makes us righteous with the Lord by cleansing us of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). As disciples of Jesus Christ, we cannot just talk the talk; we must walk the walk. When we do this, we shine his light, so others can see it and follow by our example.
Acts 4:32-35 gives us an ideal example of how Jesus’ followers should live in community and be a blessing to others. The apostles gave testimonies about the risen Lord, and all those who heard came to believe and sold their homes and land to give the proceeds to them. Then the apostles split the proceeds with those who needed it. As a result, Acts says, “There was not a needy person among them” (Acts 4:34). Faith in Jesus had completely transformed the lives of the believers so that they cared no longer only for themselves but for their whole community as well.
This is the ideal situation, but we can help those in need in other ways. Jerry and I have been going through all of our stuff and packing what we do not need any more – clothes, lamps, books, car stuff, decorations, etc. We have filled a whole minivan with stuff that no longer fits our needs, wanting to share with someone who could still put it to use. One day Jerry plans to take our unwanted stuff to where he knows individuals who are poor live and letting them take whatever they need or want for free.
As Christians, we are called to spread the good news by helping those who are less fortunate. Maybe you have nothing to give away. Maybe you are called to offer free babysitting to a single mom who works late at night. Maybe you could offer free tutoring to a poor student who is struggling with his/her studies. Maybe you could share your leftovers with an elderly couple. There are a million different ways to live out Jesus’ message . When you give yourself to the community, you give life to the good news.
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for giving Thomas proof and giving him the courage to give the good news of life. Help us to believe in your message as we walk in the light and share your gifts with others. Give us the wisdom to give your message life. Thank you for blessing us with your good news and giving us ways to shine your light upon others. Amen.
Thanks to the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the comment covenant.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
1. How do you ask for proof, like Thomas did?
2. How do you live out Jesus’ message?