Seeing IS NOT Believing
Talk about high drama!
The Apostles were in complete disarray as their leader Jesus Christ was betrayed, arrested, tried in a mockery of Jewish and Roman religious and civil courts of law, abused, beaten, denied by His chief Apostle, blasphemed, mocked, publicly bargained away for a worthless scoundrel, scourged and finally crucified and buried. No men in all of God’s earth could possibly have been as thoroughly discouraged and despairing… indeed, they were in hiding from fear of the Jewish religious authorities, and every trace of joy and victory that should have been in their hearts because of the testimony of Jesus Christ as to His purpose and how it would be fulfilled for the salvation of all men everywhere was completely absent. They had not enduring faith and infinite hope, but the blackest of depression and the deepest of sorrow.
Curiously, they had by this time heard of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the initial news of that most momentous event in the history of the world having been brought to them by Mary Magdalene. However, their shattered faith could not acknowledge what Jesus Christ had accomplished, and one of His Apostles, Thomas, argued quite adamantly against the assertion that Jesus Christ had indeed risen from the dead. There appeared to be no way forward; bluntly put…
The Apostles could not believe.
It was into this impossible disarray that Jesus Christ would insert Himself:
Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “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.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:24-29)
Despite having physically walked with Jesus Christ for the entire period of His ministry on earth, and having observed first-hand His miracles and His teachings, Thomas would not come to true and enduring belief until he actually saw the Risen Lord. He would not come to belief until he could see. Thomas was walking by sight, not by faith.
Compared to the mass of humanity that has lived, lives now, and will live until the time of the return of the Lord in glory, only an infinitely small sliver of people were granted the privilege of seeing the Risen Christ… yet Jesus Christ said that the greatest blessings would be upon those who would not see Him, but yet believe in Him.
What does this mean?
I believe this means that we have to have an understanding of what Jesus Christ has done:
Jesus Christ has removed our transgressions from us.
Holy Scripture is a record of the transgressions of humanity against its Creator, and of the provision of the Creator, in His mercy and compassion, to forgive those transgressions:
Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. (Psalm 32:1-2)
Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord” – and you forgave the guilt of my sin. (Psalm 32:5)
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. (Psalm 51:1-4)
When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions. (Psalm 65:3)
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:8-12)
We see from Holy Scripture that we are burdened with sin, and our own consciences make us aware of our sin, so that Holy Scripture may declare to the glory of God the full extent of our unworthiness before a just, pure, holy and righteous God:
With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? (Micah 6:6-7)
Nothing we can offer God is good enough to allow us to stand before Him both justified and blameless, because…
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
Nothing… NOTHING… that man could do, even observing the ritual sacrifices detailed in the Mosaic Law (which could only point out what men were capable of doing to sin against and thereby anger and offend God, without offering a way of forgiveness) was good enough to redeem a thoroughly sinful humanity. What, then was ‘good enough’?
God’s Only Son.
Knowing that no other sacrifice could satisfy the righteous wrath of God against a fallen and sinful humanity, God gave His Only Son to be the blood sacrifice by which the entire penalty of sin… eternal death in the lake of fire… would be marked ‘PAID IN FULL’. This was spoken of, and prophesied, in the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament some 700 years before Jesus Christ was born:
Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:1-12)
And so it was that the Apostle John could write:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
What has this achieved for us? The book of Ephesians tells us plainly (italic emphases mine):
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:1-6)
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:6-9)
Jesus Christ has paid it all!
Why did Jesus Christ do this?
The book of Hebrews tells us plainly (italic emphasis mine):
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified: “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet.” In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:5-9)
The Apostle Paul declares with unrestrained joy:
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)
THIS is what Jesus Christ has made possible for us… the forgiveness of sin, peace made with Almighty God the Father through His blood, life everlasting.
Seeing is not believing… rather, believing is seeing, for then it is true what Holy Scripture says:
for we walk by faith, not by sight – (2 Corinthians 5:7)