(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)
Wanting to Believe
22nd April 2011
Let's read again these words from John's gospel:
It’s not that Thomas didn’t want to believe. He wanted to believe but he didn’t know how to believe. There are many who don’t believe, and many who do believe, and many who want to believe but don’t know how to believe.
Thomas was one of the twelve disciples. He loved Jesus. He’d left everything he had to follow Jesus. And for around three years, he’d learned from Jesus. He’d heard the parables. He was there when Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. He’s seen Jesus heal the sick and raise the dead. He’s been there when Jesus told the disciples that they’d misunderstood about the Kingdom of God. He’d heard Peter and Jesus arguing about whether Jesus was going to be crucified. He loved Jesus, and he trusted Jesus, and he knew that he didn’t fully understand Jesus. But he’d thought that he understood well enough. But when Jesus was arrested, and crucified, and he died and was buried, Thomas didn’t understand. Nor did the others. It seemed like the end, like there was no point in believing. How could things go so wrong?
Thomas, I suspect, was heartbroken and bewildered.
And he heard stories about Jesus rising from the dead and appearing to the others. He couldn’t understand. How could Jesus be alive? Why did he die, if he was only going to rise again? Why did he appear to the others when Thomas wasn’t there with them? If the story of Jesus and his people had not come to an end, was Thomas going to be excluded? And if so, why? There must have been many questions going around Thomas’s head. But the biggest question was surely, how can I believe?
And when your life goes wrong, and it turns out very different from what you’d hoped and expected, it can be hard to believe that God loves you, or even that he’s there at all. How can you believe?
Thomas looked into his heart and found that he wanted to believe, but that it was difficult after all that had happened. But there was a way he could believe. He said "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". I think he was saying, “I’m not going to believe just because my friends believe. I’m not going to believe just because the church believes. I need Jesus to help me believe”.
And a week later, Jesus came to the disciples again, and 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".
Jesus did what Thomas needed him to do. We’re not to put God to the test, as if we’re interviewing him for the job of Saviour. Jesus is the Lord of Heaven and Earth. But when we genuinely need Jesus to help us believe, he will. Ask him. But only ask him if you mean it.
Jesus did more though, than helping Thomas to believe. Jesus allowed Thomas to touch him. He allowed Thomas to touch his wounds. Did it hurt? I think so. But Jesus loved Thomas enough to let Thomas hurt him. Jesus wants us to reach out and touch him. To experience him for ourselves. To let him show us that he was wounded for us. And to believe that his death and resurrection had a purpose. Romans 4:2 says, He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. That rather religious language means that Jesus died to pay for all the things we’ve done that we shouldn’t have done, and through his death and his rising from the dead, we can have a healthy, genuine relationship with God.
Will you reach out for Jesus? Will you let him show you his wounds, and the reason for them? Will you ask Jesus to help you believe? Eternal life waits those who do. As verse 31 says, these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.