LEAPS OF FAITH: Knowing Jesus as Christ and God
The Rev. Dr. Winfred B. Vergara
Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are they whohave not seen and yet believe” John 20:26.
At a Sunday School class, the teacher asked, “Where is God?” All the kids, having been taught the previous Sundays about God’s omnipresence, replied “God is everywhere,” but Little Johnny said, “Maam, I know God is in the bathroom.” The teacher was curious and asked little Johnny why he said God was in the bathroom. Little Johnny told a story: one morning he heard his Mom and Dad arguing. Then his Mom cried and went inside the bathroom and locked it. His Dad followed behind, knocking and knocking. Then in exasperation, his Dad said, “My God, when are you going out of the bathroom?”
The apostles' belief in the resurrection of Jesus started as a tale and ended as a big leap of faith. They were not witnesses to the resurrection. They were not the first ones to see the empty tomb. They were hiding in closed doors for fear of the Jews; they were talking in whispers; they were communicating in signs. The cruel death of Jesus on the cross was lingering in their memories. They fear that they were going to be next. As it was in the past experience of Israel, when the colonial Roman government would massacre or imprison all those involved in political rebellions, they feared a crackdown on their movement.
But they began to believe in the stories of the women. Mary the mother, Joanna the mother of James and Mary Magdalene told them what had been spoken by the angels. “He is not here, he is risen.” And so they returned to prayer. And when they did, Jesus appeared.
My friends, when things are hard to bear, when situations are difficult, when our lives are hanging by the thread, prayer changes things. By prayer, fear turns to courage; despair turns to hope and sorrow turns to joy, even imaginations become reality. In the words of the psalmist, “you gave me beauty for ashes, an oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. That we might be trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.” Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am in the midst of them.”
From the closed door, suddenly Jesus stood among them and said, “Peace, be with you; as the Father has sent me, so I send you.” The words of Jesus were a revival message of their past commissions. When Jesus was with them in Galilee, Jesus taught them how to pray, how to heal, and how to preach the gospel. Then he sent them two by two in the villages and as they went the Holy Spirit performed miracles through their hands. They all forget about their power when they saw Jesus crucified. And so Jesus again said to them “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; but if you withhold their sins, they will be retained.”
Once upon a time, when people were still travelling across the ocean by steamship, there was a story of a poor passenger from London who went to the United States. He had a ticket with him but unfortunately, he did not know how to read and so he did not know what’s in the ticket. It took at least three days for the ship to arrive in New York from London and this passenger after a day without meal, was getting hungry. He saw that during breakfast, lunch and dinner, the other passengers were eating food in the dining room of the ship but he could only look at them with envy. Finally he summoned enough courage to ask the captain if he could have at least some of the leftover and the captain replied, “You have a ticket alright? Don’t you know that when you buy a ticket, the meals are already included?”
The apostles had tremendous power because they were anointed by Christ. But they did not know that when they are anointed by Jesus in the name of the Father, the Holy Spirit is also there. The Holy Spirit enables, empowers and equip them to witness to the life of the risen Christ. And so the appearance of Jesus was a ticket that entitles them to everything because all authority and power in heaven and on earth and under the earth, had been given to Jesus.
But Thomas, one of the apostles was not within them when Jesus appeared and when told of the story, Thomas replied, “Unless I see the mark of nails in his hand and put my finger on the mark of the nails, I would not believe.” Thomas was a typical Episcopalian; he is a man of rationality. He uses his head. For him, to see is to believe. It was at that moment that Jesus again appeared. And addressing directly to Thomas, Jesus said, “Put your finger on my hand and feel the mark; and put your hand upon my side where the spear of the Roman soldiers pierced; do not be faithless but believe.” At this point, Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” Thomas articulated the highest creedal affirmation ever. The other apostles confessed Jesus as Master, Teacher and Lord. Peter confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God. But Thomas said, “My Lord and my God!” It is to Thomas that we first derived the concept of Jesus as “very God of very God.”
But Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” There are therefore three leaps of faith that Thomas learned that day. First, you believe because others have told you about it; second you believe because you have seen it; and third, you believe because you really know it in spirit.
May you know Jesus as a living Reality of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.