2nd Sunday of Easter April 24, 2022


Believing Is Seeing!

John 20:24-31

Scripture Readings

1 Peter 1:3-9
John 20:19-23


205, 208:1,4-10, 352, 189

Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted

+ In the Name of Jesus Christ +

Prayer of the Day: Almighty God, grant that we who have celebrated the Lord’s resurrection may by Your grace confess in our life and conversation that Jesus is God and Savior. We pray this through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them [the disciples] when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. (NKJV)

Are you one of those people who usually has to see something to believe it? Are you usually not convinced of something if you only hear about it; you have to see it for yourself? We’ve all got a little bit of “Thomas” in us, don’t we? “Seeing is believing!” they say. But, do you realize just how impractical and, in fact, absurd it is to refuse to believe something simply because you’ve never seen with your own eyes? You probably “believe in” more things that you’ve never seen—and simply can’t see—than you realize.

Think of some examples. Think of something you’ve never seen with your own two eyes, but you definitely believe exists. If you give it even just a little bit of thought, you’ll realize very quickly that there are, in fact, many, many things that we “believe in” without seeing them. Gravity for instance. You can’t see it, but you know it’s there. How about some of the microscopic organisms in our world? Take viruses for instance. After the last two years we’ve had, do you have any doubt that they exist? Or how about the wind? Have you ever thought about the fact that you really can’t see the wind? Oh, you can see the effects of the wind, that’s for sure! I used to live in Nebraska, and if you’ve ever spent any time in any of the Plains States in our country you will definitely believe that wind exists even though you technically can’t “see” the wind.

Besides all this, our eyes really aren’t that reliable—and neither are our minds for that matter! Think of “optical illusions” that play tricks on our minds, or the fact that our minds can also play tricks on our eyes.

The fact is we believe in many things even though we can’t see them, don’t we? Why? Because of the overwhelming evidence we’ve observed, experienced, and simply know to be true even though we’ve never seen gravity, viruses, or the wind with our naked eyes. Why is it then that we don’t often use this same clear and obvious type of thinking when it comes to Jesus and His promises? We’ve got evidence of God and His love all around us—in the magnificent way He’s made us, in the beautiful creation He’s provided for us, and the way He preserves and blesses us every single day. Most importantly of all He’s told us about Himself, Himself—pages and pages of eyewitness accounts, examples, illustrations, decrees, commandments, prophecies, and promises that have themselves been miraculously preserved for us over thousands of years. Simply by looking at creation around us, all people should—at the very least—believe in the existence of God, and in the fact that He must be incredibly wise and powerful, just as easily as they believe in the existence and power of gravity, the flu, and, of course, the wind!

Thomas should have “put the pieces together” as well and realized the truth that Jesus had in fact risen from the dead even before Jesus appeared to Him the week after Easter behind locked doors.

Thomas had no reason NOT to believe, but he chose to believe his reason and intellect instead. On top of all this, during Jesus’ ministry Thomas and the rest of the disciples had repeatedly heard Him predict His suffering, death, and His resurrection on the third day. Mark records one of these predictions for us, Then He [Jesus] took the twelve aside again and began to tell them the things that would happen to Him: ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles; and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.’ (Mark 10:32-34) At the very least Thomas should have believed the very words of the Lord Jesus Himself!

In the case of Thomas, as it often is with us, the problem is not that there isn’t evidence or reasons enough to believe, but rather that our reason won’t let us believe! When God defines faith for us in His Word, He doesn’t say, “Seeing is believing,” but rather, He essentially tells us, Believing is Seeing! Listen to His definition of faith from the letter of Hebrews, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1) Jesus did not “praise” Thomas when he put too much stock in what he could see and feel and allowed his reason to “doubt” that Jesus had, in fact, risen from the dead. But what did Jesus say about those who have not seen Him, and yet believe in Him (and remember this would include you and me!)? He doesn’t call us “childish,” “foolish,” or “small-minded” for believing in Him even though we haven’t ever seen Him. No! He calls us Blessed!” He says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. (v. 29)

The fact that we haven’t seen Jesus with our physical eyes should not worry us or cause us to doubt. In times of weakness when we, like Thomas ask the Lord for more proof, what we are doing is ignoring all the sure and certain things He has shown us and narrowed our search down to the visible, physical proof that we want to see. When we do this, we ignore the fact that His handprints are all over creation. We ignore our natural knowledge of Him and the conscience that He has placed inside each one of us. We ignore the cross where Jesus gave His life for us as the ultimate and unquestionable “proof” that He loves us and would do anything to save us from hell. Worst of all we ignore the fact that He has given us His very own words—the very words of God Himself—which He inspired His own eyewitnesses to write. Eyewitnesses like John, who tells us in the last verse of our text that this was the very reason he wrote the words he did: but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. (v. 31)

Jesus has come to each one of us this morning in His Word to remove our doubts. He says to each one of us, Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. (v. 27a) See and touch the wounds I bore on the cross for your sins. See and touch that I am your living, loving Savior! Do not be unbelieving, but believing. (v. 27b) Jesus is speaking to you and me as well when He says, Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. (v. 29) Jesus has also given us the sure and certain words of His eyewitnesses, like Peter, who wrote to Christians, who, like us, had not seen Jesus with their physical eyes either, Though you have not seen him [Jesus], you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9 ESV)

The fact is, we “believe in” plenty of things in this life without having seen them with our eyes: gravity, viruses, the wind, etc. Just take a look at the evidence and the effects of each one: they all exist! Take a look at all the evidence Jesus has given us that He lived, He died, and lives again—or just take His Word for it! He’s never broken a promise! With “eyes” of faith in Jesus’ Words we confidently say today with the disciples, “We have seen the Lord!” (v. 25) Believe and “see,” for as God’s Word tells us “Believing is Seeing!Believe and there will come a day when you will truly see—not with “eyes” of faith—but as the Apostle John reminds us, we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2)! Amen.

—Pastor Luke Bernthal

St. Stephen Lutheran Churches
Mt. View and Hayward, CA

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