Not Seeing and Yet Believing

Jesus' hand©_pencilAfter the resurrection, Jesus invited doubting Thomas to reach out and touch his nail-scarred hands and wounded side. Thomas did so and responded, “My Lord and My God!” Jesus replied, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (John 20:26-29).

When I first read this, it seemed to me that Jesus’ response was a bit harsh. On further thought, I realized Jesus was lovingly pointing the way for Thomas to know him more.

There is something about seeing and touching, and knowing that Jesus had wounds and suffered, that helped Thomas believe. Thomas recognized Jesus as Lord and enthroned Jesus in his heart. He committed his life to following Jesus, to knowing him more and more.

Maybe the point is, knowing and believing in God wouldn’t happen for Thomas by just seeing the facts of Jesus’ resurrection. In John 11:43-53 some people who saw Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead still didn’t believe in him and plotted to kill him. Faith and belief are openness to receiving God. In the Bible, “knowledge” is more than intellectual assent. Knowledge is an intimate experience of a person. “My beloved is mine and I am his…” the poet wrote in Song of Songs (2:16). There is love and joy in the intimate knowledge of Christ.

Jesus feet flowers2Jesus’s Feet in the Tomb Garden after the Resurrection

This is comforting to me in my times of doubt. I don’t think Jesus minds if I ask for proof that he is there and that he cares. Many are asking those questions, in these difficult days of COVID-19. The ways that Jesus assures me, speak to my heart, go beyond reason. I have already decided intellectually that the best explanation for the empty tomb and for transformed lives, is that Jesus actually rose from the dead. But I need more.

God speaks to me through a different kind of seeing, a seeing that comes from beauty, from love. I experience these things through Creation, through visual art and music, through touch, through taste, and through God’s Word in Scripture. Like when I saw pink sunset clouds high above the lake and thought of the verse,

For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love… (Psalm 103:11).

So Jesus told Thomas, and Jesus tells us: there is knowledge that transcends reason, knowledge that dips into the realm of experience, into the deepest recesses of our hearts. God comes to us in the here and now.

Let’s keep seeking the Risen Lord. He longs to reveal himself to us, as he did to Thomas.

The Breaking of the Bread

God has promised that one day we will see Jesus face to face, and know fully even as we are fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12). We will see and know with the eyes and with the heart. Until that time, one way that we see and touch and taste Christ is in the breaking of the bread. In Bible times, “breaking of the bread” meant eating together. The early church also used this term to refer to the Christian practice of Communion.KM_C454e-20180416182636

Jesus shared many meals with people in the New Testament, and these meals help us understand how Jesus meets with us today. In Communion, we touch Christ’s wounds and proclaim his death until he comes (1 Corinthians 11:26). The beauty of Communion touches us in a place that transcends reason, space and time.

As we see and touch Jesus, we respond with Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” We offer our bodies, our whole selves as living sacrifices in the service of our Living God (Romans 12:1-2).

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you (2 Corinthians 12:13).

Description of artwork above:

My drawing depicts the Emmaus Supper where Jesus was revealed to Cleopas and the other disciple in their deep disappointment, in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:35). The other disciple may have been Cleopas’ wife. The baby she holds is visually cradled by Jesus in the crook of his arm, because Jesus loves the children! This meal points toward Communion. Jesus had explained to the two on the road from Scripture that the Messiah had to die and rise. But they didn’t get it and didn’t recognize Jesus, until he broke the bread.

Why is there a goat in this picture? There are several reasons: I was inspired by a painting of Noah’s ark by Marc Chagall, that also includes a goat. The goat is fitting because all of Creation will praise Jesus and be renewed (Rev. 5:13).

lo_Trevor the goat

Also, my family had a memorable encounter with a goat named Trevor…that is another story which I will share in an upcoming blog on Psalm 23.  (I’ll share more on the goat and Psalm 23 for May 3, 2020 which is Good Shepherd Sunday.)

The goat also reminds me of the many ways that God “touches” us. Moses sprinkled the people with the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop. This ritual communicated purification from sin by the blood of the covenant. This ritual was fulfilled in Christ, “who having been offered once to bear the sin of many, will appear a second time…to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:19-20; 28).

As we wait for Christ’s return, God uses his Creation to communicate and commune with us, as he did in Moses’ day.  Jesus is still revealing himself to us, and has promised to be with us always (Matthew 28:20).

See my website STORE page at BarbaraBjelland.com for:

  •   “Supper with the Savior: Communion in the Bible and Today,” my intergenerational Picture Book and Bible Studies 
  • Art Meditations/Sermon Starters for Good Shepherd Sunday, May 3, 2020

 

 

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