Week 1: Seeing is Not Believing

April 11, 2021
Primary Text: John 20:19-31
Big Idea of the Message: Physical proof is not necessary for faith
As we contemplate the Christian mystery of the resurrection of the Christ, it's easy for us to get caught up in the questions that stem from our modern minds:  Did Jesus really rise from the dead? Was it physical? Was it spiritual? Does it really matter at all? Even for the earliest Christians, believing that Christ rose from the grave required a great deal of faith.

In today's text, Thomas is offered proof of the resurrected Christ.  As he feels the wounds in Jesus's hands and side, Thomas declares, "My Lord and my God!"  Jesus responds to him with this: "Do you believe because you have seen?  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe."

Scholars generally agree that these words were likely not spoken by Jesus but were added by the author of the Gospel of John to communicate a message to Christians throughout the ages: Thomas is given the chance physically to encounter Jesus after he has died, but those who believe in the resurrected Christ but never see his physical body, they are truly blessed.

In this way, faith is perhaps more profound and powerful than sight.

Discussion Questions:
  • Think of a time when you tried to convince someone of something even though they had not witnessed it first hand.  Was it difficult?  
  • There is a story from the Desert Fathers about a young monk who asked one of the old men of the desert why it was that so many people came out to the desert to seek God and yet most of them gave up and returned to their lives in the city.
 “Last evening my dog saw a rabbit running for cover among the bushes of the desert and he began to chase the rabbit, barking loudly. Soon other dogs joined in the chase, and they were barking and running as well. They ran a great distance and alerted many other dogs. Soon the desert was echoing the sounds of their pursuit but the chase went on into the night.
After a little while, many of the dogs grew tired and dropped out. A few chased the rabbit until the night was nearly spent. By morning, only my dog continued the hunt. “Do you understand,” the old man said, “what I have told you?”
“No,” replied the young monk, “please tell me father.”
“It is simple,” said the desert father, “my dog saw the rabbit.”
—Sayings of the Desert Fathers
  • This story reminds us that for most of us, "seeing is believing."  So, what happens when we can't feel the holes in Christ's hands or side?  How do we continue to chase a rabbit we've never seen?  
  • How do we live out our faith without "seeing" proof?  Do we see proof in other ways?

When we think about our faith this way, demanding evidence for the stories of Scripture seems really trivial.  Thomas's request falls short of the real evidence that is necessary to legitimize the Christian faith: a life that lives the way of Jesus on earth as it is in heaven.