Saturday, April 28, 2012
Skepticism is not new. We live in a world of confusion, contradiction, and downright fraud. Only the fool believes everything he hears from others. A certain amount of skepticism, therefore, is healthy and wise. Thus it should come as no surprise to us that, no sooner had the resurrection taken place, when one of Jesus' own disciples expressed doubt as to whether it had actually happened.
Most of Jesus' disciples had first seen the risen Christ on the evening of that original Easter Sunday. They had been gathered together behind closed doors ("for fear of the Jews") when Jesus suddenly appeared in their midst. What exactly were they seeing? A ghostly apparition? A hallucination? Jesus showed them the places where He had been wounded, and the text says "Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord" (John 20:20; NKJV). The unbelievable had actually happened, and their beloved Lord and Teacher had returned to them alive.
There was one disciple, however, Thomas, who had not been present on the occasion, and when he heard about what had happened he frankly found it all hard to believe. How could such a thing even be possible? He demanded to see the physical evidence. "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe" (v. 25). He had been confronted by the eyewitness testimony of at least ten different people, all of them personally known to himself, and yet he refused to believe. Thomas, you see, was a true empiricist, and he refused to accept a truth claim that was unverifiable!
He was soon to be embarrassed, however, by his disbelief. For a week later Jesus appeared a second time in the same manner, and this time Thomas was present. Jesus challenged Thomas to do exactly as he had said he wanted to do. Thomas' response was one of total capitulation: "My Lord and my God!" (v. 28). Significantly his exclamation acknowledged the full deity of Christ, and Jesus did not correct him on that point. Thomas' confession of faith, in fact, forms the climax of John's narrative. It is the conclusion of the evangelist's argument.
Jesus' final comment to Thomas was: "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (v. 29). Thomas should have believed because of what Jesus had already taught him about His impending death and resurrection, and because of the testimony of his fellow disciples. He did not, however, and Jesus rebuked him for his unwarranted skepticism.
We, of course, are among those who must believe without physically seeing. But in the written testimonials of the New Testament, supported by the prophecies of the Old, we have documentary evidence that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the promised Messiah, and that He really did rise from the dead. Faith is not, as some imagine, belief in the absence of evidence. Few major Christian theologians or apologists have ever accepted the claims of Christianity on the basis of a blind leap of faith into the dark. Rather, sound faith is an entirely rational acceptance of the facts based on convincing evidence.
Christianity is not merely a comforting story or a fascinating legend. It is based on historical fact, and it is a fact that compels us to Jesus Christ Himself as our Lord and Savior.