I remember the day in July 1969 that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldren became the first men to walk on the moon.
I watched it with a crowd in the lobby of the boarding house I lived in that summer in Ocean City, Maryland. I remember when it was over, I said, “Well, you seen one moon walk you seen ‘em all.”
Next day I was talking with the old janitor at the motel where I worked. He didn’t believe we’d landed on the moon. He thought our government staged the whole thing, a massive hoax. He wasn’t there to see it with his own eyes, so he refused to believe it.
No matter how I tried to reason with him, he was unmoved. “Our government couldn’t pull that off. Someone would leak it,” I argued. “Besides, why would they want to do that?” “To get more taxes out of us,” he said.
I asked him if he believed in Abraham Lincoln. After all, he hadn’t seen him with his own eyes. He didn’t believe in Abraham Lincoln either. Or the existence of Europe, since he’d never been there.
Sounds like a guy named Thomas.
Resurrection Sunday evening Jesus appeared to the disciples, but Thomas wasn’t there. They told him they’d seen Jesus. But Thomas refused to believe the them. Nor did he believe the report of Mary Magdalene, who’d seen the Lord, nor the very words of Jesus who’d predicted his death and resurrection numerous times. “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe” (JN 20.25).
What Thomas failed to realize is faith doesn’t come by sight and touch, but “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (RO 10.17).
This is how I came to faith. At someone’s suggestion, I bought a paper back Bible and began to read John. I attended some meetings where I heard men preach from the Bible about Jesus. By God’s grace, eventually I believed. But Jesus never appeared to me. I never saw fireworks or felt goose-bumps. I simply heard and believed.
Jesus told Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (JN 20.29). In other words, we experience God’s blessing not by seeing, but by hearing the gospel.
So John followed the Thomas story with, “these are WRITTEN so that you may BELIEVE that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:31). We come to believe through God’s written word.
God is so wise to root faith in his Word, not our subjective senses. If Jesus had appeared to me in 1973, I could doubt that experience now 38 years later. Maybe I hallucinated. After all, I used a lot of drugs back then. Maybe I was just desperate for something to believe in.
A common expression these days is, “I’m feeling it.” (Or not feeling it).
Do you FEEL like Jesus rose from the dead? Do you FEEL like his shed blood paid for all your sins? At times I’ve felt incredible condemnation for sin. But God’s word says, “There is now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (RO 8.1). So do I believe my feelings or God’s word?
Do you FEEL like God loves you? I don’t always feel like God loves me, but I know he does, because his Word says, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (RO 5.8)
This is the whole fight of faith – are we going to believe what God says or our feelings and circumstances?