The sermon at my church this morning was a piece of brilliance. I say that a lot, but that’s because it is always true. As is so often the case I left church this morning with an incredible, to me at least, new insight to chew on, and now I am going to pass it on in case you, dear reader, would be interested in chewing upon it too.
We finished a year and a half study of the Book of John today. Twentieth chapter, verses 19 through 31. In these verses the resurrected Jesus appears to the disciples, with the exception of Thomas. Thomas hears from the others that Jesus has returned from the dead but his natural tendency to skepticism, a tendency that I would almost certainly share with him if I had stood in his sandals, wins out and he famously says “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” Jesus, of course, shows up and invites Thomas to get close and personal with the holes in His hands and side. In the end Jesus says “Now believe in me”, and Thomas replies “My Lord and my God.
In my opinion, based on my limited knowledge of theology, this is the apex of the Bible. The Old Testament, from the history of the Jewish people to their laws, and from the genealogies to the prophets – the whole shooting match – spoke of God’s good creation, its corruption by evil, God’s plan to use the Hebrew people to correct that problem, and their corruption into being part of the problem. Then the New Testament comes along and the Gospels tell the story of Jesus being the culmination of the mission of Israel. Jesus, who’s perfect life and teaching confronted the evil found in politics (Rome), religion (the Temple and the priesthood), and society (the fine, rich, and distinguished people who looked down their arrogant and privileged noses at the poor and the ‘sinners’), faced that evil down and defeated it once for all time when He died on the cross. At that point, God had done what He could do Now it was time for man to do his part. “Believe,” Jesus said to Thomas. “Believe” Jesus said to all of us. Believe what? Believe that Jesus was Lord and also God; God who created all and now gives His life to redeem His creation from the sin which seeks to drag it to hell and to destruction.
Now the Bible is complete. Evil entered God’s good creation, a plan of a couple thousand years’ duration had played out and God had begun to reconcile heaven and earth. Paul and the other New Testament writers have filled in some gaps and polished up some teachings, but the main point, and we should always remember to keep the main point the main point, was that it was time for us to play our part in this drama. It was time for us to simply, and in the face of all which says that we are crazy to do so, believe.
Believing should be easy, right? I’ve been a Christian for over thirty years. I’ve heard the voice of God two times and once felt Her presence as if She was a physical pressure pushing against my chest. Working in a hospital I have seen people free of cancer who should not be, and I have seen people go home who should not have gone home. In fact, I could easily write of a half dozen times that I should have died, but did not. Nobody alive should have more reason to be hard core, rock-solid, one hundred percent certain of God than me.
Yet sometimes I doubt. Sometimes I doubt. I hate the thought; I hate the sound of it if I say it out loud. Just for a moment I feel like a failure. Was this all the futile exercise of an emotional cripple leaning on a spiritual crutch, trying to stagger through a pointless life and denied even the dubious consolation offered by the false promises of full throttle sin? Then I remember the rich history of God in my life and God in the life of His creation, and I answer “No. Hell no.” This doubt is nothing more than the accusations of the enemy multiplied by my own weakness. With the help of the God who’s existence I sometimes doubt, in those random, empty, anchorless and thankfully brief moments, I remember what I’ve seen with my own eyes, heard with my own ears, and discerned with my own heart and mind. God is real. He is there; always has been. God the Father, or God the Mother if that makes you feel more comfortable, is as real as anything around me. More real than anything around me really, since He is the Real that all reality flows out from. More real than me, and I’m pretty real.
So that is what I came away with from this morning’s sermon. John 20, verses 19-31 is the point that the whole Bible leads to, and is all the assurance that I will ever need. God cares. He made a plan. She completed the plan. Believe and find peace in God, creation and eternity. Yeah, I can live with that.