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Unless I See

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By Linda Rex

April 24, 2022, 2nd Sunday in EASTER—Do you ever do that thing where when you’re expecting a visitor, you start tidying up everything in the house? Pretty soon you’re checking the bathrooms and the bedrooms to be sure there’s no clutter or dust. You’re fluffing the pillows on the couch, straightening the dining room chairs, and wiping off the kitchen counter one more time. And then the doorbell rings.

What I find interesting about social media and our online presence today is that we often do the same thing, only in a different way. I’ve been trying to go through things at home, so I can begin downsizing and packing, and I have empty boxes laying around and stuff scattered here and there. But when I was joining a Zoom meeting today, all of a sudden, I decided that the boxes had to be moved around so that my online line presence didn’t look like a stockroom.

It is rather distressing to me to realize how managed and manipulated what we see and hear online really is nowadays. It’s getting harder and harder to hear the quiet, sincere voices of the loving truth-tellers. We can’t really discern the hearts and minds of those we are listening to, or whether what they are showing us or telling us hasn’t been doctored or altered in some way. Perhaps they spent hours preparing for the “white glove” test rather than simply being real and honest with us.

There is a hunger I am beginning to sense in people for genuine, healthy community and relationship. I’m not certain that many of us know or remember what that even looks like. What does it mean to love and be loved in the way God created us to exist as image-bearers of the divine? Whatever it means, it must include the ability to see what is unseen—the heart and mind of the living God at work in us and with each of us by his heavenly Spirit. And that happens in the context of face-to-face relationship.

I think this was the cry of Thomas’ heart when the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” Jesus’ death was a real event—a truly graphic and horrendous human experience. What outcome could there be from a crucifixion other than a painful, arduous death? And the body that was taken off the cross was lifeless and cold—and the tomb Jesus was laid in was sealed shut. There was an end to all that the disciples had experienced together with the Messiah.

Thomas could not wrap his mind around the possibility that there could be a different outcome from what he experienced. The disciples’ words, that they had seen Jesus alive, must have seemed like a doctored-up story created out of their vain imaginations. “I must see his hands and his side myself,” he told them, needing to have something tangible he could touch and see, so he could know for certain that Jesus was indeed alive.

We can take comfort in the way that Jesus handled Thomas’ reluctance to believe what the disciples were saying about their experience. Jesus knew Thomas well, and understood his heart, as he was the one who bravely volunteered to go with Jesus to Jerusalem to die with him, when Jesus was going there to raise Lazarus from the dead. And Thomas was the one who, when Jesus told the disciples they knew the way he was going, asked where that way was, since he didn’t think they did know where Jesus was going. Jesus’ memorable reply was, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” He understood this disciple’s inquisitive mind, which wanted to be certain about the details and to really comprehend what was going on.

We find the second Sunday after the resurrection the disciples were once again behind locked doors in the upper room of the place they were staying. All of a sudden, once again, there was Jesus in their midst. But apparently, he was there for a specific reason. He went directly to Thomas and addressed his doubts, showing him his hand and his side, and inviting him to touch the wounds he had received. Thomas, being overcome in that moment with the reality of who Jesus was, could only say, “My Lord and my God!”

Let me ask you this: Have you ever had a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you know what it is like to know for certain that he is a risen Lord—that he is real, and alive, and interested in a personal relationship with you? Do you know what it means to live your life knowing that he is present and real by the Holy Spirit, and that he is aware of everything you think, feel, say, or do—and loves you completely and entirely in the midst of it all?

I can tell you about my own experiences with the Lord Jesus Christ, but how do you know whether or not they are genuine? Perhaps it is good to have the outlook of Thomas—the willingness to ask for yourself whether or not the resurrection really did happen. “Unless I see”—I myself. I must come to terms with the reality that God has come, as God in human flesh, in the person of Jesus Christ, has lived a genuinely human life, died at the hands of the people he came to save, and rose again from the grave. I need to ask the difficult question: Do I believe? What do I believe about Jesus Christ?

The good news is that Jesus is ready and willing to enable us to know the truth. He wants us to see and to believe. Now, I don’t believe he is going to show up like he did back then with Thomas, but by the Spirit, Jesus has ways of showing up that we cannot dismiss without real effort. He’s not waiting for us to prepare ourselves or our lives for the “white glove” test. He’s already cleaned house for us. He’s inviting us to open ourselves and our lives up to his presence—to tell him the truth—Lord, I need to see. Lord, I want to see. Lord, open my eyes, my mind, my heart—so I may see and believe.

Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows exactly what it will take for us to see and to believe. And he is at work right now, doing his best to meet us at that place. And he is ready to, by his Spirit, awaken us to faith, a faith that is his gift to us, as he draws us into a face-to-face relationship with God which is ours now and on into eternity.

Heavenly Father, how blessed we are in the sacred gift of your Son and your Spirit—life in relationship with you now and forever! Bless us anew with the grace to see the spiritual realities, to daily see and experience the presence of our risen Lord by your heavenly Spirit. Amen.

“So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.’ But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘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.’ After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.’ Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”      John 20:19–31 NASB

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Our Light and Life

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By Linda Rex

During my time pursuing my master’s degree with Grace Communion Seminary I was deeply impacted in my understanding of God and humanity and life itself through the instruction and counsel of my professors. I found theology to be quite fascinating, especially when it intersects with science. This is why reading T.F. Torrance’s books, though quite a challenging process, is something I enjoy doing.

One of my professors, Dr. John McKenna, gave an interesting workshop that brought together the science of light with the biblical revelation of light. I had known that the word light is often used in the Bible and many times in reference to God. But as we went through and talked about light and God and humanity and the creation in which we live, I began to “see” light in a new way.

One of my favorite traditional hymns talks about God and light. It is thought-provoking poetry that points to the glory of the God who is Light:

‎Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, thy great Name we praise.

‎Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
Nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might;
Thy justice like mountains high soaring above
Thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love.

‎To all life thou givest, to both great and small;
In all life thou livest, the true life of all;
We blossom and flourish, like leaves on the tree,
Then wither and perish; but nought changeth thee.

‎Great Father of Glory, pure Father of Light,
Thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
All praise we would render; O help us to see
‘Tis only the splendor of light hideth thee!

(Walter C. Smith, 1824-1908)

Light and life are inseparable. When my daughter and I visited Mammoth Cave earlier this year, we learned that there are creatures who live there in complete darkness. But they are unable to live in the light. And a person or animal that can see and live in the light will not be able to see at all when in that deep darkness. They may even lose their ability to see if they remain there for an extended length of time without some form of light to penetrate their eyes.

Without the light of the sun, we would not be able to exist or do much of what we consider necessary to life. Light is essential to our life. Just as we need the physical light of the sun to sustain our life, we also need the inner light of God to sustain us and give us both physical and spiritual life. Our life, our existence and being, are dependent upon the Father of Light and the Light of the world, his Son Jesus Christ. Light and life are inseparable.

Light itself is invisible. What we commonly see or experience is the refraction/reflection of light. Jesus described the Holy Spirit as the wind we cannot see but we experience the effects of all around us. In the same way, when we “look” at God, he is invisible. But he is Light. We experience the reality of God in everyday life in every part of our existence.

In Christ we have been freed from the chains of darkness and brought into his ‘marvelous light.’ What this means is that we have been brought out of the cave of darkness, evil and depravity and into the light of God’s love. It’s going to take a while to adjust. We have to learn new ways of thinking and doing life. We will find it much easier and more comfortable to run back into the darkness. It will seem a lot less painful and frustrating. It will seem to be the way of freedom. But true freedom is finding our life in the Light and allowing that Light to slowly and surely transform and heal us.

Holy Father of Light and Jesus, Light of the World, we praise you. Thank you for your gift of life and light. Grant us the grace to embrace your gift and to never cease to turn to you for the strength to hold tight to all you have given us. Thank you that it’s not all up to us. You hold us in your hands and shine your marvelous light upon us in unceasing love. We trust in you, Jesus, and in your healing love. Fill us the marvelous Light of your Holy Spirit. In your name we pray. Amen.

“All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and darkness did not overcome it.” John 1:3–5 NIV