Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." John 20:27-29
One thing I love about Jesus is his willingness to meet us where we are at. Without blame. In yesterday's scripture we heard the story of Thomas, who doubts the witness of the other disciples and insists upon seeing the risen Lord for himself. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe,” Thomas tells the other apostles.
When Jesus appears for a second time, Thomas is present. Jesus turns to him and offers to provide what Thomas says is necessary for belief. "Put your finger here and see my hands," he says. "Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Surprisingly enough, Thomas does not seem to take Jesus up on his offer; there is something about this encounter which immediately satisfies his desire to experience the truth of the Resurrection. "My Lord and my God!" he exclaims.
Jesus doesn't judge Thomas for his doubt. After all, the other disciples believe because they have seen. Instead, he gently offers the proof that Thomas needs. Which makes me wonder a couple of things.
First, what do we need to believe? Are we as honest with God as Thomas was with the other disciples? His request may sound a bit blatant, even belligerent to our ears, but this disciple is not shy about asking for what he wants. And God doesn't belittle, but honors that request.
Second, what does Jesus want us to believe? When I was growing up I connected the phrase "believe in Jesus" to giving assent that He was God, and that His death had in some way brought me forgiveness and adoption into God's family. And I still believe that's true. But there is more. To believe in Jesus also means to respond to an invitation to commit to the way of life that Jesus is living. To believe in the teachings and actions of Jesus, that they are good and true and life-giving.
And recently I've been encouraged to read this phrase in still another way. To not only have belief "in" Jesus, but also to have the belief (or faith) "of" Jesus. To think of and emulate the faith that Jesus had in the goodness of his Father, faith strong enough to follow the path laid out for him. That path led through the countryside of Israel, healing, feeding, taching and preaching the reality of the Kingdom of God. Eventually Jesus' belief in the ways of God would take him to the cross, anchoring a knowledge beyond a doubt that God would not only sustain him, but would vindicate him, raising him from the dead as Lord and King.
There is a blessing for those of us who have never have the experience of "seeing" Jesus in the flesh, who nevertheless believe in him. To expect that this belief will come without an authenticating experience is perfectly reasonable, after all, Jesus does not condemn Thomas for this desire. But once we find ourselves experiencing the love and power of God, where does our belief take us? Jesus wants us to step into his shoes, and carry on his desires, wherever that may take us, and however that may look, filled with his blessing.