“Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘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 it.’ A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” – John 20: 24-29
The claim was nothing short of unbelievable. Jesus said he would die and then rise to life. And now his buddies tell him that, sure enough, they had seen Jesus die and then rise to life.
Thomas wasn’t buying it.
Why would he? It’s a ridiculous, unrealistic thought. Honestly, I really respect Thomas. His realism didn’t make him a 2nd class follower of Christ. He was the whole package!
- He left everything to follow Jesus (Mk 10:28). Can I say I’ve done that?
- He had internally resolved that following Jesus was worth dying for, and led the others in this view (Jn 11:16). Have you?
- And in the quote above, once Jesus did address him in his rational skepticism, he went further than any of the other guys did by declaring Jesus to be nothing less than God Himself.
Have I made Jesus, God?
Pause. Let me clarify. Or elaborate. Or whatever it is I’m doing here.
If making Jesus my God means that I revolve my life around him, my thoughts around him, my behavior around him…then yes.
If making Jesus my God means that I go to him for guidance, answers, and even life…then yes.
If making Jesus my God means that I strive to obey what he teaches, do what he does, and become more like him in character, mission, and priorities…then yes.
My question today, however, is…have I made the RESURRECTED Jesus my God?
Thomas had done all those things I listed above, too. He believed in Jesus who lived and died and represented God. He didn’t argue or leave his apprenticeship with him when Jesus said he was God (Jn 14:8-9). It was the resurrected Jesus he doubted.
And it matters…at least to me. And it comes down to this:
I can’t believe in the resurrected Jesus without believing that miracles can happen.
What I have come to recognize is that I can follow Jesus “as God” in two different ways, and few if any would ever notice but me.
Option 1: I can follow the good, holy, serving, compassionate, confronting, challenging, and “gave-his-life-for-my-sin” Jesus as God. This will save my soul (I think), make me an activist for the poor and hurting (most of the time, at least), cause me to worship regularly out of awe and gratitude (with others and in my heart), stand up for truth (even as I’m continuing to learn it), and share Christ with others.
The problem with option 1 Jesus as God? I would not believe that miraculous new life on Earth would be possible.
Option 2 is what I need. I’m after nothing short of world-change for people’s hearts and lives (including mine). Not current world-adjustment. Not current world-improvement. Not current world-tweaking.
The world-change I’m after for people is world-resurrection. Which means a death must occur. And who in their right mind would recommend death to someone as a solution?
The answer? Only those who believe in the resurrection.
Believing in the resurrected Jesus as God makes me a believer in the potential death and resurrection of every person (including me) I meet. So I look at them differently. They can feel it. And when I start being convinced by them that their situations have hopelessly trapped them into being who it is they currently are, and this sadly DOES happen to me sometimes, I can literally feel my disbelief in the potential for that person to have and enjoy a brand new life.
And something dies in me when this happens. Something dies, and the best I can offer them is some money, or a prayer, or my compassionate presence, or a ride, or a meal, or a comforting focus on the suffering of Christ for their sins, and the promise of a better life in Heaven after this sucky life is over.
But not hope.
At least, not hope for the abundant life (that Jesus said he came to give) now. There is no chance for them to enjoy the Kingdom of peace, joy, and righteousness now. Not when I only make an unresurrected Jesus God.
I guess technically, I belong to the camp Jesus referred to as “those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
But I feel more like Thomas than one would expect; like I have personally and proverbially put my own hands in the side of Jesus. I have seen the wounds on his hands that killed him. And yet there he is. Alive. New. And with him, the whole world changed for me. No old self, dead, with all of it’s curses, and my new self alive and kickin!
I, like Thomas, can now say to the resurrected Jesus… my Lord and my God!