Seeing is believing – or so they say. Nowadays, there are plenty of outlandish things we can see with our eyes, but still not believe. Everything from skilled illusionists, to Photoshop, to camera tricks can show you things that are not real – and shouldn’t be believed!
But for a man named Thomas, seeing really was believing.
Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday, and that night he appeared to his disciples in an undeniable way. Unfortunately for Thomas, he wasn’t there. When the other disciples told him they has seen Jesus risen from the dead, he said, “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). Thomas wasn’t going to believe just because others had seen Jesus. He wanted to see the evidence for himself.
Eight days later, Jesus gave Thomas what he asked for. Jesus appeared again and showed himself to Thomas. Jesus invited Thomas to touch him and know for sure that he had risen from the dead. In that moment, Thomas’s heart was filled with faith, he believed Jesus really was the Messiah, and he cried out in worship.
But listen to Jesus respond: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jn. 20:29).
I think Jesus said that for you and I. He knew we’d read about Thomas’s experience and think in our hearts, “I want to see Jesus! I want to touch him! I want that certainty!” But according to Jesus, there is blessing when we believe in Jesus without seeing him.
A person who doesn’t believe might say, “If I could just see God, then I would believe!” But it’s not that simple. Seeing isn’t believing if your heart is wired to deny God. Jesus could drop down out of heaven in his resurrected body and many still would not believe. People who have heard the Gospel don’t primarily deny it because of a lack of evidence. They deny the Gospel because they can’t see the truth, and they don’t want to see the truth. “Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:3-4). If you don’t believe in Jesus as your Savior, don’t wish for evidence – pray for faith!
Believing without seeing is the essence of faith. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Of course that doesn’t mean that our faith in Jesus is without basis. There is sound evidence for the existence of God, the reliability of the Bible, the historicity of the resurrection, and the veracity of the Gospel message. And, the greatest affirmation for faith in Christ is the Holy Spirit’s work in your own heart. Even without seeing the resurrected Jesus in the flesh, his Spirit is alive in us now – assuring our hearts through the tangible relief from guilt, the peace of God’s presence, the strength to walk away from sinful habits, and the practical guidance to live wisely.
It is certainly true that while we live on this earth “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7), but we are not stumbling in the darkness. The Christian life is not based on wishful thinking. Faith is a gift from God, and he doesn’t give us a blind faith – but a seeing faith because he “has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). Faith is actually stronger than mere sight.
And so, while we don’t see Jesus in the flesh the way Thomas did, we do see his work in his world and in our heart. Each day we choose to follow Jesus, our faith is affirmed as he proves himself to us again and again. And so, firmly rooted in faith, we eagerly wait for the day we will see him face-to-face (either at our death or at his return). And so even now, in a very real way, we do see him. It’s just that in this fallen world our sight is more dim than we would like sometimes. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12).
Seeing isn’t always believing, but the Spirit’s work in our hearts is. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed! Pray for a saving faith that is evidenced by a love for God and a joy inexpressible!
“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
– 1 Peter 1:8-9