Believing the Evidence

John 20

 

 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus, 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.”

 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.”

Was it unreasonable for Thomas to ask to see the nail marks for himself? Not much is known about Thomas. It may be that he was simply a cautious man by nature. What we do know is that he wanted to see evidence that this person who claimed to be the resurrected Christ was who He said He was. Remember, the disciples had been warned about people who would come claiming to be the Christ, so maybe he was being cautious. But when Thomas saw the evidence, he believed, and Jesus replied, “Because you have seen me, you believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

In the course of sharing our faith, I’m sure we’ve all encountered people who say they will not believe in God unless He reveals Himself in an unmistakable way. And usually, when that happens, most of us quote the book of Hebrews where it says, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we don’t see.”  That’s a good passage, but it usually doesn’t win over many skeptics.

Of course, there are pastors and evangelists who have exceptional spiritual gifts who’ve won many to Christ just through the use of passages of scripture alone. Using nothing but the Bible, these rare and gifted individuals seem to have an uncanny knack when it comes to convincing someone of his or her need for a savior. For the majority of us however, it’s not a matter of convincing people to believe in God without evidence. It’s getting them to see the evidence of God’s existence that’s all around them so in turn, they can consider the evidence and come to faith in God based on that evidence. By presenting evidence that can be studied and seen, our aim is to lead lost people to faith in God, who is unseen.

There’s plenty of evidence. We don’t have to stammer and grasp for words when someone like Thomas asks for proof. First and foremost, the most undeniable evidence of God’s existence is His word, the Bible. Even so, many have read the Bible from cover to cover and then rejected every word.  If a person’s heart isn’t right, no evidence is convincing enough.

Then there’s the evidence of conscience. While we cannot come to a full knowledge of God  through conscience alone, there is some limited revelation that comes from that innate sense we have that tells us there is more than just this existence. But people will try to deny that too. They shrug off that inner voice as nothing more than an overactive imagination. Or their consciences become hardened and calloused under the weight of sin and lawlessness.

There’s the evidence that lies in the faith of the disciples and the countless number of believers down through the ages who have suffered martyrdom for the name of Jesus Christ. They chose death over renouncing their faith in our Lord. If Christ was not real, no one would die for Him because no one but a madman would die for a lie.

But perhaps the most compelling evidence we can offer in our time is in the lives of followers of Jesus Christ. There is no denying the power of God through the miracle of changed lives. We see peace where there was once anger. We see strength where there used to be weakness. We see contentment where there was frustration. We see hope where there was once nothing but hopelessness. We see ruined lives restored. We see the worst of the worst transformed into champions for God.

And we see this exact same evidence in people from every corner of the world, on all continents, regardless of their race, nationality, language, social standing, etc. How is it that people from all over the world describe the moment of their conversion in almost the exact same way? People in every time zone of the world describe, in nearly identical terms, how they felt a wave of peace and cleansing come over them as the Holy Spirit came to dwell in them the moment they received Christ. That’s the transforming power of Jesus Christ at work in the hearts of His believers, and that is evidence that is too compelling to be ignored.

Jesus didn’t have to show Thomas the nail marks. He didn’t have to prove anything to Thomas. But He did, and we need to follow the example of Jesus when we witness to our own Thomas. To the best of our ability, we must lay out the evidence with patience, and in a spirit of love.

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