Seeing for yourself

I have the same name as the most famous “doubter” in the Bible, Thomas.

Does God cross you off his list if you have doubts?

There’s an old hymn, “To God Be the Glory,” with a verse that says redemption comes to anyone who “truly believes.”

Is that right?

Does salvation depend on the intensity of one’s faith?

Long ago, when the risen Jesus first appeared to the disciples in the upper room, Thomas wasn’t there. As excited as the others were, Thomas still wanted to see for himself. A week later, Thomas got his wish, and Jesus said, “Blessed are those who haven’t seen me and believed.”

The truth is, we all would love to see for ourselves.

Jesus wasn’t so much criticizing Thomas for doubting as he was pronouncing a blessing on all of us doubters who will believe without getting to see Jesus in the flesh. 

D.A. Carson has a famous sermon illustration in which he imagines two Hebrew slaves in Egypt the night before the angel of death was to pass over. Both men had put the blood of the lamb over their doors as Moses had ordered. One man doubted, scared to death that he might still lose his firstborn. The other man was supremely confident, saying “Bring it on.”

Carson said, “That night the angel of death swept through the land. Which one lost his son?

“The answer, of course, is neither.

“Death doesn’t pass over them on the ground of the intensity or the clarity of the faith exercised, but on the ground of the blood of the lamb.’


Last week, when tornadoes cut a path of destruction across the south, I kept thinking how awful, to have to deal with one crisis on top of another. 

A visible crisis on top of an invisible pandemic.

Later, I came across a story online about the Red River cresting near Grand Forks, North Dakota. It was the eighth worst flood there on record, but it hadn’t made the headlines. I guess there wasn’t enough space to cover all the bad news. 

Everywhere people are hurting in real, but often unseen, ways. They’re losing loved ones, losing jobs, losing dreams, to an invisible pandemic which also takes away some of the best ways to help.

Like hugs. 

Like just sitting and weeping with someone.

Let me offer one thought. When the newly risen Jesus met the disciples in the upper room on the night of the first Easter, they were so hurting they couldn’t see him for who he really was. They thought he was a ghost. Jesus asked for something to eat, and they gave him a piece of broiled fish.


Not baked or fried.

It’s the only time the word “broiled” is used in the whole Bible. Why?

Because it really happened that way. This is an eyewitness account.

Your grief is real, and Jesus wants you to know he is too.

Your grief isn’t invisible to him.

God on the loose

The late Presbyterian Minister and Theologian Shirley Guthrie used to tell about a friend who would call him every Easter. When Guthrie picked up the phone, the friend would shout, “Jesus is on the loose!” and hang up.

Our friends at the Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community here in Pittsburgh once used dramas in worship in place of preaching. One drama had Jesus on the loose in the mall at Christmas, surprising hurried shoppers who hadn’t expected to encounter the one for whom Christmas was named.

Easter means that God is on the loose.

The empty tomb isn’t a metaphor, like “it’s always darkest before the dawn,” or “spring follows winter.”

God came first to the people on earth least likely to believe that God could become human, or that a human being could rise from the dead.

After they put Jesus’ body in the tomb, his friends all went away heartbroken. No one was the least bit curious on that first Easter morning: “Hey guys, he kept telling us he would have to die but then rise on the third day. Don’t you think we ought to hang out there just in case?” 

None of them went. They would understand why we might be skeptical today.

Yet something happened that morning. A force was set loose that is still changing the world.

Tombs can’t hold Jesus. Nothing can.

Jesus is on the loose, and he is infusing all of creation with new life, love, joy, and purpose. He wants that for you, too.

Jesus is on the loose! He is on the loose, indeed!

Ride the colt

It was a strange thing that Jesus told the disciples to do: Go to the village up ahead and borrow a colt that had never been ridden. If anyone asks, say “The Lord needs it.”


And then there’s the whole triumphal entry thing, which we still love to reenact. That first Palm Sunday, everyone was cheering, but they all had it wrong. A greater, invisible reality was about to change everything.

Maybe Palm Sunday is getting here at just the right time.

Today, we’re doing things we’ve never done to combat a great, invisible reality we can’t see. It’s strange, humbling, and it’s hard.

But there’s an even greater reality at work.

There’s Jesus himself. The king who chooses to ride, not a warhorse, but a little colt. The conquering hero who wins by losing, who saves by dying.

Strange as it might seem, the best thing we can do is ride with him.