The large box had been sealed years ago, stored in a cabinet with contents we were unaware of. After wrestling it from under the shelf, I pulled open the flaps to see smiling faces from long ago. My mother’s cute curls and pouty expression were the first to look up from a weathered wood frame. She gazed into the distance while her chubby hands held some beloved stuffed animal. I recognized others as well, my grandmother, with her pensive stare and painted lips, and my grandpa and uncle piled just underneath her.
The oldest photograph was of people I’d never known, reflecting stoic faces and rigid bodies. These ancestors of mine were from an era as harsh and unyielding as the corsets restricting their waists.
Studying this photograph reminds me of a certain truth: pictures tell a story, but not the whole story. Each one shows only a second out of an entire lifetime, hardly enough to understand who a person was. Without background information, I’m left believing these people never smiled a day in their life. The only proof they were ever here is this small moment caught by a flash of light. Their bodies have long since blended with the dust of the Earth as their pictures fade with time.
To see is to believe?
Jesus put skin on in a time where no one had yet taken a picture. No grainy black and white of his tanned face and ebony eyes exist anywhere. There’s simply no evidence for our eyes to behold.
Believing in a God that can’t be seen is foolish to some and borderline crazy to others. Who puts their faith in someone invisible and so far outside of our problems? Is God merely an imaginary friend to appease the fear of knowing I’m alone on this Earth?
It’s tempting to believe the aforementioned when faith is hard, and this world causes so many hurts.
If only I had a photograph, like the one of my relatives. If I could see with my eyes that his life was as real—flesh and bone—as my own. Wouldn’t that make believing him easier?
Jesus chose to leave his legacy through the words of the men that followed him. Their words are pictures, inked in letter form for the following generations to read and believe. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a personal testimony is worth a billion.
The men that followed Jesus for three years were left holding the pieces of his short life while staring up as he returned to the heavens. They were responsible for telling the story of the God that became flesh and lived and died and rose again.
Believing in a God that we can not see
Thomas was one of these men. He wasn’t there when Jesus presented himself victorious over the tomb. The disciples shared their news with Thomas, excited about what they’d witnessed. He wanted little to do with this silly claim. Though he followed him in life, asking him to follow blindly in death was where he drew the line.
Thomas wanted to see the evidence and refused to believe without it.
“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.” John 20:25
I like to imagine that if I were there, I would’ve believed when Jesus came healing and resurrecting. But, unfortunately, I’m sure I’d be right behind Thomas, arms crossed in a skeptical posture, nodding that we need just a little more evidence before we believe.
The doubting and the dubious
I’ll be the first one to admit there are times I doubt. There are days when uncertainty seems more dependable than my faith, and I wonder how I could put a stake in this God/man who isn’t here in front of me.
The faith it takes to believe isn’t cheap or easy in this world. And though we are promised a beautiful ending, the middle hurts a whole lot like a gaping wound.
Sure, I’ve heard the stories, I’ve read the verses, but I’ve never personally reached out and touched the wounds he endured for me. I haven’t followed him down dusty roads or watched him soothe a sea and raise a man from the grave.
Thomas had living proof of the miracles that Jesus could do. But I’ve got to thinking about that, and it occurred to me; maybe it was easier to believe that he could raise someone else. But to raise himself—that was just too much to ask. So that’s where Thomas decided his power ended. Who could raise himself from the dead?
This world makes us jaded and untrusting. We decide what makes sense and what is possible with our human logic. We chart out graphs and compile statistics and determine we’d better trust in “science”—something concrete with evidence to back the claims—to make sure we know our stuff. But we forget; With God, all things are possible.
The truth Thomas didn’t yet understand, and the same fact we so easily forget, is the who behind the miraculous.
Blessed are those who have not seen.
After Jesus returned to the upper room where Thomas was finally in attendance, He offered Thomas a moment of show and tell with his wounds.
Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”
At this point, Thomas was struck with awe that he, his Lord, was standing before him alive.
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 believed.” John 20: 28-29
Do you see that little sentence there?
That’s for you, friend.
Jesus offered this blessing to you because He knew how hard it would be to keep the faith. To choose belief and hope in a savior who can’t recline physically with us at the table.
He knew the difficulty of holding onto faith once he walked out of our atmosphere.
I think it’s rather sad Thomas is often referred to as “doubting Thomas.” Shouldn’t he be called “believing Thomas?” He’s remembered more for the moments before he believed than for the change in his heart after. Thomas’s words spoken that day tied up the whole book of John with a neat little bow: Jesus is God.
Those three little words are the basis behind all of our faith. We believe in the God behind the miraculous because we have confidence in who he says he is.
Taking Him at His word
He gave us all the evidence we need from the men that walked beside him, lingered in a garden, and traveled across the seas with him. In the end, they believed because they saw.
We believe because we’ve heard.
They had the honor of first-hand experience.
We have the blessing of faith through their words.
Our hope stands firm on this fact: Jesus lived, died, and rose from the grave.
Because He alone could. Because He alone is God.
He is here
I’ve experienced his presence even when it can not be seen. He has done things in my life that can’t be explained in 2000 words or less.
There is no photographic evidence of my Jesus. However, if you could take a picture for proof, it would be the mosaic of millions upon millions of lives that have intertwined to tell the story of the One that lived, died, and lives even now.
And one day…one day He will come again.
His story is the culmination of every story. The beauty of having words where there are no pictures leaves us with a sense of beautiful expectancy. Finally, there is a day coming where our eyes will gaze into the eyes that have looked upon us from the beginning. I believe we will see in those eyes every answer to every heartbreak we’ve ever known, we’ll know then, and only then, it was all worth it.
As always, friend, thank you for stopping by,