BELIEVING WITHOUT SEEING
INTRODUCTION: You’ve heard the phrase, “Seeing is believing”? That might be true in some instances but not when it comes to faith. Faith is about believing without seeing.
1) Show us! John 14:1-11.
John contains the longest account of the Last Supper. Here, in chapter 14, Jesus is explaining to his disciples that he’s going to be leaving them soon (the ascension) but where he’s going (heaven) he’s preparing a place for them in his Father’s house. He comforts them by saying he is coming back to take them to where he is going. He tells them that they know the way to where he is going.
Thomas chimes in and states, “We don’t know where you’re going so how can we know the way to get there?” Thomas speaks for the group to indicate that they were all confused as to what Jesus was talking about. Jesus makes it clear that he is the way. He wants his disciples to trust in what he is saying. He tries to solidify that trust by saying that to know him is to know the Father. And therefore, what Jesus is saying is not just coming from him but from God the Father.
But Philip wasn’t convinced. He’s hearing all this talk about a future promise and Jesus declaring that to know him is to know the Father and he’s a little skeptical. So he says, “Show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Philip wanted proof that what Jesus is telling them is really true. It’s somewhat understandable. He’s hearing some radical things and he wanted convincing proof that once Jesus left he really was going to prepare a place for them and that he was coming back to get them. So, if Jesus was to get Father God to come down and validate everything Jesus said then he would be convinced.
How often are we like that? We read scripture and it sounds too extreme to believe. We want proof; we want a sign. “I know Heb. 13:5 says you would never leave or forsake me but I’m not convinced. Show me a sign.” “I know it says in Phil. 4:13 that I can do all things through you but I don’t know about this situation.” “I know 1st Cor. 10:13 says you provide a way out of every temptation but I feel so powerless to resist.” “I know 1st John 4:4 says that greater is you who is in me than the devil who is in the world but…” And there’s the problem-‘but’. The ‘but’ of doubt. Philip could’ve said, “I know this is what you said Jesus but I’m not convinced. Show me proof; give me a sign.”
Did Jesus give him a sign? Did Jesus do what he wanted? No. Jesus went after him about his lack of trust. “Don’t you know me? Haven’t you been around me for three years? How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Haven’t you been listening to my teachings? Haven’t you been paying attention to my miracles? Have you ever seen me sin? Ever caught me in a lie?”
Philip was asking for proof but the proof had been there all along. We too have the proof. All we have to do is look back on our lives and see what the Lord has done. Look back at the times you should’ve been dead but the Lord rescued you. Look back on the times when you thought it was all over; all hope was gone and then something happened to change your circumstances. The things you thought were coincidences you now realize it was God.
Philip and the others had the proof. They had already seen what they needed to see in order to become convinced. We too have all the evidence we need in order to put our faith in Jesus.
2) Come down off that cross and we’ll believe!
Matt. 27:39-43, “Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”
Here the religious leaders were asking for a sign that Jesus was the Son of God. Why didn’t he do what they asked? Surely that would show them and everyone else there that he was who he said he was. They said they would believe if he did that so isn’t that what’s important? The religious leaders had already seen signs and miracles before but were unwilling to accept them as proof of Jesus being the Son of God. And Jesus had already addressed them about this.
Matt. 12:38-40, “Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.” He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
Jesus had already given them the sign they needed. The reason Jesus didn’t come down off that cross wasn’t because he didn’t care about their souls; it was because he knew that their declaration wasn’t sincere. They had been mockers all along throughout his ministry. They had no intentions on believing in Jesus and Jesus coming down from the cross wouldn’t have changed that.
For some people, they say if certain things were to happen they would believe but that’s doubtful. Some people receive plenty of signs and miracles but they’re still not believers. Oh, they might come around for a little while but there’s no real change; there’s no real belief-it’s merely temporary. Seeing without believing.
3) Still not convinced. John 20:24-31.
Here we have Thomas, who we know was present when Jesus was trying to get his disciples to trust that he was going to heaven to prepare a place for them and that he and the Father are one and look upon the evidence that there was already. But for whatever reason, Thomas wasn’t convinced. Now, to be fair, all the disciples had their doubts about Jesus’ resurrection. But Thomas wasn’t even willing to believe the other disciples. Here we have all of them saying that it was true but he was still not buying it.
For some of us, we won’t believe what anyone says; even if they are someone we are close to. We demand physical proof. Thomas would not believe until he saw with his own eyes and felt with his own hands. That is skepticism. He wasn’t even going to believe it if he saw it; he needed to physically touch Jesus in order to believe it was really him and not some ghost or figment of his imagination. That’s why he didn’t believe the other disciples. He may have asked them, “Well, did you touch him? Are you sure you weren’t seeing his ghost or something?”
One might think Thomas just wanted to be sure; what’s wrong with that. We shouldn’t go around being gullible and believing everything we’re told. Depends on the source. This is Jesus-the one who has never lied, the one who had performed miracles like raising Lazarus from the dead. The one whom God had spoken from heaven about saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him.” We can be unsure about certain people and situations but not when it comes to something Jesus said or did.
Jesus told them he would be killed and then raised to life. Everyone, including Thomas, should not have doubted that for one minute. But, even though Jesus had told them it would happen and even though the other disciples told Thomas it did happen, Thomas wanted further proof in order to believe. And what’s interesting is, unlike the previous situation with Philip, Jesus appeased him.
Jesus could’ve been like, “I’m not going to show you. If you won’t trust me or the ones who have been your closest companions for the past three years then that’s on you. If you don’t believe you don’t believe. In fact, I’m kinda hurt that you would only believe it if I showed you.” Instead, Jesus made a special appearance so Thomas could see for himself. But, he did wait a week; he didn’t automatically grant his request. This would’ve allowed Thomas to develop even more skepticism. ‘Well, a whole week has gone by and where is he? I think you guys are delusional.’ Then Jesus appears.
Now imagine you’re Thomas at this point. The initial shock, then excitement, then maybe shame that he had doubted and finally the fear that Jesus was going to light into him for his lack of faith. But Jesus doesn’t chastise Thomas, he ministers to him. And fortunately, Thomas had the right response.
Thomas didn’t believe until he saw with his own eyes. Is that faith? No. It doesn’t take faith to believe what you see. I’m not saying Thomas had no faith at all; but he didn’t have faith in the resurrection. He had to see it to believe it. I believe in this moment something happened in Thomas because he not only was convinced in Jesus’ resurrection but he was convinced in Jesus’ deity as well. Thomas went from being a major skeptic to making the greatest statement of faith.
There are many ‘doubting Thomas’ out there and they want proof. And often times Jesus will reveal himself to them; not literally but convincingly nonetheless. The question is, when he does, will the skeptics continue in their unbelief and over analytical ways, explaining away their experience or will they respond like Thomas and say to Jesus, ‘My Lord and my God’?
(29)-Blessed are those who have not seen but believe-Jesus is talking about us! We didn’t have the privilege of walking and talking with Jesus. We didn’t see his miracles; yet we believe. John ends the chapter by telling us the miraculous signs that were recorded were so that we would believe. If we are open, God will reveal himself to us so we would believe. We are blessed because we didn’t need to see to believe.
4) Believing without seeing.
1st Pet. 1:8-9, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
One might ask, “How could you love someone you haven’t seen?” Actually, I think it happens quite often. You have pen pals who fall in love before ever meeting one another. They get to know each other through letters. We have gotten to know Jesus through his words. We’ve gotten to know him through his spirit. As a pen pal doesn’t need the physical presence of someone to be in love with them so we too don’t need the physical presence of Jesus in order to love him. We believe, and love, without first seeing.
And again, one might ask, “How can you have such joy about something you haven’t already received?” It happens all the time. Again with the pen pals. It’s called joyful anticipation. The stage is set for them to finally meet. They believe it’s going to happen and are filled with joy over the hope of the event coming to pass. We too, are looking forward to the wondrous event of meeting Jesus. We are convinced that the day is coming when we will be with him forever. Therefore, we live our lives for him; knowing that it’s not in vain.
Heb. 11:1, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” We are sure and certain of heaven even though we have no visible proof of it’s existence.
2nd Cor. 5:7, “We live by faith, not by sight.” Demanding a sign in order to believe is not faith. Believing before we have the tangible evidence to support it; that’s faith.
2nd Cor. 4:18, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” This world is temporary. But most people live as is this is all there is. They put all their eggs in the world’s basket. They live life for this life with no thought of investing in the life hereafter. But we who believe without seeing know that it’s not wise to invest into a place where we’re just passing through.
You don’t spend the time and money redecorating a hotel room; it doesn’t make sense. You make investments to improve your permanent home. Likewise, we’re not going to build up earthly treasures. We aren’t going to invest all our time and resources in buying more and more stuff because we know it’s only temporary; eventually it’s all going to be gone.
What we do is build up heavenly treasures because these are the ones that are going to last forever. We invest our time and resources into what will build up the kingdom of God. We invest in people; reaching them for Christ and discipling them in Christ. We who believe that the most important things in life are unseen focus on bearing fruit that has an eternal impact. Believing without having to see.
CONCLUSION: There are times where we find ourselves wanting a sign that God cares. We can have moments of doubt even though he’s come through for us countless times before. Seeing doesn’t necessarily mean we’re always going to believe. We choose to trust Christ for our salvation even though we’ve never seen him yet when it comes to our life situations we panic and start asking for signs. If we’ve trusted that what he did on the cross was valid and we’ve placed our eternal life in his hands-let us believe without having to see when it comes to our lives in the here and now. He has already proven himself to us. May we become convinced that he’ll work it all out if we would simply trust him.