Summary: What does it mean to have faith?
Last week I suggested that we place a great deal of faith in our ability to buy and operate our cars because faith is an important and essential part of our lives. This past week I talked with several people and asked them to name 5 everyday things people have faith in. Here is some of what they said:
•Belief in a better place
Those items that are listed in italics on the left were mentioned more than once. Why might these items be on this list? One important reason is that an element of trust is present in us toward these things. For example, one person said that they trust what their spouse says to them. Another person says we trust that when we turn the faucet on, water will come out of it. So therefore we have faith in them.
What does it mean to have faith? This is a key question to ask the week after Easter. Faith is essential in establishing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ made possible by the Resurrection. But having this kind of faith is, at times, a very difficult thing to have.
We see this challenge in the hours and weeks following the Resurrection when the faith of the remaining disciples was stretched and challenged as they came face to face with our risen Lord as John records in chapter 20 and verses 19 - 29:
That evening, on the first day of the week, the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. As He spoke, he held out his hands for them to see, and he showed them his side. They were filled with joy when they saw their Lord! He spoke to them again and said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so send I you.” Then he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you refuse to forgive them, they are unforgiven.
One of the disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin) was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in His hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in His side.
Eight days later the disciples were together again and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly as before, Jesus was standing among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put you finger here and see my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”” My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who haven’t seen me and believe anyway.
Here are at first ten of the remaining eleven disciples full of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty, even disbelief hiding behind lock doors because they believed they were marked men. Marked for arrest and perhaps even death because of their association with Jesus. Now, in spite of reports that He is alive, for at least John and Peter the reality of an empty tomb staring them in the face, here they are in shock and disarray and waiting for something bad to happen.
Their faith lay in ruins. They had believed Jesus was the Messiah. They had such high hopes for the future. The believed that the liberation of Israel was soon to occur. But, 48 hours earlier it all came crashing down as Jesus was taken off the cross, dead, and buried in a tomb that was sealed and guarded with armed guards.
Then Jesus shows up in the midst of their fear and uncertainty. “Peace!” He says. “Look at me! Calm down! Have faith! Believe!”
Faith comes back to life. Hope begins to open up like tulips do as they open to the sunlight
He then goes a step further and gives them something that we all need for our faith development. He gives them the Holy Spirit. More will be said about the Holy Spirit next week but it is very important to note that Jesus brings in the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, like He had promised a few days earlier.
The Holy Spirit is essential for faith. The Spirit quickens our faith. He stirs our faith. He strengthens our faith. He is essential to our faith because He empowers our faith during times of doubt and fear and so forth just like He does in this passage.