Summary: Sometimes belief is just plain hard - just ask Thomas (a 1st person sermon)
“Getting Into Shape: When Belief Is Hard”
I’m grateful you’re here today. Some of you are here because you want to hear what I have to say – you’re curious; some of you are here to check out what I have to say – you’re suspicious. Whatever the reason, you’re here. Thanks for allowing me to explain myself, to share my story.
I was part of a poor family. We were fishermen by trade, barely able to eke out a living. So when this young Rabbi named Jesus invited me to join Him – to learn from Him and follow Him – I was amazed and overwhelmed. I mean no established Rabbi would want me. Who else could see me as anything but a poor fisherman? What did I have to lose? If he was a fraud, well, I’d just go back to fishing. But if he was for real, well, I’d stake my life on him.
So I joined the others in following this Jesus from Nazareth. We all figured we’d learn a lot – and we did. What we didn’t expect was everything we saw him do. I could spend the rest of the day telling you of the amazing things we saw – things that defy explanation. We saw Him control the forces of nature – stilling storms, calming the waves, all with just a word. We witnessed him healing people, of all ages, of all kinds of diseases and infirmities. He made the blind to see. We were even present when he brought dead people back to life. It was obvious he was no ordinary man, no traditional Rabbi. I couldn’t stop following Him if I wanted to. I needed to understand everything, know everything, be sure of everything. All I knew was that I LOVED HIM AND WANTED TO BE FAITHFUL IN FOLLOWING AND WHOLE-HEARTED IN SERVING HIM.
It turns out there were times when following Jesus was tough. But I didn’t lack for COURAGE. There was the time that Jesus told us he was going to go be with Lazarus, even though Lazarus was already dead and buried. I couldn’t imagine why Jesus wanted to go or what he hoped to accomplish, but if he was wanting to go back into the arena with those Jews who had tried once before to stone him, I wasn’t going to let him face them alone. My brothers, the other disciples, tried to persuade him not to go. But I said I’d go with him – and die with him if necessary. I had made a commitment to follow Jesus, to serve him, so I was willing to spend my life for him.
And sometimes following Jesus was perplexing, especially for someone like me who is filled with CURIOSITY. Jesus often taught things that didn’t make sense, or that we couldn’t understand. I especially recall that night in the upper room. We had no idea, of course, it would be our last night with him, had no idea of what was going to happen in the next 3 days. We just knew he was saying some pretty ominous, downright gloomy things. He was talking about one of us betraying him, about him being killed; he even said dear Peter would deny him – not once but three times. We didn’t know what to make of it all. We had learned to trust Jesus’ words so we were disturbed. He said, “A little while and you will see me no more; again a little while, and you will see me.” Huh? What did that mean? All we knew was whatever Jesus meant, the hours and days ahead were apparently going to be difficult – especially if Jesus was leaving us.
Then there were his words about what He was going to do when he was away from us – he was, he said, going to be building rooms for us in some grand house. And he added: “You know the way that I am going.” I looked around at the other blank faces, and blurted out with, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” I was more than curious and I didn’t mind speaking my mind. I mean, if you don’t understand something, say so! And Jesus responded: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” Bold, potentially blasphemous, and beautiful words – but not very clear – not much help. I was filled with CONFUSION.
Here’s the deal – we all thought Jesus was going to tumble the Roman government and set up God’s new kingdom. We just weren’t prepared for or expecting the events that began to unfold later that night. Judas, did, in fact betray Jesus – and the soldiers arrested Jesus. We all fled, except for Peter who followed at a distance – and then denied knowing Jesus. You’ve heard what happened – they put Jesus on trial, whipped Him, beat him, and nailed him to a cross where he hung and died between two thieves. He died and was buried in a borrowed tomb. Jesus was gone – my world collapsed. I was confused. I didn’t understand how God could let this happen. Maybe – just maybe – Jesus wasn’t who he said he was. But He must have been. How else could he have said the things he said and done the things he did?