Notice this account of one of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances:
Thomas, the one called Didymus, one of the Twelve, wasn’t with the disciples when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We’ve seen the Lord!” But he replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my finger in the wounds left by the nails, and put my hand into his side, I won’t believe.” After eight days his disciples were again in a house and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus entered and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here. Look at my hands. Put your hand into my side. No more disbelief. Believe!” Thomas responded to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus replied, “Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe.” (John 20:24-28, CEB)
By the Spirit, our risen, ascended Lord is with us always, and through his presence extending to us his peace (shalom), even in the most trying circumstances. Given that reality, I have a question: do we, trusting in Jesus, receive that peace and so live into it? I suppose we’d all have to answer, “sometimes.”
Imperfect as we all are in trusting in (believing in) Jesus, there are times we doubt the reality of his presence. At those times, perhaps we, like Thomas, want a physical sign to prove Jesus is with us. Or perhaps we are like the father of the demon-possessed son who Jesus reached out to help, yet the father cried out to Jesus, “I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24, ASV).
Yes, there are times we need Jesus’ help to overcome our unbelief (the weakness of our human faith). At such times, demanding a physical sign rarely helps. (I say “rarely” since God sometimes does give such signs.) However, most of the time, God reminds us in prayer and through Scripture of Jesus’ faithfulness, inviting us to rely on him to do what we are incapable of doing.
The answer to our weak faith, is not to try to gin up more (just try harder!), and not to insist that God give us a physical sign as proof he can be trusted. No, the answer is to look to Jesus, God’s ultimate sign, and trust him as our representative High Priest to do something quite amazing—believe for us. Yes, Jesus, who in his representative humanity perfectly and fully trusts in God, shares that trust (his faith) with us. And so in times of doubt (which we all experience) we can go to Jesus in prayer:
Jesus, help me in this time of doubt. Allow me to believe that you truly are the risen Christ. Help me see how you are present with me today in this circumstance. Lord, grant me your faith. Grant me your peace. Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief. Amen.
by Ted Johnston
Grace Communion Seminary faculty member