John 20:27Posted 01/14/22, by Dan Vis
Even though Jesus had relatively little to say about the church directly, He spoke of it indirectly in many places. And in the two places He did refer to the church explicitly, He provided two incredibly profound things: an organizing charter, and an operating manual.
In today's reading I want to explore the question of how we should respond to His teachings about the church. What is the implication of all this, for us?
Consider today's verse. You may not see the connection at first--but bear with me for a moment:
Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
To set the context, Jesus had appeared once before to the disciples, roughly a week prior--but Thomas wasn't there. At that meeting, Jesus had given them their mission (John 20:21Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.), pointed them to the power source (John 20:22And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:), and authorized their use of the keys of the kingdom (John 20:23Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.). Thomas, however, doubted the whole thing.
In some ways, Thomas thus becomes a type of those who come to faith later. Those who were not there to see the resurrected Jesus when He first appeared. Who came to embrace the Gospel message after the commission had already been given. The keys authorized. The church established. Or to put it differently, he seems to represent those who "have not seen, and yet have believed" (John 20:29Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.). Those like you and me, who enter into an existing church, and become part of its existing mission.
And the counsel of Jesus to Thomas? "Be not faithless, but believing". Look at the wounds in my hands, the wounds in my side. Stop doubting. Deepen your commitment to me.
I see something similar immediately following the charter of the church as given in Matthew 16. The very next thing Jesus does, besides telling them it was not yet quite time to reveal He was the Christ (Matthew 16:20Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.), is He began "to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the eldrs and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day" (Matthew 16:21From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.). Jesus works to strengthen their faith. To prepare them for what is soon to come. That they might escape being "faithless" and "unbelieving".
I'm sure Jesus explained it was necessary, because it was all foretold in prophecy. That these were all things that "must be fulfilled" because they were "written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms concerning me" (Luke 24:44And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.). In other words, He worked to strengthen their faith in Him by connecting them more fully to Scripture--and prophecy in particular.
And this certainly seems to be a relevant work for the church to do today. To strengthen one another, through the Scriptures--thus connecting ourselves more tightly to Christ. That we might be grow in power and commitment as we enter the final scenes of earth's history. That we too might stop being "faithless" and "unbelieving". It's a work we need to take seriously.
And it makes sense, doesn't it? This is right at the core of what makes us the church--faith in Jesus as the Son of God. Which suggests our work should include strengthening one another's faith in Jesus as the sent of God. The long anticipated Messiah. The fulfillment of Bible prophecy.
We've long since passed that period, of course, where they were to keep secret He was the Christ. Soon after they were called to take that message to the world. But the importance of fortifying our faith with the sure word of prophecy is an equally urgent preparation today as then. We must cling to His death, burial, and resurrection, and make that the center of our message to the world.
After all we are the church. Any everything we do must stay forever rooted in Him.
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