“My Lord and my God!”
These were the words of the reluctant disciple known as “Doubting Thomas.” He doubted for a week, in between appearances of the resurrected Jesus. Once he saw Jesus, he no longer doubted.
Paul was a Jewish leader who persecuted the early Church, but once he saw the resurrected Jesus, he went from persecutor to preacher; from prosperous to persecuted.
Jesus said to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (John 20:29).” Thomas, Paul, the other Apostles and according to Scripture 500 others saw the resurrected Jesus, and they believed.
Belief in the resurrection of Jesus is key to receiving the power of His sacrificial death for our rescue from the effect of sin, which is separation from God. According to Jesus’ words to Thomas, there are those who see and believe, and there will be those who believe without seeing the actual body of the resurrected Jesus.
So, the vast majority of Christians through the ages have not seen Jesus, physically. Occasionally, Jesus appears to people, but for the most part, Jesus leaves the job of revealing salvation to His disciples of every generation with the help of His Holy Spirit.
Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:35).” We hear so often that the churches are full of hypocrites, and yet Jesus tasked the Church to love one another. This love will identify them as His disciples…as “Christians,”…as those who have believed in the resurrection without seeing the physical body of Jesus.
I’ve never had a vision of Jesus. My wife had one when she was very young. I’m jealous (sort of). Thirty years ago I began to read about an interesting phenomenon that I could not readily appreciate. Random individuals from a particular group of people were having visions of Jesus. These were not Christians, but people who seemed to have these things in common: belief in one God; desire to follow God; an open heart.
At first I didn’t think much of these visions of Jesus since I had believed in Him without benefit of vision or dream. I had seen Jesus in the lives of His followers (and, yes, I have seen a great lack of Jesus in some of His followers). But, as I observed this group of people, I began to value their visions as gifts that God was giving them because that is how God’s grace is.
I have thought much of how important it is to represent Jesus to those who don’t know Him. I’ve learned that by reading His revelation, the Bible, I learn more and more of how to reveal Him to the world. Yet, still, God sends visions and dreams of Jesus to various people in this group. I cannot reveal my source nor the location of the story, but last year, in the midst of a battle in a place that Americans would refer to as “God forsaken,” two men from this particular group of people approached a friend of mine and asked, “Please tell us more about Jesus. He appeared to both of us in separate dreams, and we want to follow Him.” I remember wondering why my friend had remained in that dangerous place. He was not able to leave because of travel restrictions and visa problems, yet in his faithfulness to live and pray among an oppressed group of people because God placed him there, God sent a dream to two men who risked everything to follow Jesus, even though they were surrounded by Muslims, and in fact were previously Muslim, too.
Muslims are having visions and dreams about the resurrected Jesus! Islam teaches that Jesus did not die on the cross, hence they don’t believe in His resurrection.
As I prayed this morning for the world, my nation and the current refugee crisis, I wondered, “how many of these refugees had visions and dreams of Jesus. I know of one, and that story has influenced other refugees as well. But visions and dreams are not happening enough to touch the world. The world needs to see Jesus in His followers.
If “seeing is believing,” then I don’t want to people to believe anything less of me as a Christian than this: I want to love others as Jesus has loved me.
PRACTICAL WAYS OF SHARING JESUS’ LOVE WITH THE WORLD
- Pray. It is hard to love someone if you are not praying for them (vice versa, too). Pray for our enemies as well as our neighbors. Pray for the government and for those who have never heard about Jesus.
- Deny ourselves. Putting ourselves first, is not how we love others. Practice putting others, first. This should be learned at home, first, as it would be scandalous if we put our neighbor first, and don’t practice this with our families.
- Look at the world through the lens of Jesus. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament and is revealed in the New Testament. Why don’t we stone adulterers today? One reason is that Jesus showed us a better way to deal with sin in our community.
- Get moving. Stagnation for anyone is a death sentence. Get off of Facebook. Get off of the couch. Get on with life. Jesus’ commission was to “go and make disciples,” not “grow wide on the couch and complain about the lack of disciples in the world.”
- Repeat (there are other things we can do, but repeating the four above is a great start).
Remember, seeing is believing, and I want the world to believe I am a follower of Jesus so that they might want to listen to His Word, believe in His resurrection and follow Him.