Monday, April 2, 2018

BETWEEN SUNDAYS

THOMAS
Often, having presented Christ to the prisoners in a prison chapel, and appealed to them to respond to his offer of love and mercy, I would end by saying, “Of course, everything I have said could be untrue, rubbish. The only way you will know is to find out for yourselves.” I would then tell them how the Bible records God saying, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart,” Jeremiah 29:13, adding that I have never known anyone to do that and be disappointed.

Dear Thomas seems to stand alone in being condemned as a doubter, when the fact is that everyone who believed that Jesus had risen from the dead that first Easter Day had seen him, ie Mary Magdalene, John 20:14, two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Luke 24:15, Peter v34, the ten disciples gathered behind locked doors, John 20:19. Only Thomas missed out on meeting him. I am sure that Thomas wanted to believe what he was told but, without evidence, he just couldn't.

BETWEEN SUNDAYS!
I'm lost and bewildered,
All hope is now gone.
I cannot imagine
How life can go on.

My mind's in a turmoil,
I can't understand
How this could have happened
To so good a man.

I'm tortured by thoughts of
Him hung on that tree;
The thorns and the nails;
In his face – agony.

It happened so quickly,
I still can't believe
He's dead and he's buried,
What did that achieve?

My friends are now saying
That Jesus has risen,
'We've seen him and heard him,
He's out of death's prison!'

I'd like to believe them,
I'm sure you would too,
But claims like they're making
Just cannot be true.

Whilst no-one likes losing
A valuable friend,
There's no point pretending
The end's not the end.

They think they have met him,
But senses deceive;
Come. show me his wounds, then
Perhaps I'll believe.
                   

When Jesus escaped from his persecutors in Jerusalem, John 10:39, to relative security beyond Judea, news arrived that his friend, Lazarus, was ill. When Jesus didn't immediately hot-foot it to Bethany as one might have expected, John 11:6, his disciples probably thought that his seeming reluctance to go was due to his fear of the Jews who were out to get him. But that was obviously not the case, for two days later he declared, “Let us go back to Judea,” v7. This alarmed his disciples. Going back was the last thing they wanted to do. It seemed almost suicidal, v8. However, when Jesus again expressed his desire to return to Judea, it was Thomas who rallied his companions with the bold battle cry, “Let us also go, that we might die with him,”v16

Of course, despite going back with Jesus, neither Thomas nor the others were willing to die with him. They left him to die alone. We too may have strong convictions as to what we would do in a given set of circumstances, but whether our actions match our words when it counts is a very different matter. Peter made a similar bold statement, Matthew 26:31. Has it been true of you? I have sometimes had a strong conviction to do something with an equally strong intention, only to then fail the Saviour I love. How often do we, his followers, break the Lord's heart I wonder?

Why was Thomas the only disciple absent when Jesus appeared to the others? Some grieving people find comfort in being in the company of friends or fellow sufferers. Others prefer to spend their time grieving alone. Thomas was probably not only shocked at what had so suddenly transpired, but deeply disappointed with himself, burdened with guilt at his lack of courage. Have you been there? Following the death of a loved one there can be a sense of guilt, often irrational, for not having done more for them, even when there was no more we could have done. Thomas may also have felt disappointed with Jesus when things didn't work out as he anticipated. He probably never imagined that things would turn out like they did. Have you never been disappointed with Jesus? Have you ever felt as though he had failed you, failed to do what you expected of him?

It could have been disappointment that caused Thomas's absence that first Easter Sunday evening, resulting in him missing such a wonderful blessing. Sometimes, sensing that God has something special in store for us, Satan will endeavour one way or another to make us disinclined to join with our fellow believers. John Wesley knew that experience. He tells us in his journal how, in May 1738, he went 'very unwillingly' to a meeting in Aldersgate. Had his unwillingness won the day he might never have known that life-changing experience God gave him that night, nor the great work that came out of it and swept through this land.

Having stated what it would take for him to believe, Thomas must have been shocked when, a week later, Jesus again appeared and accepted his challenge, inviting him to put his finger in the nail prints and his hand in his side, John 20:27. Although unseen, Jesus was obviously present when Thomas made his declaration. “Stop doubting and believe,” Jesus then told him. Earlier, when Jesus and his disciples arrived in Jerusalem following the resurrection of Lazarus, Thomas asked Jesus a question that revealed how Thomas really didn't know him, John 14:7. But now, Thomas leapt ahead of his fellow disciples in reaching the full truth of who Jesus was, “My Lord and my God!”

This is the climax of John's gospel in what was originally the last chapter, and Jesus responded with a final beatitude, “Blessed are those who have not seen  and yet have believed.” We may not have seen Jesus in the flesh nevertheless, like Thomas, we need not depend on second-hand accounts, for through God's gift of the Holy Spirit we can come to truly know him personally.


Howard Webber
Retired SA Officer (Pastor)
Bournemouth UK






*Christianity Magazine's Book of the Year 2010*

Christianity Magazine's Review (2010):

.
This book is perhaps the most extraordinary one I've reviewed since writing for 'Christianity'. It is a series of stories of evangelism on the hard side of life. It is painfully honest and lists as many failures as successes, as many deaths as new lives. Documenting Webber's spiritual battles too, it is possibly the most moving set of accounts I've ever read, and the most hopeful. It is all too easy to see the role of being God's ambassadors as reduced to preaching, or set among those who we love and are safe. But this book challenges us to be where Jesus would be, with the down-and-outs, with the hopeless and the broken. It looks the cost of such ministry square in the eye and carries on just the same. Please buy this book.'




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