Text: John 19:1-42, John 20:1-31, 1 Peter 2:22-25, Psalm 22:1-8
My kids learned to fly kites this weekend.
After much trial and error (and a fair amount of weeping and gnashing of teeth), all three of them experienced that exhilarating payoff of the kite string pulling tight in their hand and the wind lifting the cheap, plastic diamond high in the happy, flappy breeze. They stood outside for hours—5 hours, come to think of it—watching their kites soar in the air. They flew kites while singing songs. They flew kites while dancing. They flew kites while running in circles and they even flew kites while lying down. My personal favorite? When they flew kites while singing AND lying down.
As I sat on a blanket and watched the event unfold, it reminded me of a Billy Graham quote about the wind. You fellow youth group kids of the early 90’s know the one; I’m pretty sure it was spliced into the beginning of a DC Talk song: “Can you see God? You haven’t seen him? I’ve never seen the wind. I see the effects of the wind, but I’ve never seen the wind. There’s a mystery to it.”
Believing in what we cannot see can be downright hard. Even those who walked the earth with Jesus wanted to see more of Him in order to believe or hold onto belief. The crowds followed Him, pushing in closer and longing to catch a real, live glimpse of the Messiah in action.
Mary Magdalene was one who followed Jesus faithfully. Even after His death she went to the tomb, anxious to see the body of her Savior; and when He wasn’t there, she wept.
Mary needed to see Jesus. Then He appeared to her there where she knelt crying, and she saw Him and believed!
The disciple Thomas heard the news that Jesus had risen from the dead. “We have seen the Lord,” the others told him (John 20:24). But Thomas was a doubter, like I’m prone to be.
Thomas needed to touch Jesus. “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe” (v. 25). And Thomas touched his hands to Jesus’ hands and believed!
We can understand our sister Mary and our brother Thomas, can’t we? In the hurry and sorrow and uncertainty of this life, we need a hope we can see and feel. But unlike Mary, we don’t get to see Jesus face to face. And unlike Thomas, we don’t get to put our fingers on His nail-scarred hands. Yes, we can see God’s mercy at work in the world, making broken things new. We can feel the Holy Spirit changing our hearts, softening what once was stone. But the darkest valleys leave our eyes and hands searching for something we can’t seem to find.
Jesus knew this would be hard for us. It’s why He gives us faith—to believe. Paul tells us faith is a gift, not something we muster up on our own (Ephesians 2:8). And Jesus calls those who have it blessed (John 20:29). He has also given us His very Spirit to live within us (John 14:26), and His Word to guide us (Psalm 119:105). Though we can’t yet lay eyes on Christ, He lays His hand of mercy on us by the indwelling of His Spirit and the gift of His Word.
There will be times when we struggle to believe what we cannot see. But the risen Savior is ever near, as alive as He was the day He spoke to a distraught Mary, and the day He beckoned Thomas to touch His side. When we have trouble seeing Him in our lives, we can see Him here, in the pages of His Word.