Is faith in an unseen Jesus possible? I mean, all those people in the Gospels saw Jesus, were fed miraculous bread by him, touched the hem of his cloak and were healed.
Can we believe in this one named Jesus if we cannot see him?
Two Healings, Two Different Responses
John’s gospel was likely written in the late first century. He is addressing an audience who had not seen Jesus nor heard him teach nor had the opportunity to be healed in person by him.
In the midst of John’s gospel two men are healed. Their stories are recorded in John 5 and John 9. Despite standing face to face with Jesus and being instantly healed of crushing physical maladies one believed and one did not.
The John 5 guy did not believe in the end – he reported Jesus to the religious leaders after he was warned by Jesus that there was worse evils then being crippled. John’s words are specific: “Jesus found him and warned him…..(14).” “The man went away and told the jews….(15).” Despite being healed, he did not believe in Jesus.
What? That can actually happen?
The John 9 guy was healed of blindness. Because it was the Sabbath, the now formerly-blind man was questioned by Jewish leaders as to who had healed him and if he was even blind to begin with. For a likely poor, uneducated man, the formerly-blind man made a mockery of the religious leaders own reasoning process. His response to Jesus was different too. John writes that “the Jews cast him (the healed man) out of [the synagogue]…(v. 34)”; “Jesus heard that he had been cast out and having found him, he said, ‘Do you believe…? (35);'” “He said, ‘Lord I believe,’ and he worshipped him(36).”
From these two stories we learn that seeing, hearing, and being healed by Jesus does not preclude trusting Jesus. These experiences are not necessary for faith.
This is John’s point – we need not see Jesus to believe. In fact, John 20:24-29 is a bit of an exclamation point to this fact. This passage is of the famous “doubting” Thomas confrontation with Jesus. Thomas insisted he would not believe until he had seen the resurrected Jesus himself. Upon Jesus’ appearing, Thomas was on his knees before him. Jesus then uttered the beatitude of “blessed are those who believe me though they have not seen me.”
Battered and Buttressed
Life can batter our faith. It is also a means by which God tests, proves, and builds our faith.
Peter was in the room with Thomas when Jesus uttered those words recorded in John 20.
In the opening paragraphs of his letter (1 Peter) Peter reminds us that our faith is tried by life’s trials. He goes on to repeat Jesus’ words that he uttered in that locked room in Jerusalem: “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him…. (1 Peter 1:8-9, but read the first 7 verses for context).
Jesus Finds Us and Always is Inviting Trust
In each of our cases, Jesus finds us and asks us do you believe. This is not just a one off “being saved” event in our lives. John makes it clear in his gospel that faith is progressive. Our faith is relational. It is organic. It can be nurtured and it can be squelched.
Jesus comes to us every moment of our lives. He is always finding us. He is always inviting us, warning us, tending to us. How do we respond?