Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Expecting The Unexpected In A World Without Faith

The lesson from Thomas won't let me go. After two weeks of relating everything about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ I figured we would pick up where we left off. So I turned to John 14 which is where we paused to look at Easter, and here I find that we are back to looking at Thomas. Now let me tell you, there is an important lesson here that the Spirit wants us to incorporate into our lives.

Thomas was a practical man who accepted Jesus at face value. He saw a wonderful, compassionate leader who he hoped would become king. He saw a man who he was willing to die for. He saw someone who had great knowledge and understanding and who was able to answer the tough questions. But Thomas could not see the "more" of Jesus. Even though he was there for the miracles, the blind receiving sight, the lame walking again, the calming of the storm, the feeding of the multitude, he could not reconcile it to his normal, practical life.

We've already considered his reaction when Jesus insisted on going to see Lazarus after he died. There were people in that region who wanted to kill Jesus, who had already attempted to kill him. Instead of trusting that Jesus knew what he was doing and expecting the unexpected, Thomas simply told the other disciples that they needed to go so they could die with him. He expected failure. He expected Jesus could do nothing. He expected that Jesus was nothing more than a man. He loved that man. He was willing to die for that man. But he was only a man.

Our churches are filled with people with a similar outlook toward Jesus. He is a symbol of hope. He makes them feel good about themselves. He gives them something to look forward to, like a comforting fairy tale for children. They honestly love him. They may even be willing to die for him. But they have no expectations of him. They do not believe he will provide or protect or intervene. They have no expectations of a miracle. There is no power or solution coming from God. They don't say it in so many words but you can see it in their actions as they worry, panic and try to help themselves.

Now here in John 14 we have Jesus comforting his disciples, telling them not to be afraid, that they can trust him. Everything he has told them is the truth and he is needing to leave them now so he can prepare for them. It is a beautiful and tender moment but it is a moment that is beyond Thomas' limited vision. It needs an understanding and acceptance of the supernatural, of something beyond our flesh, the "more" of Jesus. Jesus tells his disciples:

"You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:4)

But Thomas doesn't know. He doesn't even understand where Jesus is going let alone how to get there:

“Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (John 14:5)

After three years he still doesn't understand. Jesus answered with patience but insisted on the matter:

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7)

Now Philip picks it up and continues to show what limited understanding the disciples had about this man who they have followed for these three years:

“Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” (John 14:8)

Read what emotions you want into Jesus response but we must agree on the tone of amazement. Jesus was always amazed and even disturbed by the lack of faith people had in God's ability to be God:

“Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?" (John 14:9)

People have been attending church for a very long time, much longer than three years, yet they still do not know Jesus. To tell you the truth I do not understand why they attend, why they continue to call themselves Christians after all these years because they show in their actions and words that they do not know who God is. They know nothing of his promises or his power. It is a religious thing for them with no relationship. But it is even worse than this.

There are many who are just like Thomas, thinking they have a relationship, thinking they do love Jesus. They have reduced it down to good living and loving people. But there is nothing more to their love than being pleasant and nice with people. They do not have any belief that God will do the impossible in their life or any one else's. They work hard to overcome their own problems. They may ask God for help but they don't expect anything. They completely miss what Jesus explained:

“I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:21-22)

Our God is a God of power and our unbelief is robbing him of glory. Either we believe or we don't. It is our unbelief that is limiting what we accept God will do in our lives and through us into the lives of others. The world does not believe Jesus because we don't believe Jesus. We should be hearing that same question from Jesus that he asked Philip, "Don't you know me?" Don't we know him? Don't we know what he has done and what he is willing to do? Don't we know his promises? Don't we know his glory? Don't we know his purpose and now the purpose he has given to us? Jesus operated through the Holy Spirit. What he did he did by the Holy Spirit. He said we would do even greater things and then he sent the Holy Spirit so that we can do the greater things. Go beyond Good Friday with the cross. Go beyond the great promise of Sunday with the empty grave. Enter into the power of Pentecost and know that power has been given to you so that Jesus can be glorified through you.

Come on my friends, let us be willing to do more than die for Jesus. Let us also be willing to live for his glory. May the world come to see him through us. May they see him in the way we deal with our "mountains". May they see him in our trust and confidence in his promises. May they seem him in the power that flows through us and into the people around us, changing them for all eternity. May he give sight to the blind through us. It is time to expect the unexpected from the Creator of heaven and earth. To God be the glory!

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