June 21, 1994
The existence of Jesus Christ is established. Tacitus, a great Roman historian born in the first century, speaks of Jesus. Josephus, a Jewish historian born A.D. 37, tells of His crucifixion. The Roman calendar is based on His birth. Christmas, Easter, and several other holidays are celebrated because of His life.
Few contend that Jesus had an impact on history. Someone says one edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica uses 20,000 words in describing Him, more space than what is given to Aristotle, Cicero, Alexander, Julius Caesar, Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed or Napoleon Bonaparte.
With all this evidence and more, it is amazing that some refuse to believe only what they see and, for that reason, insist Jesus was a myth. Even more amazing is that one of His disciples, a man who walked and ate and talked with Jesus, also declared, “Unless I see... I will not believe.”
After Jesus was put to death, His followers were overwhelmed with grief and fear. How could He die who Himself had raised the dead? It was inconceivable. They were also terrified that the authorities who killed their beloved Teacher would do the same to them.
In the midst of this grief and fear, an unbelievable thing happened; Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene beside His empty tomb. She obviously did not expect Him to be alive because at first she did not recognize Him. She was shocked, then overjoyed.
The other disciples did not expect Him to be alive either. Despite seeing Him do many miracles, it never entered their heads that He would conquer His own death. They saw Him being crucified and the sword put in His side, so no one believed her glad report.
Later Jesus appeared to two of them as they walked along a road. They were so convinced He was dead, they didn’t recognize Him right away either.
Within a short time, Jesus appeared to all of the disciples except Thomas. This one had listened to their eye-witness accounts but he still did not believe Jesus was alive. He said, “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe it.” For that, he has been called the “doubting disciple.”
Jesus finally came to this sceptic. He did not scold him for his doubt; after all, the others also believed only after seeing Him alive. Instead, He invited him to: “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas did not need to touch the wounds. He only looked at Jesus and his doubts disappeared. He declared, “My Lord and my God.”
After that, the disciples, including Thomas, had no more doubt. Jesus was alive and that was enough to dissolve their grief and fear. From then on, they yielded their lives to His complete control.
Do we need to see the living Christ before we can believe that He died for us and rose from the dead? According to Jesus, there is a special blessing for those who believe WITHOUT seeing. Jesus told Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
For us, the evidence is not a visual sighting of Him in the flesh but a careful weighing of all that is known about Him: from history books, the Scriptures, and from observing the changed lives of those who did believe--including doubters like His own disciples.