Over the past several weeks, I have been reading through the Gospel of John. It’s fascinating to me, how such a familiar book can still surprise me. There is always something new to discover and reflect upon.
For instance, I have really enjoyed reacquainting myself with well-loved Bible verses and stories about Jesus’ life. But the thing that has really stood out to me, quite unexpectedly, is the prevalent theme of disbelief found within the gospel.
Over and over again, despite the incredible signs and wonders that Jesus performed, many people struggled to believe in Him.
I suppose it’s not shocking that the Pharisees and Sadducees might question and doubt Jesus’ teachings and claims about himself. These men, who were highly invested in the current religious establishment, probably had good reason for their skepticism… they felt threatened. After all, if what Jesus said was true, it would change EVERYTHING!
However, it wasn’t JUST the “religious establishment” that wrestled with belief in Jesus. At times, whole crowds of people who had been following him, turned away. (See John 6:59-66).
HOW COULD THIS BE?!
As much as I love Jesus, I have to admit that His message isn’t always an easy one to swallow OR to follow for that matter.
Maybe this theme of doubt has stood out to me lately, because in some ways, I can identify with it.
You see, I have had multiple experiences where God has shown up in my life, sometimes in truly miraculous ways. And yet, I have still had moments of doubt. Times where I have wondered: Is any of this real?!
My guess is that I am not alone in this experience. No, I think that I’m probably in GOOD COMPANY.
Good? YES. Absolutely good!
Because having doubts and questions and wrestling and struggling with what we believe is not necessarily a bad thing! In fact, I think it can be an extraordinary gift.
Where did we ever get the idea that raising questions or expressing uncertainties about God and/or faith somehow makes us bad Christians?
Having doubts is HUMAN! Grappling with questions is a vital part of the learning process. It allows us to test and discern and process and GROW.
If we never have queries or experience some angst when it comes to our faith, then I think we are missing something. I don’t know about you, but I want to know what I believe, and why I believe it! This requires some mental wrestling.
Which brings us back to the question, why did some people struggle to believe in Jesus?
Maybe it’s because Jesus made some pretty outrageous claims! In John 10:30, He basically tells everyone that He is God. In John 14:6, He claimed to be “the way the truth and the life” and the ONLY way to get into heaven. Jesus also said that He was the Resurrection and the Life and anyone who believed in him would live, even though they may die. (John 11:25.)
He not only made some pretty bold statements about himself, but Jesus also asked his followers to do some pretty extreme things. They were supposed to lead through servant-hood, to not worry about or strive after material things, to think of others more highly than themselves, to love and pray for their enemies, and to be willing to sacrifice everything, including their own lives, to follow Jesus. (Keep in mind that this is the short list!)
If these statements wouldn’t have made people pause, 2000+ years ago, then I don’t know what would.
IT SHOULD STILL MAKE US PAUSE!
Jesus’ words are powerful. They are provocative. And they are problematic.
They are problematic, because they require a decision.
We are faced with the choice of putting our ultimate trust in someone other than ourselves. It’s a decision to willingly submit to the authority of another. It’s a confession that we can’t do it on our own, that we NEED a savior.
It means putting our faith in something we can’t fully see or even comprehend on this side of heaven.
And this is HARD. And Life is often confusing. And in this world there is trouble. And God can seem a million miles away. And there’s the, “what if’s” and the “I don’t understand why’s!”
And Doubt crouches in the corner of our minds.
In John 20:24-29, we read about Thomas. He was one of Jesus’ original twelve disciples and he struggled to wrap his mind around the death and resurrection of Jesus. Despite the testimony from his close friends that Jesus was alive, Thomas declared: “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.”
How did Jesus respond to this statement? Was he angry or hurt? Did he reject Thomas as a disciple or shame him for his momentary skepticism?
NO! Jesus simply showed up. He met Thomas in his moment of doubt and disbelief. He invited Thomas to come and see for himself.
“Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’” (John 20:27)
DEAR FRIENDS… please listen and receive what I have to say. Your doubts DO NOT threaten God! And they will NEVER disqualify you or subtract from the unconditional and overflowing LOVE and GRACE that Jesus wants to lavish upon you.
When doubts and questions and uncertainties come, rest assured that God can handle it. In fact, I believe that He wants to meet you RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE!
Therefore, don’t stop wrestling. Don’t stop striving, and questioning and wondering. Don’t stop SEEKING. Because if you search, and you seek with all your heart, I believe that in time YOU WILL SEE FOR YOURSELF, that Jesus IS! He is who He said He was.
And if everything Jesus said is true…. then that changes EVERYTHING!
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