Faith is a funny thing. It crashes over some people and trickles into others. There’s no formula, but Jesus is always there. He leads us into faith with exactly what we need in order to get there. It’s been that way since the first Easter morning…
Peter & John
The knock came early, just after sunrise. Mary rushed into the room, out of breath. “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” Peter and John rushed out the door before she could close her mouth. (At least that’s how I imagine it.)
John got there first. He stopped at the entrance to the cave. Why did he hesitate? Fear? Anticipation? Respect for Peter?
Jesus hadn’t been taken;
He had been raised!
Peter, always the impulsive one, didn’t stutter-step, didn’t stop to discuss their options. He ran all the way into the tomb. It took his eyes a few seconds to adjust to the darkness, then he could make out the burial cloths. John stepped inside after him. Together, they could see that Jesus hadn’t been taken; He had been raised! We know John immediately believed (John 20:8). And Peter? It took him a while (Luke 24:12), but he eventually understood it all.
Though one believed immediately while one had to think on it, for both these disciples, Jesus’ disappearance, coupled with what they already knew, was enough. They believed.
Mary returned to the burial site after telling the disciples. She stood outside the cave, confused and crying. She couldn’t make Peter and John’s leap from the absence of a body to the resurrection of that same body. Even the appearance of two angels (who hadn’t been there earlier) couldn’t knock her out of her stupor, and usually angels scare people straight. Just saying.
Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a man. He said…something. It was a question she couldn’t bear to answer. Instead, she questioned him: “Tell me where you have put him” (John 20:15). Mary’s eyes were full of tears, probably puffy and read. It was barely past daybreak, early in the morning. She had hardly slept at all for the past two nights. Still.
The man spoke again. Jesus said her name. With that one word, Mary believed.
Where was Thomas that first time Jesus showed up among the disciples (John 20:19-23)? We don’t know. He caught up with them later, but he just couldn’t believe what they said about Jesus being alive. He knew these guys, and he didn’t trust them enough to believe that. He drew a line in the metaphorical sand: “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were…I will not believe” (John 20:25).
Thomas may have been a doubter,
but he wasn’t a deserter.
It took a week. Thomas didn’t go away, but neither did he believe. Don’t miss this (even though it’s not the main point): Thomas didn’t leave. He may have been a doubter, but he wasn’t a deserter. In the same way, we can live with our doubts for a while, until Jesus answers them, but we have to stay close, stay where He can reach out to us.
Jesus was just there. One second, no Jesus. The next second, Jesus. He greeted everyone perfunctorily, then turned straight to Thomas. He stretched out his hand and asked Thomas to touch Him. He hadn’t told Peter and John; He hadn’t told Mary, but He told—commanded, really—Thomas to believe.
Jesus met Thomas with a doubt-erasing action, and Thomas believed.
Cleopas and Another Follower
Two followers of Jesus (not part of the inner circle) took advantage of a necessarily long walk to process everything they had heard and seen since Jesus’ crucifixion three days earlier. Just that morning, they heard Jesus wasn’t actually dead any more. He had come back to life! So there was a lot to talk about.
When a scholar of the Scriptures joined them on the road, they continued the conversation. In fact, they figuratively walked through all of Hebrew Scripture even as they literally walked to Emmaus. This man was obviously brilliant, with an understanding of Scripture like they had never seen before. (Funny, since they’d been following Jesus and presumably had heard Him speak on numerous occasions!) They convinced the man to have dinner with them, and when He blessed the food, they suddenly saw they had been walking with Jesus.
Jesus revealed the full pattern of Scripture to them, and they believed.
Jesus gave each of these followers exactly what they needed in order to believe. For Peter and John, His absence was enough. For Mary, a simple word sufficed. For Thomas, it was sight and touch. For Cleopas and that other guy, it took a long, history-rich discussion and some fellowship. Faith has no formula.
Jesus doesn’t begrudge those
who need more from Him…
Even in the 21st century, some people come quickly to Jesus and some need years of doubt and/or discussion. It’s all okay. Jesus doesn’t begrudge the ones who need more from Him in order to believe. Neither can we judge, classify, or categorize the rate at which belief infiltrates a life. Faith is harder for some.
What do you think? How quickly did you respond to Jesus? How quickly have you seen others respond? Please share in the comments.