"Seeing Is Believing"#87-51
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on August 16, 2020
By Rev. Dr. Dale A. Meyer, Guest Speaker
Copyright 2020 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: John 20:29
Oh, God, there's no lack of sights and sounds in our lives. We're surrounded by facts and opinions. Give us, oh God, to understand. Show us Your peace and Your purpose for our lives in Jesus Christ. As you revealed life's meaning to Thomas in the revelation of the living Savior, reveal what life is about to us through the Bible's true accounts of what You've done for us in Jesus. By Your Word remove our doubts and increase our faith. Go with us this week with a Word of Christ as the eye through which we see life. Amen.
In John 20:29, Jesus says, "Blessed are those who have not seen and still have believed." I've been eager for today to come. I want to speak about this verse. So many people today are skeptics. So many don't know the meaning of it all. So many have no peace in their personal and family lives. With those being the depressing facts of modern life for so many people, I'm eager to talk about this verse. This verse almost jumps off its page in the Bible, and offers confidence and peace for Your life.
Let's review the story that leads up to Jesus' words. On Good Friday Jesus was executed. He was put to death on a cross. When evening came, His followers took His body down and put it in a tomb. Jesus is dead and gone they thought. He had said many wonderful things. He had aroused hope. He had given our lives direction and purpose. Ah, but now He's dead and He's gone. The next day, Saturday, came and went. Jesus still dead and gone in the minds of His followers. But Sunday, Sunday turned out to be quiet today. A few of Jesus' followers went to the tomb, but they couldn't find His body. They found their friends and reported that they had seen an angel who said Jesus was alive. Even more amazing, some of Jesus' followers were telling their friends that they had actually seen Jesus alive. By Sunday night many of them didn't know what to believe. The news reports were conflicting. Life wasn't making sense. Their lives had no peace, no purpose.
One of Jesus' followers was named John. He wrote down for us what happened that Sunday night. That Sunday evening the doors were locked where the disciples were because they were afraid of the Jews. Then Jesus came and stood among them, and said to them, "Peace, be with you." When He said this, He showed them His hands and His side. So the disciples were delighted to see the Lord; they saw and believed. The pieces of the puzzle were all suddenly fitting together, with one exception: a man named Thomas wasn't there that night. He didn't see, so he refused to believe. John also wrote about Thomas' experience. But Thomas, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So, the other disciples told him, "We saw the Lord." Thomas told them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails, and put my hand in His side, I will never believe."
Now I tell you, there is a real skeptic. He didn't claim to know everything. But he knew what he had seen, or hadn't seen. And that was the basis for his opinion. A week later, Jesus' disciples were again in the house. And this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked, but Jesus came and stood among them. "Peace be with you," He said. Then He told Thomas, "Put your finger here, and look at My hands, and take your hand and put it in My side, and do not go on doubting, but believe." Thomas answered Him, "My Lord and my God!"
Then Jesus said the words that are so important for you. These are the words that leap off the page, and come straight through the centuries to you right now. "Do you believe because you have seen Me?" He asked Thomas. "Blessed are those who have not seen and still have believe." That's today's verse.
All the Bible is precious. The entire book was written to help you in your life. However, there are some Bible passages that are especially important. This is one of them. It seems to leap right off the page and grab your attention. "You," Jesus says. "Who me?" "Yes, you," Jesus says. "I'm talking to you. Thomas believed in Me because he saw Me. He saw My body. He saw the wounds from the cross, but you, you haven't seen me in that way. Although you haven't seen Me with your eyes, how blessed are you if you believe in Me." There's more to seeing than just seeing.
I once taught a student who was blind; he's a very intelligent person. He once asked me a question about the topic of that day, whatever it was. I gave an answer. And then he said, "I see." True seeing is more than the physical eyes pick up; to truly see is to understand. That's a simple fact, but Thomas forgot it. And that's why Thomas went wrong. Thomas tried to find meaning only from what he had seen. During that first week—the week when the reports of the resurrection were flying, but Thomas had not seen Jesus—Thomas relied totally, and wrongly, only on what he had seen. "If I see it, it must be true," he reasoned. "If I don't see it, then it just can't be." When that week was over, Jesus appeared to Thomas and revealed something Thomas had never seen before: a dead man who is alive and who brings peace and certainty to people. Jesus didn't put Thomas down because Thomas had relied upon his sight. What Jesus did was revealed to Thomas that the meaning of life is more than just one person's opinion about what he or she has seen. The meaning of life is the Man who said He is the eternal God, and who died on the cross so that God and humanity might be reconciled. That God-Man who died is now alive! And this God-Man, Jesus Christ, shows Himself alive to Thomas, and He says, "Peace be unto you. Do not go on doubting, but believe."
Thomas saw that and his eyes were open. He truly saw; he did believe. "Peace be unto you. Do not go on doubting, but believe." The God-Man, Jesus Christ, who was executed for sinners is still alive now. And right now He says the same thing to you. Who? Me? Yes, you. Peace to you from Jesus Christ who died for your sins and rose again. Don't go on doubting, but believe. In Jesus Christ your life has meaning—a meaning that can satisfy you, and a meaning that is true and valid before God. Believing in Jesus Christ, you truly see things the way they are. God created us as people who rely upon our physical senses. He knows also that you are a person who needs purpose and peace in your life, and that you rely on your senses to help find that meaning. So, look what God has done. He showed Himself to Thomas and that seeing resulted in believing. Jesus also showed Himself to many other people during the 40 days between His resurrection and His ascension into heaven.
God moved some of these eyewitnesses to write down what they saw. They wrote their eyewitness accounts down so that people like you and me can see and understand those ancient events through their words. What John and other eyewitnesses wrote we now call the books of the Bible. These are not simply memoirs about God's work in Jesus. These eyewitness accounts were written so that God can show you through the words of the Bible that His Son is alive and brings you peace. If the books of the Bible were intended simply to be histories, they would fail. They don't tell what Jesus looked like. They don't probe His psychological makeup. They don't tell about His formative years. These eyewitness accounts of Jesus are not merely histories. What they are are words by which God's Spirit strives to reveal to you the meaning of your life. The words say that the purpose and peace of your life is Jesus Christ.
John says it this way, near the end of one of his books, "These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. And that by believing you may have life in His Name." So, true seeing is believing in the words of Jesus Christ. Paul says, "Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message comes through the word of Christ." None of this is irrelevant Bible history. I can think of few Bible stories that are more relevant today. Thomas had formed his opinions on the basis of what he had seen, or not seen. The result was that for one week he had it wrong.
You and I are living in a culture that puts emphasis upon sight, not upon faith. If I don't see it on TV, it mustn't be. Or if I don't see it on TV, it mustn't be important. TV's a wonderful invention. I'm not going to bash it. But TV does have some serious limitations, and one limitation is this: it does not give meaning. TV does provide information. It does a fantastic job of that. Facts and events can be broadcast almost instantly into every home. But what does all the information mean? Does it mean what the commentator says it does? Does it mean what the guests on the talk show say it means? Does it mean anything at all? Giving peace and purpose to your life is something that TV doesn't do. To truly see your life in a good, positive, purposeful way is something that God reveals. So many are living meaningless lives. So many people have no purpose, no peace, because the facts make no satisfying sense. You won't understand life simply from the sights of TV. That comes alone from seeing Jesus with the eyes of faith.
You're going to have a bad week if you try to understand your life in any other way. Try to live your life this week simply on the basis of how you interpret what you see on TV, and you'll go wrong, just as Thomas went wrong that week when he formed his judgments on the basis of what he saw. Just as Jesus didn't humiliate Thomas because Thomas used his sight. Jesus, doesn't put down the fact that you do get information from TV. But Jesus does say this: "Blessed are those who have not seen and still have believed."
Blessed are you whose physical senses are not your final source of truth. Blessed are you who form your opinions on the basis of something more than you see on TV? Blessed are you who watch TV and life through the eyes of faith. Blessed are you who are glued to the Bible more than to the tube. Blessed are you who find meaning and peace in the words of the God-Man who died for your sins, and who now lives and says, "Peace be unto you."
Not all people are so blessed, but if you interpret your life on the basis of the word of Jesus Christ, you are blessed. Jesus once contrasted the people of faith to people who have the wrong faith. He said in Matthew 13, "They see, and yet do not see. Hear and yet do not hear or understand. In them, Isaiah's prophecy is being fulfilled. 'You will hear clearly, but never understand. You will see clearly, but never comprehend.' Because these people have become dull at heart and hard of hearing and have shut their eyes so that their eyes never see their ears, never hear, their hearts never understand. And they never turned to Me for healing.' Blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear." Amen.
Reflections for August 16, 2020
Title: Seeing Is Believing
Michael Zeigler: I'm visiting with the preacher you just heard, Dr. Dale Meyer, who has served Jesus as a servant and leader in the church for almost 50 years as a pastor, a radio preacher, a television personality and, most recently, in the task of preparing full-time ministry workers. Thanks for joining us, Dale.
Dale Meyer: Thank you, Michael, for being here. It's always an honor to be at The Lutheran Hour.
Michael Zeigler: Dale, you like to say, "It's a great time to be the church," but we're also told that fewer and fewer people are attending worship services, fewer people know the Bible, and even parts of the culture seem hostile to the church. And so the statement seems counterintuitive, but you say it like you believe it.
Dale Meyer: I actually do believe it.
Michael Zeigler: All right.
Dale Meyer: But thanks for asking the question because it's one of my favorite lines, it's a great time to be the church. Last year we had a former student on campus, and he came up to me and he said, "Is that just a PR thing for the seminary and recruitment?" A little bit. But a key passage for our faith is 2 Corinthians 5:7. St. Paul says, "We live by faith, not by sight." That's an important distinction. Sight is what we see. Sight is statistics. Sight is the decline in church attendance. Sight is the decline in the institutional church. That's real. Nobody's denying that, and we're all struggling with it. But faith trusts the promises of God, and faith knows that Jesus not only died, but He rose again, and He's pouring out His Holy Spirit on the church today.
So who can say it's a bad time to be the church? I mean, on Judgment Day, Dr. Zeigler, do you want to stand in front of Jesus and give the account for your stewardship and say, "Well, You know, Jesus, it was really a tough time to be the church."
Michael Zeigler: No, I don't want to say that.
Dale Meyer: Yeah. And He'll scratch His head, and you'll see the scars from the nail prints in His hands. And maybe you'll see the glow of His glory. No. No. It is wrong to say it's a bad time to be the church. It is a faith statement, but it is a sincere faith statement.
Michael Zeigler: Dale, as you have reflected on your 15 years of service as president of a prominent seminary, I heard you say that our mission is Jesus' mission, the Great Commission. People need to know about Jesus. Of course, that's true for seminaries. It's true for pastors and radio preachers. How is it also true for every follower of Jesus?
Dale Meyer: One of the things that I respect about Lutheran Hour Ministries is your work with the Barna Group. They do surveys that tell us where spirituality is at for Americans, and then we shape ministry toward where it is at today. Now, we don't change the Word of God. That's a constant: a changeless Christ for a changing world. But not too terribly long ago, Barna asked this question, "Who are you most likely to see as a credible news source?" Thirty-nine percent said, "A reporter." Thirty-two percent said, "Nobody. I trust my instincts."
Michael Zeigler: Okay.
Dale Meyer: A famous academic, 22 percent. A pastor I personally know, 14 percent. A teacher I personally know, 12 percent. Out of a hundred, only 14 percent trust a pastor as truly credible. But get this. A friend, family member, or peer, 27 percent.
Michael Zeigler: All right. That's double.
Dale Meyer: Yeah. It's a satisfied customer thing. And not that that our faith is simply a consumer transaction, but 27 percent found the guy next door, the guy down the street, the fellow co-worker, to be more credible than the clergy. Now, clergy are sincere. But you know we do get paid to do this, so that might, for some people, put a question mark in what we say.
Michael Zeigler: Sure.
Dale Meyer: 1 Peter 2:9 says, "You're a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, that you should declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." That is not directed to clergy; it's directed to the entire church: clergy and lay alike. In fact, the distinction between clergy and laity in 1 Peter is minimal. We're all called into the light to share Jesus.
Michael Zeigler: The resources that have come out of our Barna research here at Lutheran Hour Ministries have brought that to my attention, seeing how critical it is to equip every believer to be able to start a conversation and bear witness to the work of Jesus in their own lives. And like you said, the credibility. If you're talking with someone who knows you personally, you have their ear. You very often have their trust.
Dale Meyer: One of the benefits of research, as Lutheran Hour does with Barna, is that it tells us how the world is today. Instinctively, I look at the world as it was decades ago when I was growing up. It's not that way anymore, and on my own I might not intuit these changes. But those who do the research and lay out the statistics can tell the rest of us, "Whoa, it's a different world in this 21st century." And we need to adjust how we proclaim the changeless Christ to this changed world.
Michael Zeigler: One of the insights that come out of that research that is very simple, but profound, is that for a person who is coming to know Jesus, there's thresholds that they walk through, sort of like walking through doors. And the first threshold, or one of the first, is simply to get to know and to trust another Christian. So you mentioned our research that we've done with Barna, and I know you've gotten to preview some of the new resources we're developing out of the latest stage of research centered on this insight that helping people get to know Jesus in a post-Christian culture could begin with Christians using their gifts in their neighborhoods, for the common good. You seemed hopeful about that project.
Dale Meyer: A friend of mine told me this, and he was being cynical, but it does make a point. You know, you get on an airplane, and in your job as The Lutheran Hour Speaker, you're on planes a lot, okay? And a lot of times, you don't want to talk to the next person. You've got a book, you want to think, you want to doze off, whatever it is. And sometimes we'll get somebody who wants to talk, talk, talk, talk, okay? So my friend said cynically the way to stop that is say, "Do you know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?" And that person asks you on the plane will never say another word the rest of the flight.
Michael Zeigler: Yeah.
Dale Meyer: Now that's cynical, but it does make the point that we have to earn a hearing from the other person before we start unloading our witness. As you've said, there are thresholds before our witness is credible. I mean, if a bulldozer is coming at you, if you're on the street and a semi is barreling down at you, you're going to get out of the way. We can't come at a person with full-bore witness until we've got an opening. And a lot of times, that opening comes from having established our own credibility.
What I like about the Hopeful Neighborhood Project is we can do this. I mean, how many times over the years haven't we gone to church or listened to The Lutheran Hour, some of my sermons too, and been told to go out and tell people about Jesus? Now, I wonder what percentage of folks actually go out and tell somebody about Jesus—because it can be intimidating.
Michael Zeigler: Sure.
Dale Meyer: But I think most of us can work on a project in the neighborhood. We can be involved in our community, and through that we can build credibility. And eventually, somebody is going to ask us for the hope that is in us. And then we can share in a low key, but personal way, our faith in Jesus.
Dale Meyer: One of the sayings that I've used often is don't tell me what a friend I have in Jesus until I see what a friend I have in you.
Michael Zeigler: I was reading the book of Titus the other day. And I was struck by the way Paul encourages Titus, as he's appointing leaders of the churches, how much the focus is on the life of the household and their witness in the public square. And he even says something like so that the way of Christ, the Word of God, would become attractive to the people who see your conduct.
Dale Meyer: Scholars have noted that we are in a time that is more like the first century A.D. than anything any of us have lived through. And that's true. I mean, Christians were a very, very small minority when, for example, the book of Titus was written. Now, we can't imagine what it was like back in those days. So instead of just going out and preaching, which Paul did, for example, at the Areopagus, but most people would do it by making a relationship with their neighbors, with their co-workers, with their acquaintances.
Michael Zeigler: Well, thank you for joining us today to talk. Thank you for your many years of service to Jesus and His church and longstanding relationship with Lutheran Hour and Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Dale Meyer: You're welcome. It's really depressing to get old.
Michael Zeigler: Okay.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"In Christ There Is No East or West" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)