Saturday, May 2, 2009

My Lord And My God

One of my favorite themes in Scripture is that of the Incarnation. The truth that Jesus is eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God. This truth is affirmed in many ways, some poetic and and others very straight-forward throughout the New Testament. But one of my favorite affirmations of Christ's deity comes from the Gospel of John, the 20th chapter. Here we read of Christ's disciple Thomas, who had not been with the other disciples when the resurrected Jesus had appeared to them previously. Thomas doubted the word of the his friends, the other disciples, when they told him, "We have seen the Lord." Thomas said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe."
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

When I was in seminary I read an essay by CS Lewis on the nature of Christian belief in the claims of Scripture especially in reference to Christ. And I liked Lewis' take although I certainly would not make the claim that it is the only way to interpret Christ's words to Thomas. Christ said to Thomas, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." I think many take this statement as evidence that the Christian is called to believe the incredible claims made by Scripture on blind faith without rationale to back up those beliefs. But Lewis put Christ's interaction with Thomas in context and his take on this story made a strong impression on me. Lewis pointed out that Thomas had spent years with the other disciples, his friends, his co-workers in the ministry. These friends, co-workers and fellow followers of Christ told Thomas that they had seen Christ risen and yet Thomas disbelieved them. More important than this are the statements Christ made about himself that all of the disciples either did not understand or doubted. In Matthew we read, "From this time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised (16:21)." So Thomas had heard of the resurrection not only from the other disciples but from Christ Himself before the crucifixion. In Lewis' view Thomas was not scolded for not having blind faith. He was scolded because he had every reason to believe in the Resurrection and yet he doubted. And is not this the natural pull of the flesh to doubt God and His power even when we have the testimony of Scripture, the testimonies of many Christians who have gone before us and oftentimes our own testimony of what God has done and what He is like. I know I have this tendency to doubt God when I have every reason to believe Him. And yet with Thomas I will joyfully affirm as my only hope, "my Lord and my God," Jesus Christ.

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