Meet Thomas

John 20:25-29

But Thomas, sometimes called the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We saw the Master.”

But he said, “Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.”

Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.”

Then he focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.”

Thomas said, “My Master! My God!”

Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.”

The others had told me that they had seen Jesus. But this couldn’t be. Either they imagined it or they saw His ghost. I saw him brutalized, crucified, and buried, and I knew He was really dead. I was never into pretending, or wish fulfillment. No, not me. When you’re dead, you’re dead. (At least that’s what I thought.)

I remember telling the others that I would only believe them if I could see and feel the scars–the nail holes and the hole in his side. I needed proof, something tangible or solid before I could believe their stories. Part of me hoped it was so, but I honestly couldn’t join the others in their excitement.

Some would call me a doubter–a skeptic.

And maybe I was, but a realist is how I would describe myself. To go along with the others wasn’t going to cut it. They said that they had seen Him and He was very much alive, that somehow, someway He was now resurrected. But for me, I couldn’t believe it. I myself must know it for myself.

Was Jesus alive after all they had done to Him?

We had all gathered in a large room. The door had been locked–we were afraid that the authorities would come for us next. In spite of the confinement, we had some good fellowship that Sunday morning, catching up and sharing stories of the last three years, thinking about all the things Jesus had taught and done.

And suddenly Jesus showed up. Trust me on this if you can–the door was locked, and there was no other way to get in. When Jesus “dropped in” we were completely amazed. He was very much alive–and how can this be? We were all in shock as He stood right in front of us!

Immediately Jesus looked at me, and I looked back–and it was really Him!!

Jesus immediately focused on me, He asked me to come close; He wanted me to touch Him, to inspect and see for myself that He was as real as you or I. He asked me to come and see the nail prints in His hands, and stick my hand in the hole where the Roman soldiers had thrust a spear into His side.

And I was completely undone.

It was really Him, and I couldn’t explain it away. Jesus was real flesh and blood! In a second I went from doubt to faith. How He knew that I had voiced my hesitation out loud I didn’t know. But I now knew for certain Jesus was very much alive. Death was now dead.

“My Master! My God!” was all I could say.

At that moment I became a believing believer. It wasn’t second-hand anymore; I wept and laughed at the same time! I couldn’t explain it, I must believe it. Jesus had overcome death and He was now commanding me to believe.

Immediately I knew, I saw Him for myself.

Looking back I admit my foolishness and doubt; Jesus had sought me out, and somehow He knew that of all His disciples, I needed that special touch. He understood and had come just for me. To this day I realized how much He really loved me–the doubting Thomas.

According to common Christian tradition, Thomas, was killed by jealous Hindu priests of Kali India. He was burned to death in 72 AD. A church is now established there and still recognizes him as an apostle.

Bryan’s note: I can relate to Thomas. I was also one who needed to know for myself that Jesus was really God and that He really did rise from the dead. It was reading “More Than a Carpenter” by Josh McDowell that propelled me into belief. If you need to know for yourself, I suggest you buy this book. (If you want, I’ll buy it for you.)

Art: Caravaggio’s The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, c. 1601-1502, oil on canvas–Verses are from The Message, a translation by Eugene Peterson.

Meet the Man of the Tombs

Mark 5:1-15, CSB

They came to the other side of the sea, to the region of the Gerasenes. As soon as he got out of the boat, a man with an unclean spirit came out of the tombs and met him. He lived in the tombs, and no one was able to restrain him anymore—not even with a chain— because he often had been bound with shackles and chains, but had torn the chains apart and smashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains, he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.

6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and knelt down before him. And he cried out with a loud voice, “What do you have to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you before God, don’t torment me!” For he had told him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”

“What is your name?” he asked him.

“My name is Legion,” he answered him, “because we are many.” 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the region.

11 A large herd of pigs was there, feeding on the hillside. 12 The demons begged him, “Send us to the pigs, so that we may enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs. The herd of about two thousand rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned there.

14 The men who tended them ran off and reported it in the town and the countryside, and people went to see what had happened. 15 They came to Jesus and saw the man who had been demon-possessed, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.

My name was Legion. I was called that by all who knew me. But it wasn’t a pleasant name, it was a name of darkness and horror. I was possessed by demons; there were so many of them that I was given this awful name. “Legion, 6000.” So much darkness. Wonderful, isn’t it?

My days were filled with awful confusion and stark raving terror.

I ran naked among the tombs, cutting myself on the rocks. When they chained me I found a demonic, super-human strength to break their bonds and shatter the shackles. I would free myself to run wild among the caves once again. No man could tame me. I was the central force of evil in this area of the Gerasenes. I was feared by all.

I was completely insane.

I can recall little through my darkness, and I suppose that was for the best. My madness permeated everything. My life had become completely saturated with evil. What little I know I will tell you. Try to imagine the condensed insanity of a mental hospital crammed into one’s little mind.

It seems on that day I was on the Gerasenes’ “welcoming committee.” I ran to greet Jesus before he even got out of the boat. I remember falling at his feet. I knew instinctively who He was. He was Lord over my darkness. I suppose that deep down I knew that only He could free me.

The authority of Jesus enabled him to speak directly to my demons. I remember how they tried to negotiate their way out, and He calmly sent them into a herd of swine nearby. There were about 2000 pigs and my evil spirits left me and entered them. The pigs went berserk and then they destroyed themselves. They couldn’t handle all the evil that I had ‘bottled up’ inside me.

With Jesus’ firm and decisive command, the darkness immediately left me alone.

Suddenly I could no longer hear their vile words. I knew that I would no longer have to carry out the disgusting will of my demons. There were no voices in my head. I stood up as a free man for the first time in years. Jesus Christ had decisively intervened. I knew now that He was my Messiah and my deliverer! My liberator who was sent from God. Just for me.

Someone gave me a robe to cover up my nakedness. I sat at Jesus’ feet in wonder at what had just happened. It didn’t take long for the townspeople to arrive. They came and found me clothed and completely sane. I suppose it was out of fear that they asked Jesus to leave the region immediately.

I only wish they understood.

When Jesus was getting into the boat I wanted to join Him. I simply had to be close. But Jesus told me no. He told me that I needed to go home to my family, and I must tell them everything. “Tell them all of the power and mercy I have had on you.” As I watched them sail away I knew that I wanted to do what He wanted.

I would now be Jesus’ ambassador to the Ten Towns.

I explained everything that had happened to me and all that Jesus could do for them. I was now His very visible witness. I shared about the power and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ over my incredible darkness. I was now a source of His light to my people. I had to witness.

My darkness was completely gone, and I couldn’t control my joy!

Lord Jesus, You completely rule the spiritual forces of darkness. Help me to remember this and assist me with my own dark issues. I want to be free from all that opposes You. I must tell others of what you’ve done for me. Amen.

When Water Became a Sidewalk

Matthew 14:24-31

“The boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them and they were battered by the waves. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared to death. “A ghost!” they said, crying out in terror.”

27 But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

28 Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”

29-30 He said, “Come ahead.”

Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”

31 Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”

Peter is speaking:

It was the dead of night–the fourth watch, sometime between 3-6 a.m. The crossing was going all wrong, the water and wind were contrary, and we were exhausted. We had worked hard and made little headway. I seldom have seen anything like this, and the waves were pounding our boat. We had no idea how long we could keep this up.

Someone shouted and started pointing; he saw something! We all looked, and quickly came to the realization that it was Jesus–but that was impossible. It had to be His “ghost..” He was walking on water, calming striding toward us. As absurd as it seems now, we believed that. After all, what we were all seeing defied reason. No way, it was impossible!

As He got closer to our boat the apparition shouted to us.

We all knew Jesus’ voice—and He was telling us not to be afraid, He understood our fear and He wanted us to know that we were in God’s hands. Our terror got mixed up in skepticism. After all, it had been a long day and this just doesn’t happen. Besides we knew that Jesus was left back in Gaiilee.

I don’t know why to this day where my courage came, but I needed to be with Jesus. Maybe it was curiosity, maybe it was more than that. Somewhere I came up with this wild idea that if He was really Jesus then He could allow me to walk on the water. I know that seems bizarre, but my “faith” in Him was greater than anything else.

Jesus told me to join Him.

So guess what? I stepped out of the boat.

What I found was that the water was hard. It was as solid as if I were walking on land! I couldn’t figure that out, it was impossible. Completely unbelievable. I saw the waves and felt the wind–My eyes shifted from Jesus and it was then I began to sink. The water was becoming water, and I began to sink.

“Jesus, save me!”

If there was any lesson that cry moved the heart of Jesus. Perhaps that’s what has shaped my ministry today. The cry of desperation has become an integral part of my walk. At that moment I realized that is my best prayer. “Master, save me!” I use it a lot. Especially when I’m “sinking.”

Jesus grasped my outstretched hand.

I was pulled up and out of the water to safety. He gently spoke a rebuke–a kind word of instruction and direction. But I learned something.

Following Jesus is a supernatural walk.

It can’t be done in any other way. And you must get out of the safety of the boat, which must come at His invitation. He wasn’t angered by my unbelief, but I believe He was encouraged by my faith, and the lesson was clearly understood by the disciples still in the boat.

The steps of faith fall on the seeming void, but find the rock beneath.

    John Greenleaf Whittier

Little Christs

Luke 9:1-6, Amplified

Now Jesus called together the twelve [disciples] and gave them [the right to exercise] power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. Then He sent them out [on a brief journey] to preach the kingdom of God and to perform healing. 

And He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey [that might encumber you]—neither a walking stick, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two [b]tunics apiece. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that city [to go to another]. And as for all those who do not welcome you, when you leave that city, shake the dust off your feet [breaking all ties with them] as a testimony against them [that they rejected My message].” 

So they began going from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing the sick everywhere.

Jesus called the twelve of us together that day for a reason–He wanted us to start doing His work, which, I admit wasn’t really in my thinking. But this was His plan, and He knew exactly what He was doing. I didn’t feel remotely competent, and the thought of doing what Jesus did seemed a bit sacrilegious. I was very intimidated.

But now I can see that was what He intended all along, to push us into the supernatural–preaching, healing, and exorcising demons. He wanted us to touch people, to meet the needs of the desperate, and by doing so, extend the kingdom of God.

We were all skeptical, obviously. We weren’t Jesus, not by a long shot, and we had no right or ability to do miracles. On our own, I we were still fishermen and tax collectors. And honestly, what Jesus was asking (or commanding?) was for us to leave what we felt was comfortable and to step into His sandals. He wanted us to be just like Him.

He gave us His authority and power–it was His to give.

I suppose that this was the key to it all. We had witnessed fantastic miracles, stunning things that pretty much undid us. Jesus repeatedly defied the laws of nature—with just a word. And we’re His disciples, so I suppose that meant we needed to step out and touch people just like He taught. I guess that was Jesus’ plan for us all along. We just thought it wouldn’t happened this quick.

So the power and authority was given and we became “little Christs.”

Two by two we went in different directions to discover for ourselves what would happen. The needs we encountered were substantial. The world was a needy place that made its home in the pain and darkness of the demonized and the desperate. It seemed overwhelming. I think we all felt weak and very inadequate.

It’s funny, but we suddenly saw all these people through His eyes–it’s like we never had seen them before. We were now cloaked in Jesus’ very own power. When we laid hands on people astonishing miracles began to happen. All at once there were needs all around us. And the people kept coming.

I began to understand what it really meant to love people. We had left the relative safety of learners and had now became doers. I suppose we realized that there was an incredible difference between the two. We were all astonished by what we saw, at that moment we had few doubts about what was happening inside of us.

It changed us like nothing else could!

Being made into “little Christs” made perfect sense. We saw fantastic miracles and dramatic victories over dark demons. The things we had seen Jesus do were now the things we were doing! Suddenly everything came together and we understood many of the words that He had tried to drill into our thick skulls.

From village to village we went–we stayed with whoever wanted us. The needs we saw were staggering, from sunrise to sunset people came. Wherever we turned there seemed to be somebody else, but Jesus’ own authority was always present, it never diminished or weakened. It was like a bubbling spring that never once ran dry.

I suppose what happened inside me was just as much a miracle as we had seen Him do for others. I was astonished–up to now I never realized how exciting it was to follow the Lord Jesus. What a joy to see the face of a man or woman who was set free. It was such a thrill to touch a little boy’s dead eyes and suddenly realize that he could see!

So this is what it honestly means to be His disciple!

“Truly I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”

John 14:12

Meet the Deaf and Mute Man

“Some people brought a man who could neither hear nor speak and asked Jesus to lay a healing hand on him. He took the man off by himself, put his fingers in the man’s ears and some spit on the man’s tongue. Then Jesus looked up in prayer, groaned mightily, and commanded, “Ephphatha!—Open up!” And it happened. The man’s hearing was clear and his speech plain—just like that.”

36-37 “Jesus urged them to keep it quiet, but they talked it up all the more, beside themselves with excitement. “He’s done it all and done it well. He gives hearing to the deaf, speech to the speechless.”

Mark 7:34-37, The Message

Jesus enjoyed carrying the good news to distant places. His ministry wasn’t confined. He went to places that orthodox people avoided. Jesus penetrated these places and found a rich mission field. (This should speak volumes to us.)

It was in Decapolis that He met this man. He was deaf and mute, and it seems no doctor could help him. Close friends brought this man to Jesus. They begged Jesus to heal him–perhaps this shows their faith and love. (Again this should speak to us. Do we care for others–or not?)

The Lord led this man away from the crowd (interesting.) It seems Jesus wanted privacy. I think that He wanted to avoid the “carnival” atmosphere that healing would cause. Jesus was God–not a showman. (This dear one should clarify things for us.)

It interests me the approach He took. Jesus’ fingers went into the man’s ears. He spits (!) and touched the man’s tongue with His saliva. (Oh if He could do this to us!) Jesus looked up to heaven and said one word, “Ephphatha!” Which in English means “be opened.”

The man suddenly began to speak!

Everyone who witnessed was amazed. Jesus looked at those and told them not to say a thing about what just happened. (Is this humility or what?) Of course, it interests me that the crowd ignored His command; they couldn’t help but spread the news. They must have figured that Jesus was the Messiah, and this miracle proved it.

But the way He went about this amazes me–why the fingers and obviously why the spit? Perhaps this man, (and his friends) needed to see something more “physical.” Maybe? Could it have communicated something to Jesus’ disciples who were watching? Could it be that this can guide us as we now carry Jesus’ power?

I’m thinking through these things.

One: Jesus does impossible things He extends Himself to the “unorthodox”

Two: He seems to heal in ways we really don’t quite understand.

Three: What Jesus does is not about “showmanship,” He avoids publicity and self-promotion.

And there must be other points. It’s good I think, to roll these thoughts around.