Do you ever think to yourself, “It would have been awesome–better!–if I could’ve been there to see the resurrected Christ”? In the words of legendary sports commentator Lee Corso: “Not so my fast, my friend!”
In John 20, Peter and John get word that Jesus’s tomb is empty and they rush to see for themselves. John “entered the tomb, saw, and believed. For they still did not understand the Scripture that He must rise from the dead” (John 20:8-9 HCSB).
It’s easy to wag our fingers at Jesus’s disciples. How could they spend three years with their long-awaited Messiah, God in the flesh, and either not notice his true identity or simply push the fact aside when things got hard? We assume that we would’ve never denied him, like Peter, had we reclined at the same table with him for years.
Now imagine for a moment that (Lord forbid!) your best friend is brutally murdered. You watch it happen. You attend his or her funeral, and you watch your friend lowered into the ground. Now imagine that three days later you arrive at the gravesite and there’s a huge hole in the ground, the coffin is wide open, and no one is inside. Like Peter and John, you’d believe the coffin was empty. That’s easy.
But would you have believed your friend if he’d predicted it? Of course not! You might call Dr. Phil to intervene. (Of course, he’d probably say something like, “You gotta give what you get to receive what you have.” Then everyone would be confused.)
We have the benefit of hindsight. We confess the truth of his resurrection from a place of privilege. Yes, the disciples saw miracles and astounding prophecies. Peter and John witnessed the Transfiguration. They also knew the prophecies about the Messiah from their Scriptures. But none of this guaranteed that he’d come back from the dead. No one does that!
And yet he did. He didn’t leave them–or us–at an empty tomb. He promised he wouldn’t (Matt. 16:21).
When Jesus appears in the room with them soon after, only seeing the wounds in his hands and side led them to believe that he was no longer a corpse. Thomas wasn’t the only doubter.
Jesus doesn’t just appear—he gives them the Holy Spirit; he gives them actual resurrection life through the third Person of the Trinity. John writes his Gospel and ends it this way for a reason: “These are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31 HCSB).
The disciples are often treated as antagonists in this story, but the truth is, we would’ve been no different. The disciples might’ve wished they could have our hindsight, while we wish we had their personal encounter. But Jesus tells them at the end of the chapter, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Those who believe without seeing are blessed.”
We, the ones who didn’t spend three years traveling with Jesus, are the blessed ones.
We are blessed beyond his disciples because we believe without sight. Instead of wishing that we had something he chose not to give us, let’s hold tight to the promise he did give us: death didn’t defeat him, and he won’t be gone forever. He’s coming back. He promised.
Ask his disciples: he never breaks a promise. May we give thanks in this Easter season—and every other—for our promise-keeping God.
Brandon D. Smith is Brand Manager for the Holman Christian Standard Bible and author of Rooted: Theology for Growing Christians. Follow HCSB on Twitter.
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