Once a year I write a series of Bible reading notes for the Scripture Union publication Daily Bread. I learn so much through writing them, because having to find something worth saying about the passages I’ve been assigned means I am forced to pay more attention to them than I otherwise would. I know so many of them so well that it’s easy just to let them drift past my eyeballs without connecting with my brain, but there’s knowing and knowing, isn’t there?
While writing in 2016, I came across something so stunning that it has been cycling back round to my brain repeatedly ever since. I wrote about it first for Think Theology, and what follows is adapted from my post from there. I hope you find it as transformative as I did:
Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” (John 14:22)
Jesus had just been telling the disciples that he was about to send the Holy Spirit, but in Judas’ mind, Jesus was the key thing – if only people could see him, then they would believe, surely.
But here’s what hit me – Jesus had shown himself to the world. He appeared to thousands of people before the crucifixion, bringing power and wisdom like they had never seen before, and had appeared to over 500 people after the resurrection (1 Cor 15:6). Yet by the time of the day of Pentecost the believers numbered only 120 (Acts 1:15).
Seeing Jesus, in the flesh, bodily resurrected…you’d think that would be a guarantee of belief, wouldn’t you? But no. Only 120 stuck with it, continued to worship together, and waited for this Holy Spirit that had been promised to them.
And then he came, and ‘about three thousand were added to their number’ in one fell swoop (Acts 2:41), then ‘the Lord [continued to add] to their number daily those who were being saved’ (v47).
It’s so easy to think ‘If only Jesus would appear again on earth, if he were here and could speak to my friends, then they’d believe,’ but the evidence of the Bible contradicts that. An unusual man claiming to be God attracts far fewer followers than a bunch of flawed people empowered by the Holy Spirit. More people came to Christ through one sermon preached by a failed fisherman than through seeing the risen Christ in person.
Thomas wouldn’t believe unless he saw. The other disciples only believed once they had seen, but somehow for the rest of us, not seeing is actually more effective.
God is made visible through us more compellingly than he was through Jesus.
That blows my mind.
The Holy Spirit living in you – in me – is more powerful than a virgin birth, three years’ worth of miracles, and an empty tomb. Incredible.