The Whatever-It-Takes God
It’s not easy, right? When we hear something outrageous – outrageously good or outrageously bad – the very first thing most of us ask ourselves these days is
Is this REAL? Is it TRUE? IS IT FAKE NEWS?
Some of us have an innate sense for recognizing truth when we hear it. Others, well, we don’t have the gift, and we’ve got to do our research. We're hesitant, skeptical, uncomfortable until we work through our own personal checking-it-out routine. You have to do your due diligence, we say to ourselves. You have to inform yourself. We’re basically doubters until we’re knowers.
No right or wrong here. Just two types of people.
Christians tell a story about a man named Thomas who had doubts about something he’d heard. Thomas was told that Jesus of Nazareth showed up in a closed room AFTER dying on a cross. And Thomas said, bluntly, that he would NOT believe such a claim unless he saw the nail prints in Jesus' hands WITH HIS OWN EYES, and placed his fingers into those nail prints -- and into the wound on Jesus' side too.
Like I said. Blunt.
8 days later – do you know the story? – 8 days later Jesus shows up again. Jesus shows up with a gift for Thomas: “Put your finger here, and look at My hands. Put your hand here and place it in My side.”
Jesus adds: “Do not be an unbeliever, but a believer!”
Now, I don't know, because I wasn't there, but the author of the Gospel of John writes that after a stunned Thomas says, "My Lord and My God," Jesus says something more. And this something more is what some Christians talk about as the "takeaway point."
Jesus says, “Now that you've seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen me and have believed.”
If you're a Christian, you’ve heard a few sermons about Thomas. Only we don’t call him Thomas anymore. We call him DoubtingThomas now.
(The phrase "Doubting Thomas" has grown bigger than just a church phrase, btw. Now it's used in situations that don't even include Jesus or faith. Google it. You'll see.)
Sermons often present this story as if a disappointed Jesus is reproaching Thomas. The sermons talk about the times we-the-people don’t believe. And the message for listeners is always clear:
DON’T BE LIKE THOMAS.
And I’d just like to say… Listen. Guys. Say what you want about Thomas. But this depiction is hugely unfair to JESUS.
Let me suggest this instead:
Thomas needs to experience things personally to “get” it. Jesus knows this. So Jesus shows up for Thomas.
Jesus shows up for Thomas because Jesus is the God of Whatever-It-Takes when it comes to reaching out. When Jesus says, “Don't be an unbeliever, but a believer!” He's encouraging Thomas, not reproaching him.
And those words: “Now that you've seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen me and have believed.”
Maybe it's not a reproach. Maybe it's just a statement of fact. Maybe Jesus is just acknowledging a truth about two types of people.
Think about it. If you BELIEVE in a Loving, Helpful God even though you haven’t SEEN, isn't your life immeasureably better? Because you believe, Something Blessed flows through your life -- flows through you. It’s a simple statement of fact: If you believe, you are blessed. TO BE HONEST <lowers voice to a whisper> sometimes we-the-doubters envy you. You seem so...happy.
BUT MAYBE ALSO
Ok, ya'll. If you believe-without-seeing, you can stop reading now. The rest of this essay is for the others.
Thomas couldn’t do it. He couldn’t believe without seeing. So Jesus, the God of Whatever-It-Takes, shows up for Thomas. And you, my friend,are no different.
Are you ready for a radical suggestion? I’m going to suggest to you that if you need to see Jesus in order to believe…
THEN YOU ARE GOING TO SEE JESUS.
Yeah. That’s right. That’s what I’m saying. He gets it, my friends. And He’s gonna do whatever it takes.
BECAUSE GUESS WHAT.
Jesus has NO INTENTION of leaving you behind, and the God of Whatever-It-Takes has an infinite capacity for Keep-Showing-Upedness.
So ask Him to show up.
Ask Him to show up. Then just be a little open-minded about what that may look like. Sure, maybe you’ll have a vision or a dream. But honestly…turns out Post-Resurrection Jesus LOVES taking on disguises.
So He may appear to you as a homeless man on the street. As a hipster playing the guitar in the subway. An old woman walking her dog. A weather-beaten farmer at a rural grocery store.
Here's a tip. Watch the eyes. You can always tell by the eyes (at the time, or afterwards, when you are replaying it in your mind's eye). You'll know it by the eyes, and the quickening that ripples through you when you think about it.
Jesus-in-Disguise perhaps, but STILL JESUS.
So the news is good, my friends. You need to see Jesus? Lucky you. You’re gonna see Jesus.
Then you'll feel blessed too.
What happens after that? That, my friend, is up to you. And Him, if you're willing. :)
--- There's room for ALL of us on the Believing Train, my friends. Room for us all...