22nd April 2012

Knowing Without Seeing

“Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”
John 20:29 

Jesus was executed as a criminal, suffering crucifixion, the ultimate humiliation, both in the eyes of Jews and Romans. For the Jews, Deuteronomy 21:23 stated that anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse. For the Romans, crucifixion was the death of slaves and rebels. Consequently, Jesus barely warrants mention in the secular history of his day. Around 116 ad, for example, Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus mentioned Jesus in book 15 of his Annals, in a comment about the origin of Christians. He wrote, “…Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus…”

There are only about a half dozen such passing historical references to Jesus. He was hardly even a blip on the radar screen of secular historians. But belief in Jesus is not rooted in historical documents. It is rooted in an inner experience of the risen Christ.

Believers today have never seen Jesus, but their hearts have become alive with love for Him. The statement recorded above applies to every Christian believer since the first century. They are blessed not because of logic, a priori arguments, or incontrovertible proofs, but because of the spark of eternity that God ignites in their hearts.

The apostle Paul put it this way: “Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:4-10).

We believe in the resurrection and ascension of Christ not because we were there to witness it, nor because somebody convinced us of it, but because we ourselves have come to know the risen Christ through our own inner experience. We have come to believe not because we saw God, but because we have experienced his real presence in our hearts and minds.

Most holy Father, thank you for the faithful witness of those who saw, so that we can believe even though we did not see. You have illuminated our hearts so that, in not seeing, we see—and believe. And for that miracle, Father, we shall praise you throughout eternity. In Jesus’ name we pray.

Study by Joseph Tkach

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