It was a great privilege for me this morning to give the Easter message at my father-in-law’s church. He was rushed into emergency brain surgery last Saturday so was obviously not able to preach this weekend. The invitation to speak came early in the week, and I didn’t hesitate to accept; this was a way for me help in a health situation that makes me feel helpless. John 26 was the RCL reading for this week, so I took it as my text and titled the message “Seeing and Being Sent.”
Here is an excerpt from the closing, slightly revised because I didn’t say it quite as I would have liked this morning (certainly not the first or the last time that will happen!):
There is just one more thing we shouldn’t miss. John records a final few words between Jesus and Thomas. It seems they were meant less for Thomas than for all those who would come after him. These words are for the first readers of John’s Gospel and every audience after. They are for us. Echoing his prayer in John 17:20, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
It brings us back to that question: What is required of those being sent from their encounter with the resurrected Jesus? What is required of you and me? We have not been privileged to encounter the risen Christ in his physical form on Easter morning as they did. But we are sent, so what kind of “seeing” is required of us?
The seeing required of those who are sent is the mode of seeing that the biblical writers describe as “faith.” Faith is not blindness nor is it simple seeing. Rather, faith is the particular way of seeing that corresponds to the way in which God reveals himself. The author of Hebrews says that faith is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (11:1). While there seems here to be no sight involved in faith, just a few verses later it says that faith is a matter of seeing but seeing that which is promised “from a distance” (11:13). Faith is seeing, but it is not the mode of physical seeing the disciples were privileged to have prior to their sending.
This does not mean that faith is insufficient. Its sufficiency, however, depends not ultimately on us but on faith’s object. When it comes to seeing and being sent, the good news of Easter is that we are carried along by one whose faith is stronger than ours could ever be; we are carried along by the risen, ascended Christ who intercedes for us even now. What matters most about faith is not its strength, resilience, or depth, but its object: the living God of the covenant whose will to redeem, restore, and heal will not be routed, defeated, or contained – not even by death. Our faith clings to the ascended Christ who takes our worship, prayers, and our struggles of faith and gives us grace in our need (Heb. 4; Rom. 8:34).
Our faith clings to the one who does not leave us to work things out but gives us his Spirit who prays for us when our faith falters and our words run dry. He is the guarantee that what he began in us he will complete (Phil. 1:6). Jesus is risen; to those who are his, his Spirit is given; to those who are not his, his Spirit is active to convict and to call.
Something other than physical sight is required of us, and that something more is what God has always provided, even when it led him to the cross: he gives us himself. For those who would not see as the disciples did, the risen Christ sustains our faith even now. Jesus Christ is not only the object of our faith, but its source, its sustainer, and its Perfecter. Through the ongoing, unending, will-not-be-stopped work of the risen Christ in our lives, we have what we need as we are sent. And for that, we celebrate Easter morning.