Deepen your walk with Christ
Published 4:44 pm Thursday, October 21, 2021
By R.A. Mathews
We want the stories to match. Especially Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection. But when one is different from another, what does it mean? Is the Bible wrong?
This question arises with one of the most easily remembered moments in the Bible. It’s eight days after Easter. Jesus has met with the disciples on Easter Sunday, but Thomas isn’t there. When Thomas hears the news, he famously says, “Unless I…put my finger into the print of the nails…I will not believe.”
So on this eighth day, Jesus appears to the eleven and says to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at my hands, and reach your hand here and put it into My side.”
Thomas painfully answers Him, “My Lord, and my God!” John 20:25ff
It’s moving, seeing Thomas’ face his shame—Jesus had died for him and Thomas had refused to believe.
Here’s the interesting part. This story appears only in John’s Gospel.
What’s more interesting is that John paints Easter Sunday as glowing. Mary comes and tells the disciples of the Resurrection, and the disciples later have a happy reunion with Jesus. John 20:18-22
Except that’s not what happened. John leaves things out.
According to Mark and Luke, the disciples didn’t believe Mary. Luke says they called her words “idle tales.” When Jesus appears to the disciples, He scolds them for their disbelief. Luke 24:11 NKJV, Mark 16:11,14
Easter wasn’t glowing.
Does that mean John’s Gospel is wrong? No. The Bible is never wrong. What’s there is what God intended to be there.
And didn’t Thomas get a raw deal? He hadn’t done anything the others hadn’t done.
Look at the only disciple telling on Thomas—John, who isn’t willing to tell on himself. It looks pretty bad, like John is throwing Thomas under the bus.
But, I don’t think so.
Stop and consider this. Why did John write his Gospel? What’s in his heart?
Here’s a big clue. John leaves out Jesus’ words on the cross, “My God, My God why have You forsaken me?”
Because John knew those words would be misconstrued. Jesus uses an ancient Hebrew word for God at that moment. Something He’d never done.
Now why would Jesus suddenly do that?
He’s quoting word for word an ancient Hebrew verse 1,000 years old. It’s the first line of Psalm 22. The first line was customarily used at that time to identify the whole Psalm.
Why was that Psalm important to Jesus? Because it proclaims victory in Christ. That’s the point!
But John knew those words could trip up many who didn’t know Hebrew. It trips up countless Christians today.
So John uses prophecy from Psalm 22 to connect Jesus to it, staying true to our Lord.
John dearly loved Jesus. He likely felt that telling everything about Easter Sunday— the disciples’ tears and disbelief—might cause others to doubt.
But John includes that painful story of Thomas’ shame for a reason. It gives John the chance to tell us one of the most important things Jesus said, “Blessed are those who do not see and yet believe.”
John is focused on belief. He says of his Gospel, “These [words] are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” John 20:31
When stories in the Bible don’t match, there’s a reason. As I said, the Bible is never wrong. Scripture is as God intended it to be.
Jesus taught in parables, explaining the meaning to the disciples but not to the crowds. It seems unfair, but Jesus explains by simply saying, “To the one who has, more will be given…but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” And then Jesus quotes prophecy: “They hardly hear with their ears and they have closed their eyes.” Matthew 13:11-17 ESV, Isaiah 6:9
It’s still true. I am amazed at the positions Christians take, picking out a few words of Bible. If you present these people with Scripture to the contrary, their minds are like hard, steel traps.
On the other hand, someone recently said to me, “You can’t know Scripture unless you go to seminary.”
Not so. Seminarians seek to understand like everyone else. And if we get it wrong, we’re held to a much higher standard.
Study the word of God with prayer. Offer Him a sincere and submissive heart. He will show you more and more, deepening your walk with Christ.
Copyright ©2019, 2021 R.A. Mathews (B.A., M.Div., J.D.) The Rev. Mathews is an attorney, faith columnist, and the author of “Reaching to God.” She can be reached at Hello@RAMathews.com