Into that confusion, Jesus Himself appeared, announcing, “Peace be with you” (John 20:21). He then showed them His hands, His feet, and His side. He talked with them, apparently discussing the coming Holy Spirit, their mission to proclaim His name, and the invitation to believe in Him for the forgiveness of sins. As you read these verses, you can see the disciples moving from their initial fear that a ghost had appeared to great joy after examining His hands, talking with their beloved Lord, and coming to believe as fact that Jesus was truly alive. Belief for these disciples involved an intellectual confidence that Jesus had physically died, that He had risen bodily from the dead, and that He was, therefore, the Messiah, the Son of God, just as He claimed to be.
Now, there may be reasons we struggle to believe this. How do we know Jesus really was dead and literally rose again? Can we trust the Bible when there is so much that seems out of step with what we know or value today? Some ask, “I believe Jesus lived and was a great man, but was He really the Son of God?” Maybe you wrestle with some of these questions yourself. If so, they are legitimate questions. But God has given us good answers to these questions if you will look for them. Belief is not a blind faith in something that is far-fetched or illogical; it is affirming as true what God has done in Christ and has told us in His Word even though we haven’t seen it in person. There are answers to these good questions. Seek them, that you might believe.
But in addition to the factual part of belief, there is a personal aspect to belief. That becomes clear in Jesus’ second visit to the locked room. In John 20:24–29, we find the disciples back in that same room, with the doors locked once again. This time there is a new member of their party who hadn’t been there before—the Apostle Thomas. Thomas was a renowned pessimist. Of course, like every pessimist, he firmly believed he was just a realist. So when the other ten disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord,” Thomas said, in the unauthorized embellished version: “Look, I know we all are disappointed and grieving, but I’m not falling for the unrealistic hope here. Unless I see the nail holes in His hands and my hand into the hole in His side, I won’t believe it.”
When Jesus arrives, He turns immediately to address Thomas, inviting him to put his hands in the nail holes, to feel His side, to stop doubting, and to believe. Thomas’ response to Jesus in John 20:28 beautifully describes the personal commitment involved in genuine belief. After seeing and touching the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, Thomas doesn’t say, “OK, you proved it; I guess I’ll believe that You are alive.” No, he responds with a personal expression of love and submission and worship: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). To have the peace the resurrected Jesus offers, to have life in His name, we need more than intellectual assent. We need to know Jesus personally and submit ourselves and our lives to Him as our Lord. Genuine belief is not merely a matter of what we feel or what we think. It is not a benign willingness to believe that God exists or that Jesus really walked the earth. It is a personal trust that Jesus is the One who meets our deepest need such that we submit our hearts and our lives to Him.
Some are happy to acknowledge the reality that God exists. But they, too, have doubts that are a barrier to true belief. These doubts are not intellectual. These doubts are moral: Do I really want to submit to and follow Jesus? Do I really want to give my life to Him and obey His Word? Or do I want to retain my freedom to think and live as seems best to me? If that is your struggle, I remind you of what’s at stake—life or death, under the judgment of God or under the forgiveness of God. I urge you to give yourself to Him personally in love, worship, and obedience; joining Thomas in saying, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).
Do not ignore the kindness of God in sending His Son to die for your sins. Do not ignore the kindness of God in giving us His Word that we might know Jesus and what He has done for us. Do not disbelieve but believe, and you will have life in His name.