When You Believe

There can be miracles when you believe.  Though hope is frail, it’s hard to kill.  Who knows what miracles you can achieve?  You will when you believe.  Stephen Schwartz

In 1963 the body of 14-year-old Addie Mae Collins, one of four African-American girls tragically murdered in a church bombing by white racists, was buried in Birmingham, Alabama. For years family members kept returning to the grave to pray and leave flowers. In 1998 they decided to move the body to another cemetery.  But when workers went to dig up the body, they found the grave was empty.  Understandably, family members were terribly upset. Cemetery officials scrambled to figure out what had happened. Some folk blamed the KKK. Others blamed the cemetery records. Some said Addie Mae’s tombstone was erected in the wrong place.  In all of the discussion, however, one explanation was never proposed: Nobody suggested that young Addie Mae had been resurrected to walk the earth again. Why?  Because by itself an empty grave does not prove a resurrection.  It’s one thing to conclude that Jesus’ grave really was empty on Easter Sunday. But an empty grave and a missing body, only prove one thing:  that the grave is empty and the body is missing.   If I were going to believe that a dead person came back to life, I’d want more evidence. 

“Seeing is believing” is an old adage that means we believe what we see with our own eyes or what we experience on a personal level.  “I’ll believe that when I see it,” or “I’m from Missouri, show me, prove it.”  The man we have come to know as Doubting Thomas has some doubt about the truth of what he heard. Thomas said, “When I see the evidence with my own eyes, then I will believe it’s true.” Thomas wasn’t there when the risen Christ appeared to the other disciples. When they tell Thomas they’ve seen Jesus, Thomas is not having it. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”  What do you think about that?  Do you think less of Thomas because he’s not willing to believe the news of the Resurrection unless he can see the evidence with his own eyes, touch it with his hands? Thomas sounds like the kind of brother who won’t settle for secondhand truth.  You might have heard it through the grapevine, but Thomas is the brother who will go to the source.  He’s not going to believe something just because his father or his mother told him that it’s true, or because his teacher says he should; just because he saw it on television or heard it on the telephone.  The words, “Because I said so, that’s why” are not in Thomas’ vocabulary. No, he wants to see the risen Christ with his own two eyes, touch him with his own two hands.  Wouldn’t you? 

Jesus appears before Thomas and the disciples, and his first words are “Peace be with you.” It is peace he brings them.  Forgiveness.  Acceptance.  No matter that they’ve abandoned and denied him and let him down, he loves them still.  “Here,” he says to them. “See my wounded hands and side. It is I. And I love you. I will never leave you.”  Jesus brought peace when he stepped through the door into that locked room.  I’m reminded of the Isaiah 53.5 scripture that says “he was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities.  The chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes, we are healed.”  Jesus laid all our sin, all our grief, all our pain, on the cross, and we are healed.  We are forgiven. Thomas doubted the evidence.  But Jesus is saying now, just as Jesus was saying then:  “Peace be with you. I’ve forgiven you, and I will give you the strength to change your life. All the tapes playing in your head . . . the ones that tell you you’re not good enough, you’ll never measure up; you’re too old to change, too young to matter – the familiar refrains that negate your personal value to the universe.  The inner voices you hear when you look in the mirror . . . You can’t see the beauty and grace and giftedness God sees. You can’t see how much God loves you.  You just have to believe God does love you, with a love so great we can only imagine its abundance.  What will you do with this love God has for you?  Will you hide behind your past, your pride, your fear?   Will you hide behind the locked door of your heart?  Your peace has been purchased.  Come on out of the box you’ve been living in.  Come on up into the purpose God has given you.  Seeing is not believing.  Believing is believing.  Believe in God and believe in yourself.  You are enough, and you can do it.