(Bible teaching notes for Easter 2, 2010 by Rev. John Gishler)
The Easter stories teach us that there is a big difference between believing something to be true in your head and believing something to be true in your heart. This is the difference between head knowledge and heart knowledge. Spiritual life comes through believing deep in your heart – in your personal spirit, the part of you that survives physical death; that Jesus rose from the dead as the ‘first fruits’ or model for all those who put their trust in Him. We need to do more that affirm this as a theological creed. We need to be willing to bet our lives on it.
1. Thomas was prevented from believing by his pride
We are all a little like Thomas. It is hard for us to believe in something we have not seen or experienced ourselves. Thomas was probably a little insecure. He could not trust the witness of the other disciples. We can suspect from our own experience that pride made Thomas look down on the other disciples as easily fooled or confused. Thomas was making a terrible judgement of his friends. He is revealing a shocking lack of trust. In modern language we would say Thomas had ‘trust issues’. His lack of trust had apparently excluded him from the fellowship of the disciples. There is a huge lesson in this for the disciples – and for all believers. Belief in the Resurrection is not easy. Most people are very sceptical of the miraculous. The disciples had personally seen Jesus raise Lazarus form the dead. The Resurrection should not have been so difficult for them to believe. The lesson for the disciples – and us, is that we all have to wrestle with unbelief on some level during our spiritual life journey.
2. Believing leads to binding together and forgiveness
The disciples who believed had not all seen Jesus themselves. They had simply believed Mary who had seen Jesus and John and Peter who had seen the empty tomb. The difference is that they believed Mary and the evidence of John and Peter. This teaches us the importance of community and personal relationships in helping other people come to belief in Jesus. The other disciples knew Mary personally. They knew they could trust her as a witness. They also knew Jesus personally. They knew they could trust Him to do what He said. The disciples were a community, a fellowship like ours, where everyone was connected emotionally and spiritually. This connection included being connected emotionally and spiritually to Jesus. Because they believed in Him as Saviour they could purify themselves spiritually by confessing and taking their personal sins to Jesus for forgiveness. The disciples were modelling a community of believers living in right relationship to God through their belief in the heart in Jesus.
3. Forgiveness leads to spiritual peace, joy and life in the Holy Spirit
Like us the disciples were able to get rid of the poison of guilt, shame and bitterness that eat away at our souls. These are the burdens that many people carry around in their daily lives. These burdens suck the peace and joy out of people’s lives. They can reduce our lives to endless frustration. The Good News is that when a person believes in their heart in the Resurrection of Jesus – and all the other teachings, they enter a personal relationship with Jesus that binds them into a new spiritual community. This relationship connects them to a way of cleaning out their spiritual garbage. As the spiritual garbage is cleaned out the Holy Spirit can be invited in to bring spiritual peace and joy. The Holy Spirit is a sign that the person believes from the heart and is in this relationship. Many people are not aware that they have this gift. It is the still small voice in your head. This is what gives us spiritual life. The Holy Spirit flows like living water through our soul, helping us see our sins and healing our brokenness.
Jesus taught us the importance of spiritual cleansing and forgiveness in the Lord’s Prayer. If we believe from the heart and want to grow in spiritual life we need to forgive those who trespass against us. These are the people who upset our spiritual peace. Our un-forgiveness has power over us. This is the only requirement for participation in the Covenant of Jesus. We demonstrate our belief in our spiritual life by passing on the grace of forgiveness that God has given us - to others.
Spiritual life comes through believing in the heart!