george hancockstefanIn the Day of Resurrection, there is a wide range in how people encounter Jesus. Mary Magdalene encounters the Risen Lord when He pronounces her name.  The two disciples on the road to Emmaus encounter Christ in the way how He breaks the bread.  Thomas encounters Christ when he is invited to put his fingers in Christ’s scarred hands and side.

To Thomas, the Lord Jesus Christ said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (John 20:29).” In the beginning of the Epistle of John we read these words, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of Life.  The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.  We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us.  And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.  We write this to make your joy complete (1 John 1:1-4).”  If the gospel writer John is the same as the epistle writer John, we can see again both aspects – those who have seen and those who have not seen.

From time to time, modern people tell us they have seen Jesus.  I do not want to say that their vision or perception is impossible, but I think the majority of us (since the return of Jesus Christ in heaven), fall in the second category – those who have not seen and have still believed.

Our belief in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is not based on imagining the resurrection.  Our belief is formed on the witnesses of those who have been with Jesus – Thomas, John, Peter, and the rest. They have seen and they have testified to others about what they have seen.

Now as a historian, I read lots of accounts.  I do not have any doubts that Alexander the Great existed, even though I have never seen him.  I have read enough accounts of his battles and the fact that the world of his days became a world that was known as the Hellenic world. He has conquered the world, and even though he has died very young, no one denies that he did exist and he changed the world.

I do not have any doubts that Napoleon existed. If I travel to France, I see many statues dedicated to him and if I read the English history, I see they take great pride in telling the current readers that they defeated Napoleon.  I have never met Napoleon, but as a historian I have evaluated the evidence and I do not have any doubt that Napoleon existed and that he wanted to rule the world.

Continuing my historical research, I come to the same conclusion about the Lord Jesus Christ.  The presence and the activity of Jesus Christ are undeniable.  The actions of Jesus Christ are historical, and even though I did not see the historical Jesus, I believe that He did exist and did the things that the eye witnesses wrote down.  The great difference between my accepting the historicity of Alexander the Great or Napoleon is that this knowledge has never created any great joy in my life.  The difference in the historical Jesus is that John tells me that believing in Him should bring joy in life.  I fellowship with the apostolic church; but I also fellowship with the Holy God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

I am in that vast category of believers that have never seen the Lord Jesus Christ the way that Thomas did, but I believe as fervently as he did.  It is that belief in the risen Lord, attested to by those who have seen him, which brings joy in my life.  More than that, I believe that even though I did not see Jesus in his earthly pilgrimage, I am looking forward to that day when every human eye shall see Him when He comes in His heavenly glory.