While preparing for my Easter sermon, I read John 20 over and over and over. Finally, I decided not to try to convince my audience to believe in the resurrection of Christ but to talk about the journey of faith. For some the faith journey is quick. Others take it slowly. Most are somewhere between fast and slow.
John 20 pictures three different individual paces in the faith journey: John, Mary Magdalene, and Thomas.
John – Immediate faith, with little understanding. Mary was first at the empty tomb, then John, then Peter. (John 20:1–9) All three saw the same scene. Mary believed the wrong thing. Peter was still processing. John “saw and believed” immediately. No questions. No doubts. Just faith. Immediate faith. Most faith journeys are not like John’s. Most take a bit more time.
Mary Magdalene – second-look faith, after a personal encounter with Jesus. Mary saw the same thing John saw. Yet she did not immediately believe Jesus was resurrected. She believed someone took his body. That seemed more logical. Then she saw the resurrected Jesus and thought he was the gardener. She asked the “gardener” if he knew where they had taken the body. Jesus called her name, “Mary” and she recognized him. Sometimes Jesus is right in front of us and we don’t recognize him. But when he calls our name, we realize he is alive and near.
Thomas – eventual faith, after carefully examining the evidence. It was a week later before Thomas believed. Everyone else was on board, but he needed more evidence. He needed to see and touch. He had seen miracles for three years, but he needed more evidence before he would accept the resurrection. Finally, when Jesus walked through a wall and showed Thomas his nail-scarred hands, Thomas believed. Maybe that is what it takes for some, to see the evidence of his suffering on our behalf, then we believe.
It does not matter if you are like John and believe immediately with little evidence, or like Thomas needing more evidence, as long as you believe in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It is not the pace of our faith that matters, it is the object of our faith.
Discipleship is about helping people no matter where they are on the faith journey.