Hearing Is Believing

Not long ago, I had a chance to reconnect with a friend I hadn’t seen in many years. Because of several moves and life changes, we lost touch for almost 15 years. After a few emails and texts, we talked on the phone to try to find a time to meet. As soon as I had heard his voice on the phone, it was like we picked up where we left off so many years ago.

Most of us have had similar experiences. After a life-threatening circumstance, a long trip, or a painful estrangement, we’ve perhaps either heard or said to a family member, “It’s so good to hear your voice again.” Something about the human voice uniquely reveals who we are.

Two of the stories after Christ’s resurrection in John 20 demonstrate the power of a voice. This voice, however, is a divine voice. John lets us know that Mary Magdalene, Peter and John have gone to the tomb, but they didn’t see Jesus (John 20:1-10). The fact that he doesn’t mention the other women going to the tomb on Sunday morning, like the other Gospels, doesn’t contradict the other accounts; he simply wants us to focus on Mary. In a sense, we are like she was. We can see evidence of the resurrection of Jesus, but we can’t yet see the Lord. How can we have faith without seeing Christ?

Mary is understandably crushed. The Man she had just put all her hopes on as the Messiah — the Man who had saved her from the evil forces that had terrorized her soul (Luke 8:2) — was dead. Like ripping a scab off the wound in her soul, someone had taken away His body. Her pain is so immense that she bumps into two angels at the tomb, and then Jesus Himself, without realizing what was happening. She has seen far more than the vast majority of Christ’s followers throughout the ages, and yet she still doesn’t believe. Jesus simply says, “Mary,” and she knows. Sight wasn’t enough. His voice was what she needed. The sheep had heard the voice of the Shepherd calling her by name (John 10:3).

The second major story is about “doubting Thomas.” Sometimes we give Thomas a hard time. He firmly refuses to believe the report of his fellow apostles and will only have faith if he has seen the Lord. Notice, however, two aspects of Thomas’ resistance. First, where is Thomas one week later? He’s still with the apostles. For all his talk about never believing, he’s still with them. Like a professed atheist who never misses a church service, this fact gives us the impression that his resistance may be more talk than substance. Second, notice how quickly his unbelief evaporates when he does see Jesus: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). These are not the words of a cool skeptic analyzing evidence.

Jesus’ response to Thomas shows us the point of this story. Although Thomas believes after seeing, the Lord says that those who believe without seeing will be blessed. The point is not that Thomas isn’t blessed; the point is that since not everyone will be in the place that Thomas is, they will need to know the blessing that comes through faith without sight.

What is the point of these two stories? People will believe in the message of a resurrected Lord that Christ’s inspired messengers proclaim (John 20:19-23). They will not believe because of what they see. Like Mary, they will believe because they hear His voice.

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