Friday, February 12, 2016
One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.” Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” John 20:24-29(NLT)
Barna Research is a company that seeks to keep church leaders in particular, and Christians in general, informed about matters of faith. In a study published just this week on the state of Christian faith in the United Kingdom they reported results of questions asked a random population about Jesus being an actual historical person, and His divinity. Here is brief quote from the study:
But even though most UK adults believe Jesus was a historical person, they are much less convinced of his divinity. In fact, belief in Jesus’ divinity is not common at all. Only about one in five adults among the general population holds the orthodox belief that Jesus was “God in human form who lived among people in the 1st Century” (22%). The most common belief about Jesus is that he was “a prophet or spiritual leader, not God” (29%).
It seems the long and short of it (for most people in the UK) comes down to allowing the humanity of Jesus, but not the divinity. He can be a holy man, but not God.
Of all the things we Christians know about Jesus’ disciples, we remember Thomas as being the one who lacked faith; we call him doubting Thomas!
We sometimes forget that Thomas followed Jesus along with the rest, and when Jesus wanted to go back to Judea because Lazarus had died all the other disciples were fearful of the rulers who wanted to stone him. But it was Thomas alone who had faith:
Thomas, nicknamed the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let’s go, too—and die with Jesus.’ John 11:16(NLT)
Yet, after the resurrection Thomas’ faith faltered, and when Jesus looked him in the eye he said the wavering disciple should not be faithless anymore. Perhaps, in a sense, Jesus was re-extending the call to Thomas, as he did with Peter and the others, to re-examine the depth of his faith – to see if he was still ready to go and die with Jesus. Thomas stepped it up a notch; he bowed before Jesus and called him my GOD!
According to Barna, if this scene had taken place in the UK (or perhaps the US) today, we would probably teach our children the song that helped them remember the names of Jesus’ TWO-and-a-HALF disciples – not TWELVE. The other nine-and-a-half vouch for prophet and priest, but won’t have anything to do with “king”.
We have come a long, long way!
I find myself sadly out of step with most of today’s culture. I’m certain growing older has something to do with that, perhaps longing for the good old days, and/or lamenting the current days of arthritis and hearing aids. But that’s not the out-of-step I have in mind. I find the state of faith in our culture reduced to whether we have managed to hit the high points of ritual, baptism, attending church and giving to the church budget.
While those are not bad (obviously), would anyone truly imagine that a person who denies the divinity of Christ is really a Christ-follower?
Why would you worship a non-God?
I have no trouble reciting the Apostle’s Creed, offering mental and verbal ascent to the divine nature of Jesus, who died for me. I believe every word. The question becomes, am I willing to cast my faith lot with Thomas and die with Jesus?
 Perceptions of Jesus, Christians & Evangelism in the UK, (Barna Research, 2-10-16)