Warning Signs of Unbelief

Praying til Pentecost Day 23

"But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, 'We have seen the Lord!' But he said to them, 'Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.' After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, 'Peace be with you.' " John 20:24-26

One of my favorite plaques is one that I saw written in an imitation Hebrew font with the words, "SHALOM, Y'ALL." It puts the unique Texas twang to the common Jewish greeting to give it a contemporary significance. God always has a way of taking the common things in life and making them uncommonly significant. Three times in the twentieth chapter of John, Jesus says, "Peace be with you." He most probably was making this expression in the popular Aramaic language used among the people of His day. It probably was the word shalom. Shalom was a greeting used among the people of Israel in ancient times, and it remains a popular expression among Israelis today.

When it is translated from the Greek word, eirene, it carries an implication of prosperity, blessing, quietness, rest, or simply peace. Shalom, the equivalent expression in Hebrew, could be used as a salutation or a sendoff. Coming or going it was always appropriate to give a word of blessing.

With this greeting, Jesus was trying to calm the storm in the lives of His disciples. He had already sent them two messages to leave Jerusalem and return to Galilee. He had visited them personally, but one of the remaining eleven had been absent. Eight days later the ten men who had seen Jesus personally tried to convince Thomas they had seen the Risen Lord. He remained unconvinced. His attitude and remarks have pegged him for over 2,000 years as "Doubting Thomas." His name has become synonymous with unbelief and lack of faith. What a bad rap!

The ten disciples who had seen the physical presence of the Risen Lord were still in the same room discussing their options eight days after His personal appearance to them. They were still in the city of Jerusalem, and not a step closer to Galilee. They had heard the truth from the lips of Jesus, but they had not obeyed Him yet. Thomas may have not believed what he had not seen, but the ten disciples had not obeyed what they had heard. Thomas was in a state of unbelief, but the ten were in a state of rebellion. They had heard, but they had not obeyed. Delayed obedience is still a virulent form of disobedience. It is no great substitute for immediate compliance. Delayed obedience is rebellion. Hearing and ignoring what they heard did not place the disciples above Thomas. They were still in the process of taking what Jesus said under advisement. No wonder the disciples are so popular among churches today. Every one of them could be the patron saint of delay.

Eight days later, Thomas was the only honest man in the room. When Jesus entered the room for the second time, Thomas was there. At least he knew, and admitted he was an unbeliever. The other ten men were posers. If they were true believers they would have left a note for Thomas, and left for Galilee. Their act of obedience would have said more to Thomas about their beliefs than all of their pleading and lecturing.

Jesus came with the words of peace to calm the choppy waters in their hearts. The disciples had heard from Him eight days earlier, but they were still trapped in the harbor of their own fears. They had yet to apply what Jesus had already told them to do. Praying and waiting for further clarification of explicit marching orders may make a person appear to be spiritually sensitive, and humble. It is a mere mirage of true belief. In reality, it is true rebellion. The next time we find the disciples they have arrived in Galilee. Their rebellion only postponed a reunion with the Risen Lord. Their obedience put them in a position to hear from Jesus again.

One of the first warning signs of unbelief is being unstable in the face of crisis. It manifests itself in talking more and praying less. The Chinese form the word crisis by combining two different characters. One of the characters is danger and the other is opportunity. They consider crisis to be a dangerous opportunity. Christ followers become Christ "ignorers" when they talk more about a crisis than they pray about it. Christ followers get trapped in this prison of doubt when they fail to apply what they know to be true. Discussing the truth is not as important as applying the truth. Applying the truth always brings about consequences. Delaying to obey the truth brings about consequences too. The wise Christ follower will obey what they know to be true, the first time they hear it, with the right heart attitude and leave the consequences in God's hands. Regardless of the fear, remember, Jesus says, "Peace be with you!"

Shalom y'all!