Do You Believe?
First Sunday after Easter, Year B
April 27, 2003John 20:13-31
Jim Killen, A minister of the United Methodist Church, Beaumont, TX
Do you believe? The writer of the book of John tells us that he wrote about the things that the risen Christ did so that we may come to believe. He calls the things that Jesus did "signs", things that were done to show us something beyond themselves. In fact, the prologue to the gospel according to John gives us the impression that the whole story of Jesus is a story about something God did so that we might believe and so that believing can change our lives. "...to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God..." (John 1:12). So, do you believe? Can you believe? Let's talk about believing.
I. What does it mean to believe?
Believing is not just the act of affirming some fact, giving the right answer on a final examination, that gets you a big reward. And it is not just learning and repeating some magic incantation that is supposed to make everything come out alright for you in this life and get you into heaven after you die — even though you don't do anything else very different from the way you always have. Believing goes a lot deeper than that.
Each of us has some beliefs about the shape of reality that shape our lives. If you believe you are eight feet tall, you will duck when you go through doors. If you believe that the world is a rotten and dangerous place, you will not go to meet life eagerly. You will withdraw and live defensively. If you believe that money is the most important thing in life, you will organize your life around getting it.
To believe in Jesus Christ is to hold life shaping beliefs that we learn through him and to let those beliefs shape our lives. It is to decide that Jesus really is the one who has shown us the truth about the shape of reality.
II. How does believing work?
It actually begins with God. God acted in Jesus Christ to make himself known. In making himself known to us, God has shown us what is real and true about life.
Look at some of the things that God has shown us through Jesus: that God is more real than all of the other little realities that crowd into our lives claiming to be important, that God loves us enough to reach out to us in a costly way, that God forgives our sins, that God can make us whole, that God wants us to live trusting and loving lives, that all of these things are true in spite of all of the powers that nailed Jesus to a cross to try to deny them.
Do you know the story of Jesus well enough to understand that God made these things known through him?
And there is a promise that goes with all of that. If a person can really believe those things and live as if they are the real truth about life, then those beliefs will shape our lives and give us a new quality of life, life that has enduring substance, life that is eternal, both in this world and beyond it.