Just over a week later, the disciples were indoors again and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood in the middle of them and said, “Peace be with you!”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your fingers here—look, here are my hands. Take your hand and put it in my side. You must not doubt, but believe.”
“My Lord and my God!” cried Thomas.
“Is it because you have seen me that you believe?” Jesus said to him. “Happy are those who have never seen me and yet have believed!” (John 20:26-29, Phillips)
* * *
“The answer of Jesus to Thomas is clear. Jesus was saying to him: ‘Thomas, I know that you do not understand what is happening. No one understands. But whatever happens, you have got me. I am the way, the truth, and the life.’ In this world, in the last analysis, what we need is not an argument but a presence. No argument is convincing, and what Jesus offers is not an argument, but himself.”
The Master’s Men
"Our Lord saith that the Kingdom of God is near us. Yea, the Kingdom of God is within us as St Paul saith 'our salvation is nearer than when we believed.' Now we should know in what manner the Kingdom of God is near us. Therefore let us pay diligent attention to the meaning of the words. If I were a king, and did not know it, I should not really be a king. But, if I were fully convinced that I was a king, and all mankind coincided in my belief, and I knew that they shared my conviction, I should indeed be a king, and all the wealth of the king would be mine. But, if one of these three conditions were lacking, I should not really be a king.
"In similar fashion our salvation depends upon our knowing and recognizing the Chief Good which is God Himself. I have a capacity in my soul for taking in God entirely. I am as sure as I live that nothing is so near to me as God. God is nearer to me than I am to myself; my existence depends on the nearness and presence of God... [Man's] happiness increases and diminishes in proportion to the increase and diminution in his knowledge of this. His happiness does not arise from this that God is near him, and in him, and that He possesses God; but from this, that he knows the nearness of God, and loves Him, and is aware that 'the Kingdom of God is near.' So, when I think on God’s Kingdom, I am compelled to be silent because of its immensity, because God’s Kingdom is none other than God Himself with all His riches. God’s Kingdom is no small thing: we may survey in imagination all the worlds of God’s creation, but they are not God’s Kingdom. In whichever soul God’s Kingdom appeareth, and which knoweth God’s Kingdom, that soul needeth no human preaching or instruction; it is taught from within and assured of eternal life. Whoever knows and recognizes how near God’s Kingdom is to him may say with Jacob, 'God is in this place, and I knew it not.'"
From the sermon "The Nearness of the Kingdom"
“Grant Thy servants, O God, to be set on fire with Thy Spirit, strengthened by Thy power, illuminated by Thy splendour, filled with Thy grace, and to go forward by Thine aid. Give them, O Lord, a right faith, perfect love, true humility. Grant, O Lord, that there may be in us simple affection, brave patience, persevering obedience, perpetual peace, a pure mind, a right and honest heart, a good will, a holy conscience, spiritual strength, a life unspotted and unblamable; and after having manfully finished our course, may we be enabled happily to enter into Thy kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
- A prayer of the Third Century Church
“A God humiliated, even to the death on the cross; a Messiah triumphing over death by his own death. Two natures in Jesus Christ, two advents, two states of man's nature.
“Saviour, father, sacrificer, offering, food, king, wise, law-giver, afflicted, poor, having to create a people whom He must lead and nourish and bring into His land...
“He alone had to create a great people, elect, holy, and chosen; to lead, nourish, and bring it into the place of rest and holiness; to make it holy to God; to make it the temple of God; to reconcile it to, and, save it from, the wrath of God; to free it from the slavery of sin, which visibly reigns in man; to give laws to this people, and engrave these laws on their heart; to offer Himself to God for them, and sacrifice Himself for them; to be a victim without blemish, and Himself the sacrificer, having to offer Himself, His body, and His blood, and yet to offer bread and wine to God...”
You and Joseph of Arimathea arrive together at Golgotha.
The daytime crowds have dispersed.
The two criminals are sagging, dying; their legs just broken.
The Cross of Jesus has been uprooted from its post-hole; it is lying, with Him atop it--dead—in the dust and the dirt.
You and Joseph approach the body with awe; with hesitance.
You are quietly regarding that face; His closed eyes.
Together you kneel beside Him.
Together you begin to remove the nails.
You begin to anoint Jesus.
You will wrap Him when you’re done…
Within an hour, you have finished the work, taken the body down the hill, away from the city, to the tomb prepared beforehand by Joseph. The ending takes only moments. You carry the body inside, stooping your heads low as you enter into the darkness of the interior, and lay the body on the bench at the back. You bow your heads, silent, and then retreat outside. A large crew of men is required to roll the stone across the tomb’s mouth. The evening air is still and silent.
As you and Joseph walk away, you are likewise silent; you are each thinking your own thoughts about this tragic ending of something that you thought was everything. You can only imagine what Joseph is thinking. . .
You are thinking of something you’ve been thinking about all day. . .
Of that night with the Teacher, nearly exactly three years ago, sitting on a rooftop terrace, as He looked off over the moonlit city. And of His words to you on that night:
“The Son of Man must be lifted above the heads of men—as Moses lifted up that serpent in the desert—so that any man who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that every one who believes in him shall not be lost, but should have eternal life. You must understand that God has not sent his Son into the world to pass sentence upon it, but to save it—through him. Any man who believes in him is not judged at all.”
That is what Nicodemus is thinking of, as he walks away…
"A Christian is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one."
Concerning Christian Liberty
“I am no more than a child, but my Father lives for ever and I have a Protector great enough to save me. For he who begot me and he who watches over me are one and the same, and for me there is no good but you, the Almighty, who are with me even before I am with you. So to such as you command me to serve I will reveal, not what I have been, but what I have become and what I am.”
Augustine of Hippo
* * *
Consider the incredible love that the Father has shown us in allowing us to be called “children of God”—and that is not just what we are called, but what we are. Our heredity on the Godward side is no mere figure of speech—which explains why the world will no more recognise us than it recognised Christ. Oh, dear children of mine (forgive the affection of an old man!), have you realised it? Here and now we are God’s children. We don’t know what we shall become in the future. We only know that, if reality were to break through, we should reflect his likeness, for we should see him as he really is! (1 John 3:1,2, Phillips)
“Jesus had a keen sense of humour which again and again bubbles out irrepressibly, all the more strikingly because it is in contrast with the complete absence of humour in those writings of the Christians of the first century which have been preserved in the New Testament. He had a keen eye for the ridiculous and could make startling what he saw—the self-righteous man with the huge beam in his eye essaying to see and pluck out a mere speck in his neighbour’s eye; the solemn and meticulous legalist who was so conscientious about details and yet so blind to great moral issues that he was like a man who, anxious lest he be contaminated by his food and drink, would painstakingly strain out the most minute gnat and then, without blinking, swallow an entire camel, hair, hoofs, humps, and offensive breath. He laughed at children playing in the market place, especially at those who, pouting, refused to join in the sport, even when their companions were quite willing to adjust the game to meet their wishes. His questions to the crowds about John the Baptist—“What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? … a man clothed in soft raiment?”—must have provoked laughter, so purposely contrary were they to what all of his hearers knew.
“Jesus had the soul of a poet. While few of his recorded sayings are in poetic form, again and again his words breathe the spirit of poetry. His mind thought in terms of pictures and concrete scenes, not in abstract phrases. The parables and sententious sayings in which most of his teachings were couched were such that, once heard, they could not easily be forgotten. It is said that he chose that manner of speaking deliberately, but he could not have employed it so skillfully had it not reflected the quality of his mind.”
Kenneth Scott Latourette
A History of Christianity, Volume I
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom for man to comfort his neighbour. ‘He who believes in me,’ says Jesus Christ himself in another Scripture passage, ‘out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ This happens when we look up to him. No one has ever looked up to him without this miracle happening. No one who gets slowly used to looking up to him has failed to glimpse light around him. The dark earth on which we live has always become bright whenever man looked up to him, and believed in him.
“‘Look up to him, your face will shine, and you shall never be ashamed.’ I just mentioned the ‘dark’ earth. Reading the newspapers, looking around at the world and into our own hearts and lives, we can’t possibly deny that the earth is really dark, that we live in a world to be afraid in. Why afraid? Because we all live under the threat of being put to shame, and rightly so. This would not only imply that we have blundered here and there, but that our whole life, with all our thoughts, desires and accomplishments, might be in truth, in God’s judgment and verdict, a failure, an infamy, a total loss. This is the great threat. This is why the ground shakes under our feet, the sky is covered with clouds, and the earth, so beautifully created, darkens. Indeed we should be put to shame.
“But now we hear the very opposite. ‘You shall never be ashamed.’ What I would like to do, dear brothers and sisters, is to ask you, each and all, to get up together and like a choir repeat: ‘We must never be ashamed!’ Each one would have to repeat it for himself and lastly I would repeat it for myself : ‘I must never be ashamed!’ This is what counts. We shall not be, I shall not be, ashamed, not when looking up to him. Not because we deserve to be spared the shame! Not even because our faces shine when raised to him. Our radiance will be and must be a sign that we will not be put to shame. It is an evidence of the relationship established between God and ourselves. And this is the power of the relationship: what is true and valid in heaven, what Jesus Christ has done for us, what has been accomplished by him, man’s redemption, justification and preservation, is true and valid on earth also. The Father does not put us, his children, to shame when we look up to Jesus. In consequence we, his children, may never be ashamed. This we may know, this may be our strength, this may be our life, if only we look up to him, fearlessly and brightly. May each one repeat in his heart: ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits; who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.’”
from a sermon in 1956
“Jesus does not call men to a new religion, but to life.”
Letters and Papers from Prison
* * *
It was after John’s arrest that Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the Gospel of God, saying, “The time has come at last—the kingdom of God has arrived. You must change your hearts and minds and believe the good news.”
As he walked along the shore of the Lake of Galilee, he saw two fishermen, Simon and his brother Andrew, casting their nets into the water. “Come and follow me, and I will teach you to catch men!” he cried.
At once they dropped their nets, and followed him. (Mark 1:14-18)
* * *
Jesus left there and as he passed on he saw a man called Matthew sitting at his desk in the tax-collector’s office. “Follow me!” he said to him—and the man got to his feet and followed him.
Later, as Jesus was in the house sitting at the dinner-table, a good many tax-collectors and other disreputable people came on the scene and joined him and his disciples. The Pharisees noticed this and said to the disciples, “Why does your master have his meals with tax-collectors and sinners?” But Jesus heard this and replied, “It is not the fit and flourishing who need the doctor, but those who are ill! Suppose you go away and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’. In any case I did not come to invite the ‘righteous’ but the ‘sinners’.” (Matthew 9:9-13)
“It is a poor sort of faith that imagines Christ defeated by anything men can do. Make no mistake: he has already survived everything we can do to him. And as for saving the world, we ought to remember that he has done that too by his method, not ours—the method of opening the door to the Kingdom of Heaven…
“That is the other Christianity, the Kingdom that is not of this world. He told us how to come out of [the world’s] thick darkness into that light; it is done by loving God, and the means to that is loving men. So simple a statement, and yet we have found so many ways of misinterpreting it!…
“And perhaps Christianity, if we ever embrace it not for our own worldly advantage but through surrender to God, will not only enable us to obey the Ten Commandments but enable us to enjoy it; not only save this transitory world for the few perplexed years we spend in it, but bring us out of this noise and darkness and helplessness and terror that we call the world into the full Light... We men are all thieves who have stolen the self which was meant as a part of God and tried to keep it for ourselves alone. But if we give it up again, we might hear the words he spoke to a penitent thief once: ‘Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.’”
Smoke On The Mountain
By Henry Vaughan
My Soul, there is a country
Afar beyond the stars,
Where stands a winged sentry
All skillful in the wars;
There, above noise and danger
Sweet Peace sits, crown’d with smiles,
And One born in a manger
Commands the beauteous files.
He is thy gracious friend
And (O my Soul awake!)
Did in pure love descend,
To die here for thy sake.
If thou canst get but thither,
There grows the flow’r of peace,
The rose that cannot wither,
Thy fortress, and thy ease.
Leave then thy foolish ranges,
For none can thee secure,
But One, who never changes,
Thy God, thy life, thy cure.
“…think of the dignity and honor which is ours. Sons of God with Him; Heirs of God with Him; one with Him, perfectly identified with the blessed One in God’s presence. Therefore He is not ashamed to call us brethren. To walk worthy of the Lord is our calling; and worthy of the Lord we shall walk if we have the great fact of our fellowship with the Son of God as a reality before our souls. It is a sad state to speak theoretically of our position in Christ, to know all this with our intellects and not to manifest it in our lives and show forth the excellencies of Him, who has called us from darkness into his marvellous light. He is not ashamed to call us brethren.”
The Lord of Glory
And while they were still talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said, “Peace be to you all!” But they shrank back in terror for they thought they were seeing a ghost. “Why are you so worried?” said Jesus, “and why do doubts arise in your minds? Look at my hands and feet—it is really I myself! Feel me and see; ghosts have no flesh or bones as you can see that I have.” But while they still could not believe it through sheer joy and were quite bewildered, Jesus said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” (Luke 24:36-41)
The Jesus who breaks the awful, awe-filled, awkward silence of the Upper Room, asking for something to snack on, is a Jesus one can readily fall in love with. He is as natural in the supernatural wonder of His Resurrection as He was the very first day He called each of His disciples, saying, “Follow Me!” He wants to be just that supernaturally natural within your day today. And He is still hungry--for your attention.
"Lord, grant thine unworthy one his desire, for I am thine, and thou hast bought me with thy blood. Thou hast opened mine eye to see thee, and the sight has saved me. Lord, open thou mine ear. I have read thy heart, now let me hear thy lips."
Charles H. Spurgeon
Morning & Evening
“It was as a Bridegroom Christ came, anointed with all the perfumes of a dedicated love, and until the last bitter hour of His rejection, He moved with such lyric joyousness across the earth, that life became festive in His presence. It is as a Bride the church exists on earth, and if no festive smiles are awakened by its presence, and no gracious unsealing of the founts of love in human hearts, then is it not Christ’s Church, for He has passed elsewhere with another company to the marriage-feast, and His Church stands without, before a barred and darkened door.”
The Empire of Love
Salvation comes not by “accepting the finished work” or “deciding for Christ.” It comes by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, the whole, living, victorious Lord who, as God and man, fought our fight and won it, accepted our debt as His own and paid it, took our sins and died under them and rose again to set us free. This is the true Christ, and nothing less will do…
The argument of the apostles is that the Man Jesus has been made higher than angels, higher than Moses and Aaron, higher than any creature in earth or heaven. And this exalted position He attained as a man. As God He already stood infinitely above all other beings. No argument was needed to prove the transcendence of the Godhead. The apostles were not declaring the preeminence of God, which would have been superfluous, but of a man, which was necessary.
Those first Christians believed that Jesus of Nazareth, a man they knew, had been raised to a position of Lordship over the universe. He was still their friend, still one of them, but had left them for a while to appear in the presence of God on their behalf. And the proof of this was the presence of the Holy Spirit among them.
One cause of our moral weakness today is an inadequate Christology. We think of Christ as God but fail to conceive of Him as a man glorified. To recapture the power of the Early Church we must believe what they believed. And they believed they had a God-approved man representing them in heaven.
Man: The Dwelling Place of God
“When the Sanhedrin saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)
Our lives will be remarkable to the degree we have been with Jesus; to the measure with which we’re filled up with the Holy Spirit. It does tend to astonish when the hand of a Man, thought to be long-dead, reaches out through us; when His Spirit animates an unconquerable twinkling in our eyes.
The Holy Spirit knows what Jesus wants you to do next. Listening to the voice of the Spirit, within you, is the same thing as sitting next to Jesus, upon the Throne, and asking Him: “What should I do?”
The Holy Spirit is His voice; His answer.
A lovely, simple prayer:
“Thy holy life is our way, and your adorable patience the road by which we must approach Thee.”
Those of the Kingdom of Heaven are everywhere and nowhere: their only conspicuousness is atmospheric; they are otherwise totally hidden. They do good deeds because the Christ within them does them; they feel embarrassed whenever the eyes of men see them. Their works are so synonymous with their enjoyment of abiding in Jesus that they’re surprised at the work their life accomplishes. Their only reward has been the good pleasure of His presence. And that has always been enough for them.
Those of the Kingdom of Heaven are constantly communicating with its King: they are thinking their best and highest thoughts directly to Him. They love to stand and pray, to sit and pray, to drive and pray, to rest and pray, to work and pray: they live in prayer. Their inner life is their cathedral: they meet together with Jesus in its sanctuary, its apses, its towers, its belfries. Unembarrassed, they acknowledge their reliance on His delight; they delight to talk to Him, to hear from Him, as such:
As their perfect Lord, their Heavenly Father, infinitely far removed in the splendors of the Throneroom, who is yet with them;
As the King of a Kingdom with verifiable work to do; whose will is the Father’s; whose climate is of Heaven;
As the Provider-God;
The One who perfectly modeled perfect, personal forgiveness;
As the Shepherd of His sheep; as the Protector from all evil; as the Lord of all Heaven, all power, all glory.
Those of the Kingdom of Heaven are happiest when hungriest: they are satisfied with a sating only offered to them by His hand. They find their joy in eating and drinking of Him. That is their secret. He has become their only diet. (from Mt. 6:1-13, 16-18)
“The gospel is not the presentation of an idea but the operation of a power. When the gospel is preached, it is not merely an utterance; it is something that occurs.”
Commentary on Romans
“Paul teaches us that the whole Gospel is contained in Christ. To move even a step from Christ means to withdraw oneself from the Gospel…”
Then about an hour later someone else insisted, “I am convinced this fellow was with him. Why, he is a Galilean!” “Man,” returned Peter, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the cock crew. The Lord turned his head and looked straight at Peter, and into his mind flashed the words that the Lord had said to him ... “You will disown me three times before the cock crows today.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:59-62)
* * *
When they had finished breakfast Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these others?" "Yes, Lord," he replied, "you know that I am your friend." "Then feed my lambs," returned Jesus. Then he said for the second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" "Yes, Lord," returned Peter. "You know that I am your friend." "Then care for my sheep," replied Jesus. Then for the third time, Jesus spoke to him and said, "Simon, son of John, are you my friend?" Peter was deeply hurt because Jesus' third question to him was "Are you my friend?", and he said, "Lord, you know everything. You know that I am your friend!" "Then feed my sheep," Jesus said to him. (John 21:15-18)
* * *
"…Christ’s life is the only instance in which it is seen that a teacher, in the moment his cause together with his life is lost and everything is forfeited in the most appalling way because of the denial by his disciple—that a teacher by his glance wins in this very moment and in this disciple wins his most zealous follower and thus in great part wins his cause, although it is hidden to all.
" Christ’s love for Peter was so boundless that in loving Peter he accomplished loving the person one sees. He did not say, “Peter must change first and become another man before I can love him again.” No, just the opposite, he said, “Peter is Peter, and I love him; love, if anything, will help him to become another man.” Therefore he did not break off the friendship in order perhaps to renew it again when Peter had become another man. No, he preserved the friendship unchanged and in this very way helped Peter to become another man."
Works of Love
“There is no such thing as mature and assured possession of faith: regarded psychologically, it is always a leap into the darkness of the unknown, a flight into empty air. Faith is not revealed to us by flesh and blood (Matt. xvi. 17): no one can communicate it to himself or to any one else. What I heard yesterday I must hear again to-day; and if I am to hear it afresh to-morrow, it must be revealed by the Father of Jesus, who is in heaven, and by Him only.”
The Epistle to the Romans