30 Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
I think it is safe to say that John 20 can also be known as the “faith chapter” of the bible. If you have been reading along, you will notice a theme flowing through chapter 20, faith, belief, the resurrection of Christ, and the reason why John wrote this book: to help us believe that Jesus is the Christ. What intrigues me though is that not all who read this, specifically the book of John in this case, will believe. Why is that?
Throughout this chapter we saw different ways people had opportunities to believe. Angels told Mary. Mary told Peter and John. The disciples told Thomas. It isn’t until just now that I noticed something about all this: nobody believed until they had a real encounter with Jesus. Even after seeing the empty tomb and being explained these things, there was still no “aha” moment until each of these were confronted directly by Jesus and He revealed Himself to them.
Peter and John were the closest relationally to Jesus and from what we can tell the most knowledgeable, however verse 9 reveals “yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.” Mary is arguably the closest person to Jesus outside the 12 and as we discussed in Challenging Your Theology, possibly even closer. Thomas at least had the guts to be up front and say, “I won’t believe it until I see it.” The funny thing is that nobody believed in Jesus’ resurrection until they encountered Him personally. So what does this mean to us? How does this relate to what John is saying in these last two verses of the 20th chapter?
For me, this details that while us telling others about Jesus is important, that they truly won’t understand until they have the face-to-face encounter with Jesus Himself. As self proclaimed Christians, disciples, followers of Christ (or any other term you may use), we must recognize that it isn’t up to us to convince someone, but rather tell our own story. If people want to know what we believe or why we believe it, we will have our own encounter story to share, just like The Apostle John did here. However, we must remember that a relationship with God is a decision that each individual has to make, not a convincing story for us to tell. Sure, our story might be convincing enough for others to seek out the beginning of their own story; however it is not up to us to tell them exactly what that story is supposed to be. We don’t know what it is and neither do they until they live it out.
Have you encountered Jesus yet? If so, have you told others about it? If not, are you searching to have an encounter with Him? If you are not seeking to have an encounter with Him, why not? I have yet to hear about one that didn’t go well… Ask Him for a sign, He’ll give it to you.