We Don’t Pick the Evidence
by Jacob Hudgins
“Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe”(John 20:25).
Faith is challenging because it involves risk. So we always would like more information—to make believing seem not quite so risky. Like Thomas, we are sometimes tempted to hold out on believing until we have more—or better—or more convincing evidence. It is important to say to such a mentality—in ourselves and others—that we don’t pick the evidence.
Jesus indulges Thomas’ request: “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe”(John 20:27). Jesus allows Thomas to inspect his resurrected body because he was not present at the previous opportunity (John 20:20) and because he has a special mission for Thomas. Along with all of the apostles, Thomas will be a unique witness of the resurrection (Acts 1:22; 2:32). To be a witness, Thomas must see him.
Yet Jesus doesn’t say that this is the pattern for faith. He does not promise that people can pick the evidence they want and he will supply it. “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”(John 20:29). Some will not be given this kind of evidence, but can still believe. We easily forget that most people in the NT era never saw Jesus. He sent the apostles to preach about the kingdom in his physical absence—both before (Matt 10:5-7) and after (Acts 10:40) his resurrection. Yet people still come to believe in Jesus. “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him”(1 Pet 1:8). We would all love to see Jesus, but we don’t pick the evidence.
John also tells us that some evidence has been withheld. “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book, but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name”(John 20:30-31). Other miracles could have been presented but were not. Yet John insists that what he has written is sufficient to produce faith. Curious as we may be about these other stories, their absence reminds us that we don’t pick the evidence.
At some point, the issue about evidence is no longer how much we have, but our willingness to accept it. We have an amazing capacity for denial and resistance. Just how much evidence would finally fill up the bucket so that we can believe? Is there ever enough?
More, the evidence we have been given is clearly sufficient for faith. If God is truly all-knowing and all-powerful, wouldn’t he know better than us what is enough for faith? But if he dispenses evidence from a made-to-order menu for each of us, is he really God? Aren’t we telling him what we want instead of the other way around?
Faith is challenging because it involves risk. Jesus blesses those who believe without seeing (John 20:29)—those who are unsure, but reach out to him anyway. May God bless us to respond rightly to the evidence he has left for us.