Easter Devotion: Day 12

John 20:26-29
{After the resurrection of Jesus}
Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.”
Then he focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it on my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe!”
Thomas said, “My master! My God!”
Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.”

“Doubting Thomas” earned that nickname because when the others testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, he didn’t believe them. His response? “Unless I, myself, see the nail holes in his hand, put my finger in them, and stick my hand in his side {where Jesus was punctured with a spear during the crucifixion}, I will not believe.”

We are all more like Doubting Thomas because the idea of Jesus rising from the dead seems so distant and impossible. What really was the point of it all?

Through his resurrection, which we celebrate today on Easter, Jesus conquered the power of death. Although as humans, we all (like Jesus), must physically die, death no longer has power on our souls. For those who simply admit their need for God, we enter a life where there is no more fear, pain, tears, sickness or death. We enter heaven.

During the next four weeks at Focus Church, we will have a teaching series entitled “Imagine Heaven.” Why? Because if we truly believe that heaven exists, it changes the way we live on earth.

As a part of the preparation for this series, and due to my grandpa’s recent death, I have been reading a book that explains this topic and also combines 30 years of research into “near death experiences” (or people who have come to the border of heaven and returned back to earth.) This study was performed by doctors who saw recurring patterns with people from diverse religions, ages and nationalities. The following are things which were common denominators in most of their stories:

  1. Out-of-body experience: 74.4% (they saw their physical body below as their spirit left)
  2. Intense and generally positive emotions or feelings (76.2% say “incredible peace”)
  3. Encountering a mystical or brilliant light (64.6%)
  4. Encountering others–mystical beings or deceased relatives or friends (57.3%)
  5. Heightened senses (74.4%)
  6. Encountering unworldly/ heavenly realms (52.2%)
  7. A return to the body; aware of a decision to return (58.5%)
    (Burke, John. Imagine Heaven. Kindle edition. Loc. 616-622)

Many of them state that they meet a man who radiates a love and peace they have never sensed before. They go through an experience where they review all the decisions they have made throughout their life (good and bad). They are acutely aware of the positive and negative actions but feel like they are in the presence of someone who completely accepts them.

Jesus’ resurrection from the dead gives us the hope of heaven–the knowledge that, in the end, God’s light wins over all the evil and darkness that the human race is capable of.

I believe many of us encounter a Thomas moment. Jesus somehow unexplainably walks through the LOCKED doors of our life and gives us a chance to know Him. He allows us to sense His presence, love, and peace.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus even spoke of the challenge that you and I would have. We are one of those who have to believe WITHOUT seeing Him. Unlike Doubting Thomas, we are not given the opportunity to stick our fingers in the nail holes or gash in his side. We are asked to simply have faith and believe.

We believe based on the words of these men who followed Jesus, and ultimately were murdered for believing. If, deep down, they knew that Jesus was a fake and the words they were preaching were untrue, at least one of them would have denied God while being tortured for their beliefs. But every single one of them went to painful deaths while still proclaiming what we celebrate this Easter: Jesus was Emmanuel (God with us), the Messiah, the Savior. He died on the cross and rose from the dead. He ascended into Heaven before a large group of people and said He prepared a place for us there.

What do we need to do? It is really quite simple. We need to acknowledge our need for Him and believe.

Take a moment this Easter Sunday to commit your life to God for the very first time, or to renew your devotion to Him. You can say the following words quietly, inside your heart:

Dear God,
Thank you for sending your son Jesus to show us love and to die for the darkness of humanity.
I believe in Jesus and I believe in You.
I am sorry for the wrong things I have done in my life. Please forgive me.
Walk with me; never leave me. Help me to live the full life you dreamed for me.
Bring your light into my life. Change me. Help me forgive others who have hurt me.
Bring peace.
Amen.

Listen to this song, and may it help you say, “Thank you!” Happy Easter. Thanks for joining me on this journey. It was a privilege to account the life of a true King. ~ Olivia Puccini