And so there remain Faith, Hope, Love — these three; and of these the greatest is Love. 1Co 13:13
Paul, Thomas, and Peter.
Why those three? What do they have to do with this verse?
Well, for Paul, that is easy to see. He wrote the verse in his letter to the Corinthians. But there is a lot more.
Paul was a man of faith. His faith as a pharisee was strong enough to persecute Christians.
But then, after his encounter with Christ, he became the teacher about faith. Just remember the verse in Romans:
For our reasoned conclusion is that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law. Rom 3:28
This verse is so strong in its implications, that Luther reformed the church on its basic statement: sola fide. Only by faith. Granted, James writes that we are not justified by faith alone, but by works. But not the works of law. It is not about externally following the rules, but by overflowing of what we now know to be true and what has become our heart’s desire.
Faith changed Paul. God knew that because Paul was so full of faith that he would become one of his most faithful servants.
God had faith in Paul. A strange thing to say, since God – outside of time, seeing the end from the beginning – knew that Paul would become his faithful servant. He had planned Paul’s life before the foundation of the earth. Yet still, he had faith. Because faith is the substance of what we hope for, convinced about things we do not see. Faith manifests in the natural what already is in the supernatural. It is therefore only by God’s faith that we prosper. He speaks, and things become.
Thus faith is one of the substances the Kingdom runs with. It’s the fuel of the Kingdom.
Thomas had doubts. And I am sure he was angry and disappointed. Why had he not been there? Why did Jesus show up when he was gone? How could he? And could it be real? Something like that never happened before. True, Jesus had raised Lazarus and that little girl from the dead. And when Elijah and Elisha raised people from the dead too. But this – if he were to believe the accounts of the others – was different. Jesus walked through walls and doors. His body seemed to be strangely different. It must have been built by the same material as his old one, as the old one was gone for good, but nobody had walked through walls before – with the wall still standing intact afterwards. If he only could touch him and especially his wounds that he had seen on his old body when they put him to the grave.
And then, Jesus appeared again. He addressed Thomas directly and asked him to do just that. Touch his wounds. It was mind boggling. First, why were they still there? Why didn’t the wounds disappear when the new body was formed? When Jesus healed and restored people, they were fully healed. Thomas himself had seen whole body parts grow. Could it be that Jesus still had these wounds because he had asked to touch them? That couldn’t be, could it? He would never know. Thomas never touched the wounds as far as we know. Just seeing Jesus had him accept him as Lord and God.
All he knew is that Jesus gave him hope. Hope for a great future. His savior was alive. God had hope for Thomas. Hope – according to Strong’s g1680 – is amongst other things the joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation. The resurrection of Jesus is a down payment for the resurrection of us all. God himself has paved the way, overcome death, and cleared all hinderance.
Jesus told Thomas that he believed because he had seen. He gained hope from seeing. We do not need faith to believe in the resurrection. It has been witnessed. It is a fact, well documented in the bible, witnessed by as many as 500 people. And it is a source of hope that one day we will experience the same. And not everybody will die, but some will be transformed at the sound of the last trumpet, while the others will be resurrected. What a day this will be!
Hope is another substance that the Kingdom runs with. It washes away our doubts, cools our anger, soothes our disappointment. It is the cooling water of the Kingdom.
Peter on the other hand had run from Jesus. His fear of death was greater than his love for Jesus. But Jesus restored him asking whether he loved him three times. Three times Peter had denied to know him. And three times Jesus asked him. But not only that. Three times Jesus told Peter that he still loved him and trusted him enough to entrust him with the church. Feed my flock. Care for my sheep. Be their pastor and teacher.
God’s love restored Peter. And Jesus not only told him the way he would die. He told him that many years down the road Peter would still love Jesus enough to die for him. He would never deny Jesus again. His love would be even stronger than the fear of death. Just as John tells us:
There is no fear in love: true love has no room for fear, because where fear is, there is pain; and he who is not free from fear is not complete in love. 1Jo 4:18
Obviously, love is yet another substance the Kingdom runs with. It is the oil that lubricates everything, healing and also preventing wounds from happening in the first place. It lets the engine run smoothly.
God has faith in us, gives us hope, and loves us – all so we can have faith, hope, and love.
Do you have the faith that moves mountains and builds the Kingdom here on earth? Do you have hope for a great future and eternal salvation? And is your love big enough to drive away all fear?
Let me know in a comment, would you?