One hymn I’ve heard sung for years is “It is well with my soul…” The final stanza pleads, “And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll…”
In Acts 1:9-11 the disciples’ sight was turned to faith. For three years, since John the Baptist had served out his role as the ‘great introducer’ of Jesus Christ, the apostles had followed Jesus. One by one the Lord had called this group of men to leave their ‘regular occupation’ and become a fisher of men. They had tracked with Jesus through the years of obscurity, popularity, and opposition–three terms some scholars use to depict the 3 year ministry of the Master.
Now, having heard Jesus refuse their request to restore the kingdom to Israel and in contrast call them to be His witnesses, they watch Jesus ascend in the clouds until a cloud hides Him from their sight.
It was all so sudden. Was this really the last time they would see Him? If He was no longer physically with them, how could they follow Him?
“After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.” This band of mystified men keep looking up intently into the sky, pondering what had just happened until their gaze is interrupted by the appearance of two angelic beings.
“They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
His departure had been personal and visible. His return would be likewise. The process of transitioning from sight to faith had begun until some future unknown date when faith would turn to sight.
It is easier to walk by sight, or so it seems. We are sensory people who see, hear, taste, touch and smell. To walk by faith means we must see what is invisible, hear what is inaudible and venture into the future based on commands given us in the past.
The apostle Paul picks up this theme in 2 Corinthians 5:7 when he writes, “We live by faith, not by sight.”
Jesus had likewise contrasted sight and faith in dealing with the sceptical Thomas. This ‘twin’ disciple, for that is what his name means, had missed the Easter Sunday night gathering when Jesus had shown up in the Upper Room. He had to wait 7 days until his sight was pressed into faith. Do you recall the encounter in John 20:24-30 “…A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. …..Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”int
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
At this juncture Jesus affirms this sceptic’s faith, yet pronounces a blessing on millions, who since that day, have trusted in Jesus Christ without a firsthand visible encounter of the person and work of the Master.
“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have NOT SEEN and YET HAVE BELIEVED.” ‘Seeing is believing,’ someone has said. Truthfully, for Christians, “Believing is seeing.”
May God enable us this day, this week, this month, this year–to walk by faith and not by sight!