Peter’s inspired epistle which we know as “1 Peter” was written to first-century saints who were facing trials in their lives. As Peter reminded them that their faith is more precious than gold, he referred to Jesus’ coming. Speaking about Him, he went on to say, “whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).
Did you catch that? The Christians to whom the apostle wrote this letter had not seen Jesus while He was in the flesh. We would have to think that such was true of the majority of Christians who lived in the last half of the first century. Despite the absence of such an opportunity to see Jesus in bodily form, they loved Him. They believed in Him. And, they had great joy because of Him and their relationship to Him. Such love, faith, and joy should have motivated them to persevere despite the persecution and other trials which they would face. The same would apply to all of Jesus’ disciples living today – love, faith, and joy.
When we use the words “the unseen Christ,” we mean that He was unseen by some people then, just as He is unseen by all humans living on earth today. Yet, we recognize that there were others in the first century who did see Jesus. In 1 John 1:1 we read, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life.” So, John and others were blessed to see and hear the Christ. Some only saw Him before His death, while others were witnesses of His resurrection, meaning that they saw Him after He rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:4-8).
When Jesus passed through Samaria and spoke with a woman beside a well, she went and told others about Him. In response to her testimony, many of the Samaritans believed (John 4:39). Other Samaritans came out to see and hear Him for themselves. What was the result? “And many more believed because of His own word” (John 4:41). This last group stated that their faith in Jesus came about due to what they personally heard from Him (John 4:42).
While some believed in and were attracted to our Lord because of what they saw with their own eyes and heard with their own ears, Jesus pointed out that some would believe without having had the experience of seeing Him in bodily form. We recall that the apostle Thomas was persuaded that Jesus had risen from the dead. When did he possess such a conviction? After He saw and heard the risen Christ. He confessed Him with these words: “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Jesus told His disciple, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). What conclusion should we draw from these incidents recorded in the book of John? It is possible to believe after one has seen the Lord personally, and it also is possible to believe even though one has never seen Him personally.
“But how can somebody believe when there is no convincing evidence?” Oh, that is the point, my friend! Those who were eyewitnesses to Jesus believed on Him because of the divine power that He demonstrated. Those to whom Peter wrote about 30-35 years after Jesus’ death also had genuine faith, faith that was based on proof. Remember, faith is the “evidence” of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). While many people today speak as if faith were a leap in the dark, that is, just “hoping” that something is true in the absence of real proof, in reality, true faith in the Bible always is based on evidence! Biblically speaking, where there is no evidence, there cannot be real faith.
What about those of us living today who believe in and love Jesus? It is still a matter of evidence. The Bible is the word of God. This is something which we can prove. Then, because the Bible is true and reliable, it becomes our evidence. Based on this evidence, we believe in Jesus as God’s Son. The Bible records the testimony of credible eyewitnesses – those who saw and heard Jesus. John recorded some of our Lord’s miracles to cause us and other readers of his book to believe in Jesus (John 20:30,31). He supplied the proof of His Deity, and we accept it.
What about loving the Lord? Someone may think it sounds crazy to love one whom we have never seen. Actually, “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). How do we know that He loves us? The Bible gives us evidence of it. We stand in awe of His sacrificial love and all that He has done for us. Let us not be ashamed to tell the world that, yes, we believe! Let us not be ashamed to tell the world that, yes, we love Jesus! Let us not be embarrassed to tell others that, yes, we have joy because of our risen Lord!
We have not seen Jesus in the past and we do not see Him now. However, that will change one day. One day in the future “we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). What a day, glorious day, that will be!
— Roger D. Campbell