Once again this confirms that Jesus did not appear in his physical body - otherwise there would be no doubt that this was Jesus. Indeed, Jesus is appearing to them in an angel-like appearance - yes, one which could be manipulated to allow Thomas to put his hand through Jesus' side - as we've discussed. Jesus' physical body died, and the spirit-person of Jesus left that body, and re-appeared to his students within an angel-like appearance.
Why is this important? This, in fact, relates to the meaning of Jesus' statement here. For this verse translation we use the New American Standard Version (NASB), as only this translation along with the Revised Standard Version (RSV) has translated the first sentence as a question - as reflected by the original Greek - ὅτι ἑώρακάς με πεπίστευκας μακάριοι - which indicates this was a question to Thomas.
While the New International Version translates it as:
“Because you have seen me, you have believed..."
While it could be supposed that the question is rhetorical and thus asked and answered, it might be correct to simply state the rhetoric meaning.
But this - along with the translation of the Greek word πιστεύω (pisteuō) to "believed" - actually hides the intent and meaning of Jesus' statement altogether.
You see, these translations are ecclesiastical translations. This means they were made by ecclesiastical (appointed or elected professional) translators who have been compensated by some ecclesiastical institution to make those translations. In other words, they were beholden to uphold the general doctrines of the institutions that paid their salaries.
This actually disqualified them from working on behalf of the Supreme Being in their translation work.
A person who comes in line of a lineage of spiritual teachers that serve the Supreme Being never seeks compensation for their efforts to serve God. They also do not accept professional positions for their service to the Supreme Being.
So not only does the acceptance of compensation disqualify them from pure translation - but they are following professional teachers - and thereby have not become direct students of a representative of God. Therefore they are not equipped to translate scripture.
Why is this important in the case of this verse? Because the various ecclesiastical translations have supposed that Jesus is speaking of the word "believe" as in "believing in Jesus" - as though Jesus is speaking to those who are actually looking at his form - who have also seen him when he was in his physical body - would have to "believe" in his existence - or in his appearance.
Why should they doubt in the existence of Jesus? Not only did Jesus sit, stand and walk before them during his missionary work: He was also appearing before their eyes in an angel-like appearance. So why would they not "believe" in him?
And for those "who did not see" - what would they "believe"? That Jesus appeared to his disciples? Or that Jesus existed?
There is actually no special acclaim for someone to have "believed" that Jesus existed. Most historians accept that Jesus existed - many of whom do not accept the existence of the Supreme Being.
And certainly those people who saw Jesus walk the earth preaching and did not respect him - even those who persecuted him - certainly "believed" in Jesus' existence. Why wouldn't they "believe?"
Yet many ecclesiastical institutions and their teachers drone that Jesus was talking about him "rising after three days" - as if it is a special honor to believe that Jesus "rose" after three days. What is the special attribute in that?
They actually want to tell us to believe that Jesus died for our sins.
This is what one would call cheap religion. It is a strategy designed to attract followers. A strategy made by those in positions of power to draw more and more followers into their institutions.
As though a simple acceptance that Jesus "died for my sins" and "rose in three days" has some special merit.
Rather, these institutions set this up as something to "believe" in order to be attracted into their institutions. Because it is easy to "believe" this.
And yes, it certainly is an attractive proposal: All we have to do is "believe" that Jesus existed and died for our sins - and we are clean. All our sins are forgiven. We won't have to suffer the consequences of our sinful behavior - "going to hell" - because Jesus' dying on the cross cleaned it all up for us.
Whew, that was easy.
But notice that these institutions don't leave it there. They say we also have to join their institution and come to church and give them some money so they can keep their jobs and five- or six-figure salaries. In other words, the "died for my sins" thing is a lure - bait to bring us in and give them our donations.
And what if we don't give them our donations? Uh oh, that "going to hell" thing comes up again.
But why can't we just accept that Jesus died for my sins that once and be done with it? Why do we have to go back to their institution every week - to accept that Jesus died for my sins again?
And what do we hear when we go into their institutions each week? We hear them drone on about - you guessed it - Jesus' dying for our sins. And boy, we sure do like that when they assure us that we're clean. We're good to go. We're not going to hell. After all the crap we've been doing, too.
Some institutions will even pass out little crackers to eat with some juice or wine - saying the crackers are Jesus' body and the juice or wine is Jesus' blood. So they want us to eat his body and drink his blood once a week?
Drinking his blood? Sounds a little like a vampire.
Yes, a vampire is thought of as someone who drinks the blood of others in order to use that blood for themselves. This is called usury.
And usury is precisely what is going on in the name of Jesus in so many of these institutions. They are using Jesus. They are using the torture of Jesus' physical body in order to get cleansed.
That's not so different from the vampire.
The reality is that Jesus did not come to preach usury: He didn't teach that we should use him to be cleansed of our sins - as if he is some sort of doormat for us to wipe our sins off on.
In fact, this is a complete perversion of his teachings.
Just consider what Jesus said when a father asked him to heal his son:
“You unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.” (Luke 9:41)
What did Jesus mean by "perverse generation"? He meant that instead of them hearing his teachings, many had perverted his message into one related to their own self-centeredness. "Perverse" means to distort and turn something upside down - typically into something that accommodates ones own self.
Jesus was speaking of those who make everything about themselves.
And this is precisely how these institutions are using Jesus. Instead of hearing Jesus' teachings - instructing us to love and serve the Supreme Being - these institutions and their teachers are claiming that Jesus is all about me, myself and mine - how I can be cleansed. How I can get my diseases healed. How I can make more money or get a better job if I "believe" in Jesus.
These are products of a "perverse generation."
What Jesus was actually doing was trying to show us how to love and serve someone besides ourselves - God. This was the meaning of his allowing his body to be persecuted. He was serving the Supreme Being. This is why he said just minutes before his arrest:
“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matt. 26:39)
Right now all we care about is me, myself and mine. With perhaps a little family, country and/or institution mixed in. But this is still self-centeredness. It is still all about me and my stuff.
Meanwhile, Jesus is trying to encourage his students to accept his teachings: That they can trust his teachings and follow his teachings teaching us to love and serve the Supreme Being.
This is diametrically opposed to the notion that Jesus' purpose was to cleanse our sins - a self-centered proposal. A proposal based upon a fear of "going to hell."
This fear is - yes - self-centered. It is about me, myself and mine.
So what is Jesus really saying here to his disciples? He is asking that they "trust" in him and his teachings. That they "trust" in God and "trust" that if we follow Jesus' teachings then we will be fulfilled.
Yes, the Greek word πιστεύω (pisteuō) means to "trust" or "have confidence." It is a personal word - someone has to "trust" or "have confidence" in someone else. It is not like believing black holes exist or something. It is trusting that someone is being honest and telling us the truth about something.
Yes, Jesus wants their trust. Because he spent years teaching them that they should give their lives to the Supreme Being. That they can rely upon the Supreme Being. That they can love God and serve God.
Now this requires some reach, for anyone - even for a student who saw Jesus walking on the earth before their eyes. Even when it is said by someone who performed miracles. It is still a reach - because our physical eyes cannot see the Supreme Being.
Yes, the Supreme Being is invisible to the physical eyes because each of us rejected our relationship with God at some point. So He let us go. He is giving us our space. He gave us a world and a temporary vehicle (the physical body) that allows us to ignore His existence for awhile. So we can act out our self-centered desires.
But He doesn't give up on us. God wants us back. But we have to choose that ourselves. We have to make a determined choice - do we want to return to the spiritual realm or do we want to stay here in hell away from God? Then, if we decide we want to regain our relationship with God, we have to work at changing our consciousness.
If we want to return to the spiritual realm we have to regain our consciousness of love. This means we have to change. Love means caring about the Supreme Being and His children more than we care about me, myself and mine. This is our innate consciousness. This is what fulfills us.
In fact we get a small taste of this consciousness when we "fall in love" with another person of this world. For awhile we will feel that we want to dedicate ourselves to this person. We do stuff for them. We serve them. And how does this make us feel?
We feel great when we are "in love." It is the greatest feeling - as we compare it to our normally self-centered consciousness.
And it is because of this glimpse into our true consciousness that everyone is chasing this "falling in love" feeling. We all want that feeling.
But the funny thing is - once we find that feeling with someone of this world - it doesn't last. We may still "love" the person, but we typically do not stay "in love" with the person. That wonderful feeling goes away. Why?
Because we realize they aren't that perfect person we expected them to be. We discover their ugly side. We find out they are also - like us - basically self-centered, with many faults.
So we lose our expectation that our being "in love" with them will fulfill us. Because our "falling in love" with them didn't fulfill us. What does that tell us?
It tells us these "in love" feelings of this world are misplaced.
But because we all pine for that feeling of being "in love" - what does that tell us?
It tells us that innately we - the person inside this temporary physical body - needs to be "in love" with the perfect person. Who is that?
It is the Supreme Being. The Supreme Being is that perfect person - that soul mate - we've been looking for.
This is what Jesus was trying to tell his students. But did they trust him? Did they trust him when he told them there is a spiritual dimension they could not see and within that spiritual dimension there is a Supreme Being they can fall in love with, and serve, and give their hearts to?
As he stated clearly:
"Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed [trusted].”
Yes, some who did not see Jesus' miraculous appearance after the death of his physical body, and did not see his healings and other indications of his special role as God's representative have trusted that Jesus really was telling us the Truth when he told us that loving the Supreme Being will fulfill us:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38)