Peter, apostle of Jesus Christ, sends greetings to all those living among foreigners in the Dispersion of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who have been chosen, by the provident purpose of God the Father, to be made holy by the Spirit, obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood. Grace and peace be with you more and more.
Peter walked with Jesus.
I mean, literally. They walked all over Judea together. I’m sure there was a great deal of sweat involved.
30-ish years later, Peter has possibly wandered even farther, to Rome, as many scholars think that’s where he wrote the book of 1 Peter (according to the ESV Study Bible). At this point, he has been walking without Jesus physically present for a long time. Now he’s writing to Christians in a group of Roman provinces, followers of Jesus dispersed among the world as the Jews were once dispersed from their homeland.
Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy has given us a new birth as his sons, by raising Jesus Christ from the dead, so that we have a sure hope and the promise of an inheritance that can never be spoiled or soiled and never fade away, because it is being kept for you in the heavens. Through your faith, God’s power will guard you until the salvation which has been prepared is revealed at the end of time. This is a cause of great joy for you, even though you may for a short time have to bear being plagued by all sorts of trials; so that, when Jesus Christ is revealed, your faith will have been tested and proved like gold – only it is more precious than gold, which is corruptible even though it bears testing by fire – and then you will have praise and glory and honor.
Though they live among foreigners in this Dispersion, though they suffer, these sons of God know they are promised an inheritance, salvation, a home. When time ends and Jesus returns, they will receive it. With their precious faith proven, they will be honored. Though this homecoming is in the future, looking forward to it already brings them joy.
But unlike Peter, they have never walked with Jesus. Not literally.
You did not see him, yet you love him; and still without seeing him, you are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described, because you believe; and you are sure of the end to which your faith looks forward, that is, the salvation of your souls.
With the wording of that sentence, I can’t help but think that Peter must have had this story in mind, this story he lived and witnessed himself:
Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, “We have seen the Lord,” he answered, “Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.” Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, “Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.” Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him:
“You believe because you can see me.
Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
Jesus gave Thomas what he needed. I love that.
But he also talked about those who would believe without seeing him. This sounds like an offer for long past Jesus’ day, for the far future, for me. And it is. But it didn’t take long for the truth in Jesus’ words to become obvious. 30-ish years later, and already, already, “still without seeing him, you are filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described, because you believe”.
And now it’s 2,000-ish years later, and still without seeing him, we can believe and have sure hope in the inheritance God is keeping for us and have a joy so glorious it cannot be described.
It’s not always easy, but it is a possibility.
Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.
[1 Peter 1:1-9; John 20:24-29]