“And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.”
We’ve all heard the phrase, “seeing is believing.” To a certain extent this is true. We know this through direct and repeated experience and, most importantly, through the infallible testimony of Scripture (2 Peter 1:16-19). The original apostolic witness was confirmed by sign miracles in order to stir faith in the hearts of those who heard it. The writer to the Hebrews asks, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” (Hebrews 2:3-4). Similarly, the apostle Paul wrote to Corinthians: “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you,” he wrote, “in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds” (2 Corinthians 12:12). The Lord Himself declared that there are some people who simply will not believe unless they see miraculous confirmation (John 4:48). For the those people, the Lord graciously provided miracles in order to bring them to faith (John 4:49-53; 11:45; 12:9-11). Oftentimes, however, not even sign miracles will move a person to believe the Gospel and submit to the Lordship of Christ. What is going on in such cases? Here we must appreciate the power of paradigmatic thinking. That is, people adopt networks of presuppositions, things they simply assume to be correct. All of their experiences are interpreted through the “lens” of their chosen paradigms. The Pharisees had chosen to believe what they wanted about Jesus. They simply assumed that He was not sent by God. When He performed miracles in order to prove that His mission was divinely sanctioned, they had but one option available to them. They had to say that He was satanically empowered (Matthew 12:22-24). So long as they clung to their chosen paradigm, they could not see Jesus for Who He really was. Two thousand years later, nothing much has changed. We often wonder how intelligent people can dismiss rock-solid, overwhelming evidence for the existence of God or the veracity of the Bible. It is because they have adopted a paradigm that forbids Christianity from being true. It is excluded at the beginning of the discussion. One atheist friend of mine told me about a time when he found himself stone-cold broke. He sat on a park bench thoroughly depressed. Suddenly the wind deposited a $20 bill at his feet. For him this was blind chance. Through the eyes of faith, we chose to see the hand of God. The repentant thief in today’s verse passage chose not to regard Christ according to the flesh (2 Corinthians 5:16). His choice reminds us that sometimes believing is seeing and not the other way around.