Appearing from out of nowhere, Yeshua now stood in front of Thomas, the disciple who doubted.
Thomas had been exaggerating moments ago, stating that unless he could place his fingers into the nail holes in Yeshua’s wrists, he would by no means fall under the delusion that the Master has come back from the dead.
“Shalom aleichem [Peace be upon you],” said Yeshua. He spoke casually with a smile. I would have been smirking if it had been me, but the Master is probably above that sort of thing.
John’s account does not record that Thomas’ face became ghost white and then tomato red or that he gasped and sputtered or that he was full of regret in that instant, but I like to think all of the above happened.
Yeshua’s response, though, is hard for me to swallow: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
That’s me. I’m blessed. I haven’t seen, but I believe—or at least I try to believe. But it’s difficult. I’d rather be Peter, James, or John, walking with Yeshua, watching him perform miracle after miracle, bathing in his wisdom and insight.
When it comes down to it, I’d even rather be Thomas.
Unfortunately, none of us has had the opportunity the apostles had. We can’t walk with Yeshua through the villages of Galilee or worship together with him in the Temple. None of us has witnessed the risen Messiah in his glorified state. If we had, we undoubtedly wouldn’t struggle with doubt or fear—but we do.
At least I do.
Maybe you’re in the same boat. If so, you might find it helpful to think through the book of Esther. It’s one of only two books in the Bible that don’t mention God at all. It’s obvious, however, throughout the entire narrative that God is working behind the scenes to secure the survival of his people.
What Are the Chances?
No overt miracles take place in the book of Esther. No seas part, no donkeys talk, and no fire comes down from heaven. The book of Esther, however, records a series of coincidences too amazing to be attributed to chance. They constitute a hidden miracle, evidence that God is at work even when we can’t necessarily articulate exactly how.
The story began when Ahasuerus (Xerxes), king of Persia, decided that he needed a new queen; he decided this because his wife, Vashti, had refused to expose herself before the drunken revelry of the court. Ahasuerus held a beauty contest and “coincidentally” selected a Jewish girl named Hadassah (whose Persian name was Esther) to be his new wife. Right away we have a hint that the Lord was already at work, hiding in the background. The name “Esther” (Ester) adds just one letter to the Hebrew word aster, meaning “I will hide” (as in Deuteronomy 31:18).
In another serendipitous “coincidence,” Esther’s cousin Mordechai happened to be in the right place at the right time and overheard a plot to assassinate Ahasuerus. Mordechai dutifully reported the plot, and the culprits were apprehended. The king’s journal recorded the event, but in the meantime, Mordechai’s good deed went unrewarded.
Mordechai was a devout Jew. He refused to prostrate himself before the Persian aristocracy; only God was worthy of worship. Haman, the king’s chief officer, noticed this. He was a proud man, and Mordechai’s obstinance infuriated him. Haman set his face toward the destruction of the entire Jewish people. He cast purim, or “lots,” in order that chance would determine the date on which he planned to exterminate Mordechai and the rest of the Jews. The lot fell on the thirteenth of Adar. Haman went before the king and obtained an irrevocable decree to ensure that his evil design would be accomplished.
Yet “the lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD” (Proverbs 16:33). “Thirteen” is a highly significant number in Hebrew gematria. It is the sum of the numerical values of three Hebrew letters: alef (1), cheit (8), and dalet (4). These three letters spell out the LORD’s most important attribute—he is echad, that is, “one” (Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:29).
Mordechai learned of Haman’s genocidal plan and quickly informed Esther, instructing her to approach the king and implore his intervention on behalf of the Jewish people. Esther’s response informs us of the dire situation: no one was permitted to approach the king unless he or she was summoned. Anyone who dared to enter the throne room of his or her own volition would be put to death unless the king extended his scepter to receive that person.
Mordechai immediately understood that Esther’s appointment as queen had been no mere coincidence. He admonished Esther that she had been placed in her position “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).
The Turn of Events
Esther trusted in the mercy of God and approached the king, risking her life. He extended the scepter, welcoming her into his presence. She invited him and Haman to join her for a banquet. Here once again we see the Almighty working behind the scenes. Hidden in the Hebrew text of Esther 5:4, in the phrase “let the king and Haman come today” (Yavo HaMelech V’haman Hayom), the Tetragrammaton appears—the four letters that spell the personal name of the God of Israel. Undetectable in any translation, the Eternal leaves his signature behind the text.
Haman’s fury toward Mordechai continued to burn. He had gallows built for the sole purpose of hanging the devout Jew who refused to bow before him. Meanwhile, Esther requested that the king and Haman attend a second banquet. Haman planned to use this opportunity to ask for the king’s permission to hang Mordechai.
But “fortune” was not on Haman’s side. The king couldn’t sleep that night. He asked someone to read him his journal, hoping at least to pass the time. The king heard, perhaps for the first time, that Mordechai had saved his life; furthermore, nothing had been done to reward him. Just at that exact moment, Haman showed up to request Mordechai’s death. Dramatic irony ensued as Haman was instead instructed to honor Mordechai with a parade through the city.
Esther exposed Haman’s plot at the banquet that night, and as “fate” had it, Haman was hanged on the gallows intended for Mordechai.
Though the royal decree was irrevocable, the Jews were allowed to take up arms and defend themselves. Against terrible odds, they defeated their enemies. The day that was intended for their death became a day of celebration, to be “remembered and kept throughout every generation” (Esther 9:28).
Today the Feast of Lots—Purim—is celebrated with merriment, festive foods, and the reading and reenactment of the scroll of Esther. Purim is a time to remember that even though we may not see pillars of fire and talking animals, our heavenly Father is always at work around us in the places we go and the people we meet. He will leave nothing to chance.