This could have more than one meaning.
First, yes, it is better to receive the presence of the risen Christ through the church’s proclamation than through one’s sensual perception.
You would normally conclude that firsthand experience is better, but John is saying that the word of God is not a secondhand proclamation.
The risen Christ is present in the spoken word, in the testimony of those who walked and spoke with someone whom they had seen as dead and buried! And in grasping that testimony we grasp the Lord himself.
Christ is so present in the word that the testimony is an immediate presence, a touch to the spiritual senses that goes beyond the experience of Peter, or the women who followed Jesus, or Paul on the road to Damascus.
Is John also saying that those who witness to us from their encounters with the risen Lord did not have faith because they saw?
That can hardly be. They had a function and a mission that required they see in a particular way, or, as Jesuit theologian Father Karl Rahner puts it, that they take part in the miracle of seeing the physical body of the risen Jesus.
Faith was still required of them.
But there is yet another meaning here, and it is in the depths of intimacy in which Jesus meets us and in the lengths of self-disclosure he offers, not only to those who leap into faith as into the sea of belief, but to those for whom faith is a chore and a kind of refusal.
John, whose Christology is so high that it ran the risk of rejection by the early church, still insists almost violently on the physicality of this God-in-flesh. And here in the world beyond death, Jesus offers his physical being to the intimacy of touch.
There seems to be no length to which God will not go to capture in embrace his recalcitrant creature.-By Sister Miriam Pollard, OCSO