We’re continuing our sermon series about EYEWITNESS Easter accounts where we read reports from people who saw Jesus come back to life with their own eyes.
We heard from a group of three women at the tomb.
We heard from Mary Magdalene a bit later.
We heard from 2 disciples on a road trip to Emmaus.
We heard from about 20 disciples in a locked room.
In total on Easter Sunday, there’s around 25 eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ resurrection.
In 4 different locations.
At 4 different times.
That’s a lot of proof.
And yet…maybe you’re not convinced…
Have you ever played the game of OLD MAID before?
What happens is you are dealt a hand of cards. Once it’s your turn you draw cards from any other player on the table. The goal is to get pairs until you run out of cards in your hand. And you never, ever want to get the Old Maid.
Which I’m not sure why anyone doesn’t want the Old Maid.
Generally speaking – I’d love an Old Maid.
It’d be great to have someone help around the house…but I digress.
What happened when I was growing up is my dad used to take his hand.
He’d spread it out in a fan.
He’d take one card and put it up…enticing-like.
And he’d say, “You should take this one. Trust me. It’ll be good.”
And I’d believe him.
Eventually. I didn’t take that card.
I was burned too many times.
I was skeptical.
Maybe you’ve gotten the Old Maid too many times.
Maybe you’ve been burned too often.
Maybe you’ve believed too many sinful people who have let you down too many times.
Maybe you’re skeptical about Jesus.
Today we’ll look an eyewitness account from a guy that was filled with skepticism. Our goal is to listen to how Jesus transforms his skepticism to faith – and see how we might transform ours into faith. Before we begin, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Eyewitness Account
Thomas’ eyewitness account comes from John 20. It starts in verses 24 with a caveat, “Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.“ It doesn’t say what Thomas was doing when Jesus appeared to all of the other disciples. Picture what you’d like. Maybe he was out for a walk. Maybe he was visiting a relative.
I like to think he was out getting coffee.
Probably a Venti black coffee.
And as he was sipping the coffee – because the coffee is taking his mind off the terrible events that have happened recently - he sighs.
This is really awful.
We spent years following that guy.
He’s no Messiah.
And we’ve got no hope.
As Thomas gets close to the door of the house, he takes a deep breath.
They are my friends. I should try and cheer them up. Get them ready to move on.
But from within the house –
Thomas doesn’t hear sadness.
He doesn’t hear crying.
Thomas has to really knock on the door to get them to hear him over their talking.
Finally, the door bursts open:
Alive! Thomas! He’s alive.
We saw him. We saw him. We saw him.
Thomas – we touched him. We put our fingers in his hands. We put our hands into his side.
Jesus’ resurrection is real!
And this goes on for a while.
Thomas’ friends trying to share their exuberance with their friend.
Ya’ll are crazy.
I don’t know happened. If you had too much to drink or you’re hallucinating.
But.. I do know what didn’t happen.
Jesus didn’t visit you.
He isn’t alive.
When will you guys get it through your thick skulls!
But one of them approaches:
We aren’t crazy.
We aren’t drunk.
Look around. There’s like 20 of us in the room.
20 of your closest, most sincere, loving friends in this room.
All of whom are telling you the truth – Jesus is alive!
We saw it with our eyes.
We touched him with our hands.
We’re telling you with our words.
Doesn’t that count for something?
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (v.26)
One week later.
Same time of day.
Only this time…
Thomas is with them.
Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” (v.26)
Then, Jesus made a bee-line for Thomas.
Hey friend. “Do you see me?” I’m right here.
Put your finger here. That’s where the nails were.
Put your hand into my side. Isn’t that what you wanted?
While you’re at it. Close your eyes and listen…Can you hear my lungs breathing?
Put your ear against my chest. That’s my heart.
If you won’t listen to your friends.
Listen to me:
Stop doubting and believe. (v.27)
To which Thomas.
Doubting, skeptical Thomas.
Can only say:
“My Lord and my God!” (v.28)
In other words:
II. Resurrection Truth
There it is. Thomas’ eyewitness account.
An account that has made Thomas forever known as Doubting Thomas.
Which – not super flattering.
I think, anxious Thomas, kinda-believing Thomas. or even average, everyday common Thomas would have been preferable.
But Doubting Thomas it is…and that’s important. Because his skepticism leads us to three incredible resurrection truths:
(1) Jesus Rose from the Dead
Fourth time it’s been key truth #1. It’ll keep coming.
But for real this time – because if last week’s account of 20 some odd people seeing, feeling, touching the risen Jesus … if that wasn’t enough.
Then, Thomas’ account is for you.
If you don’t believe this happened, Thomas’ words are for you.
He says, “I get it. I was skeptical too. Some guy dying and rising for the forgiveness of sins? It sounds crazy. It doesn’t happen. But it did. I saw him with my own eyes. I touched him with my own hands. I did a thorough investigation – And it led me to this truth: Jesus is alive!”
And here’s the really cool part.
If Jesus is really alive.
Then so is his forgiveness.
Even for the doubter.
Because…notice what Jesus does when he enters the room.
The first thing he says is: “Peace to you.”
That “you” is plural.
It is all encompassing.
It includes Thomas.
Jesus didn’t say, “Peace be to most of you…but not you Thomas. You can sit over there and be anxious for a bit.”
Jesus brought real forgiveness.
Even to the doubter.
Because maybe you’ve been doubting God.
Maybe you doubt this resurrection.
Maybe you’ve been doubting this Jesus thing.
Maybe you’ve never believed before.
Maybe you doubt God is with you, that God cares for you, that God loves you.
And listen to Jesus’ voice:
“Peace be to you.”
(2) Faith is a Gift
Thomas had said, “Unless I see Jesus with my own eyes and touch him with my own hands, I will not believe.”
Stop and listen to what just happened.
Sinful, imperfect Thomas just gave Holy, Righteous God…an ultimatum.
God doesn’t owe Thomas anything.
And yet – God gives Thomas exactly what he asks for.
He GIFTS Thomas exactly what he asked for.
He gives him the opportunity to be an eyewitness.
He gives Thomas faith.
And in fact, go a bit farther:
Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (vs. 29)
People who haven’t seen Jesus.
Who is Jesus talking about?
You see Jesus?
Dear believer, he’s talking about you.
But don’t get a big head. Listen again to Jesus’ words:
Blessed means given a gift.
And if you believe in Jesus…
If you believe that some dude died 2000 years ago, came back to life, and in him you are forgiven of all your sins?
That…is a gift.
A miraculous gift.
Don’t forget that.
I was talking with a woman the other day who was pretty excited to tell me that she got saved.
I said, “Oh. That sounds nice. What do you mean?”
And she said, “Well…I was already living a pretty perfect life. So, I though I might as well do it and decide to bring Jesus into my life. And Pastor, you should have seen it. I really did it.”
Did you catch that?
I did it. I did it. I did it.
I thought she said that she “got saved.”
But what she meant was, “I saved myself.”
Here’s the thing:
Faith isn’t something you do.
Faith isn’t something that you make happen.
Faith isn’t something that you get down on the ground, clench really hard and will into happening.
Faith is a gift of God.
If the devil has made you think that it’s something you do – be careful. It’s a line of thinking that leads to two scenarios:
(1) Pharisaical. AKA – Trust that I’m really awesome at believing.
(2) Despair. Because I’ll never be able to bring myself to believe this.
In both of those instances, faith isn’t in Jesus.
Faith is in oneself.
And that’s NOT saving faith.
Friends, faith is a gift.
Take a moment.
Give thanks to God for your Savior Jesus, yes.
But also gives thanks to God for your gift of faith.
(3) The Gift of Faith Comes through the Gospel
Because maybe you’re thinking – “God! I want this gift of faith. How are you going to send it?”
Maybe you can send me it via USPS?
But look at what John writes right after this eyewitness account. He says this: Jesus did many other miracles in the presence of his disciples – some that we didn’t even get to hear about – but these words are written – why? – that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (v.30-31)
Faith is a gift that comes through God’s Word.
Faith is a gift that comes through the words about Jesus.
Faith is a gift that comes from hearing about your Savior.
Scripture says this, “Faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:8,9)
There’s not any fireworks.
There isn’t any magic incantations.
There isn’t any incredible 60 day fast that you need to do in order to cleanse your body and pray yourself into the kingdom of faith.
You simply need to hear the Gospel.
Because the Gospel brings the gift of faith.
How does it do that?
Because it’s not just some person’s words.
It’s the Word of God Himself.
The all-powerful, all loving, doing everything it can to reveal to you Jesus’ saving work to get you to heaven: God’s Word.
That leads me to two very simple WHAT NOWs:
(1) Immerse Yourself in God’s Word
Because if you have doubts, if you are unsure, if you are a skeptic…
The cure is not an ultimatum to God.
The cure is God’s Word.
His gentle, powerful, faith creating Word.
I love you.
I died for you.
I rose for you.
If you want a stronger faith – study God’s Word.
In church. In a group. With others. On your own. In your family.
If you think your faith will grow without God’s Word – that’s like thinking your home garden will grow without any water.
It won’t happen.
Some of ya’ll need to hear God’s Word on this. Immerse yourself in the only thing that gifts faith in order to grow your faith: God’s Word.
(2) Share God’s Word
Because you probably know someone who is a skeptic.
You probably know someone who is unsure.
You probably know someone who is doubting.
You might even think – I don’t know what needs to be done.
You know the solution.
It’s God’s Word.
Bring them God’s Word.
Tell them about Jesus.
Tell them about the Savior.
Because it is through that message of God’s Word and only through that message of God’s Word that God gifts faith. Why it’s so important to share it with others.
Go and tell!
We recently got a cat.
I know. I know…this sounds like a confessional.
But, it’s true. After 33 years of claiming that I would never own a cat, I caved, and I did.
And it’s been fun.
She enjoys keeping us safe from any fuzz balls and dust balls that she sees.
She loves to go hunting for leaves.
She even enjoys a playful, piercing bite to my front toe.
But the other day, my wife told me that she had done something crazy. Julianna texted me that we needed to close the windows so that the cat couldn’t climb the screen.
I said, “Yeah. How could she do that?”
Julianna said, “I see holes in the screen right now.”
I said, “Those are probably from bugs or some severe storm.”
She said, “I’m pretty positive it’s from the cat.”
I said, “Oh yeah. Prove it. How do you know?”
My wife texted me a photo of the cat climbing the screen.
Eyewitnesses are important. They are verbal proclaims of the visual truth. They are the difference between…
Fiction and non-fiction.
A fairy tale and history.
A lie and truth.
Over the next couple of weeks, we will be starting our sermon series called EYEWITNESS. It’s all about the eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. I think we need to do this because the resurrection of Jesus is too big a deal to rely on hearsay, to trust maybes and to listen to theories.
Our goal today is to look at a real eyewitness accounts…
Of real people…
Who had real interactions…
With the really risen Jesus…
As real proof of your real salvation.
Before we begin, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Mary’s Background
The first eyewitness account that we are going to look at comes from a woman named Mary Magdalene. What interesting about Mary is that she doesn’t play a big part in Jesus’ three years of ministry on earth. In fact, there’s very little that is written about her except for this:
Mary Magdalene, out of whom Jesus had driven out seven demons. (Mark 16:9)
It’s not even a full sentence. Just a passing adjective comment.
But…one that’s pretty heavy.
She had been possessed by 7 demons. Evil spirits. Fallen angels. Powerful. They had taken hold of her mind. Something that Bible theorists will suggest happens from dabbling in the demonic activity (the occult, psychics, blood sacrifices) and excessive drug use.
Regardless how it happened to Mary, we know it was terrible.
She had no control of her personality.
She was a prisoner in her own mind.
In a state of deep depression.
With a helplessness that doesn’t go away.
Except, it did.
Mary was possessed.
Jesus healed her.
I don’t know exactly how, but if it is anything like Jesus’ other miracles, then it was probably as simple as Jesus lifting his hand and saying:
Which…Can you imagine?
If you’ve ever had a counselor help you with a breakthrough.
Or a pastor help you grasp God’s forgiveness.
Or a fatal diagnosis that a doctor diagnosed, prescribed medicine and helped you defeat.
You know the kind of deep connection that Mary had with Jesus.
That’s why she had become a follower of his:
She had been trapped, Jesus freed her.
She had been guilty, Jesus brought her forgiveness.
She had been depressed, Jesus brought her joy.
She had been lonely, Jesus brought her family.
She had been hopeless, Jesus made her hopeful.
He was violently, publicly, cruelly crucified on a cross.
And all of her hope?
All of her joy?
All of her sanity…
Started to slip away….
She could feel the devil’s grip tightening on her again.
II. The Eyewitness Account
That’s why she got up so early Sunday morning.
You see -- Jesus had been killed Friday evening. They buried him. She would have gone to his grave to mourn, but they have this Sabbath rule where you can’t go to visit the dead on a Saturday.
But Saturday was over.
It was still dark.
It’s not like she was sleeping anyways.
She threw on her sandals.
Fastened on her cloak.
And walked off to her friend’s house.
KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!
“What do you want?”
“It’s Sunday. We were going to go to his grave. We were going to go to Jesus’ grave so that we can honor him.”
“But Mary. It’s not even light out yet. It’s still night time. It’s…just gonna take me a second while I get ready.”
As they walked through the slowly evaporating darkness, it was mostly quiet.
Whenever her friends tried to make small talk, Mary quieted them. “We’ve just gotta get to Jesus’ grave.”
As they approached the garden, Mary worked into a sprint walk.
She began opening up the bottle of perfume she had brought to pour on his grave and anoint his body.
“Mary, did you think about how we were going to get into the grave? There is that giant stone that the soldiers put there to make sure that no one could get in. I saw some of those guys. They’re built like models. It took about 5 of them to move it, I don’t see how we…”
She stopped talking.
Off in the distance was Jesus’ grave.
The giant stone?
It was moved.
Immediately, Mary burst into tears:
“What did they do? What have they done? They couldn’t just leave him alone. Those jerks! Those losers! How could they do this? How could they leave us like this? Without even a chance…to heal.”
She broke down.
Her friends tried to console her.
But Mary shrugged them off.
She turned around and sprinted back towards town.
She could barely see where she was going with tears clouding her vision.
She made her way to where some of the twelve disciples were staying.
She pounded at the door.
She screamed at the door.
She made a commotion till their let her in:
“They took his body. They took his body. They book his body…the tomb is empty!”
Two of the disciples rushed out.
They sprinted to see what she was saying.
And Mary tried to follow, but she grew too tired.
Her legs got wobbly.
She slammed her back against tree trunk.
And fell to the floor.
After sobbing for a good 15 minutes, She stood up.
She didn’t have any tears left.
She had to get to the bottom of this.
She had to get back to the tomb and find some kind of a clue…a witness…a footprint that would lead her to Jesus’ body.
She went back to the tomb.
Her friends were gone.
The disciples were gone.
The stone…was still gone.
This time…she took a deep breath…and approached the tomb.
Inside the tomb, she found some men.
Dressed in white.
A gleaming, blinding white light.
Radiating from their clothes.
Radiating from their faces.
Both sitting on the bier where Jesus’ body had been.
Between them? Grave clothes. Folded ever so nicely, ever so gently, as if they were no longer necessary.
“Woman, why are you crying?” they asked.
“They have taken my Lord away! And I don’t know where they have put them!”
Mary turned around. The men were nice. And it was strange that they were glowing, but…she didn’t have time. She needed to find his body.
Outside the tomb, someone else.
Hard to tell who – with the tears blurring her vision.
It was probably the gardener.
“Woman, why are you crying?”
This is the one. He must have taken the body. He must have moved it at the requests of the Pharisees!
“Tell me sir. Tell me…Please…Where did you take his body? Why did you leave the grave….empty?”
The air was still.
Mary’s breath paused for a moment.
She had heard that voice before.
She had heard that voice teach her about God.
She had heard that voice proclaim forgiveness.
She had heard that voice drive away her own demons!
It was Jesus!
“Teacher!” She cried as she grabbed a hold of him with a hug.
As she hugged, she knew it was real! She felt his shoulders.
She held him by the back.
She felt the warmth of his breath.
Jesus was alive.
III. Resurrection Truth
This is the eyewitness account of Mary.
It is an eyewitness account that is recorded for us in Scripture.
The guy who wrote it? John – he was one of the disciples that went running to the tomb after Mary told him it was open!
And the book of John? It was written down and passed around at a time when Mary Magdalene would have still been alive.
And she didn’t say “Nah, man. That’s wrong. It didn’t happen this way.”
She said, “That’s the truth.”
There are three really important divine truths that we need to take home with us today.
(1) Jesus Rose from the Dead
Granted. You might be skeptical of that truth.
Because most people when they are dead? They can’t do much. Their bodies just lie there and slowly decompose.
And even people who are living – they haven’t figured out a way to bring people that are dead back to life either.
But if this is true…
When Jesus was dead, he figured out one thing that no one else could ever figure out while they were alive – conquering death itself!
If you’re skeptical, Mary’s account is for you. Because think about how long it took her recognize that Jesus was alive.
She saw the immovable stoned – moved and her first reaction?
“They took his body.”
She went into the tomb and saw two angels –glowing with divine splendor. Her reaction?
“They took his body!”
She went outside the tomb and saw Jesus – but was so overcome with emotion that she says to Jesus,
“You must have taken his body!”
She wasn’t wrong.
It isn’t until Jesus…
Calls her name…
That she realizes the incredible truth right in front of her!
Friends, you might be dealing with sadness.
You might be dealing with difficulties in your marriage.
With challenges at work.
With a financial crisis.
With a terrifying diagnosis.
With guilt, shame, and sin.
And sometimes that can all cover our hearts and close our eyes and make us say, “There is no HOPE in this world! This Jesus’ thing can’t be true.”
When that happens…
Hear Jesus’ voice…
He’s calling to you.
“I am alive.”
(2) The Work of Salvation is Finished
Check out verse 17:
“Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
The reason Jesus came to earth was to win your salvation.
He came to suffer death for your sins.
He came to earn your way to heaven.
He came to pay for eternal life.
If he’s heading up to heaven, guess what?
That work is done.
Granted – that can be hard to believe.
It’s like Easter weekend. Maybe you are planning on having relatives to your house. Maybe you wanted to clean for your relatives -- so you make a check list: Sweep the floor, dust the counters, disinfect the countertops, clean the bathrooms, do the laundry, make the beds, clean up the toys, etc.
And you go to work.
And you come home and….
Your husband says, “Surprise! I did it already. It’s finished. You don’t have to clean anymore!”
How do you respond?
Probably…by sweeping the floor, dusting the counters, disinfecting the countertops, etc.
When Jesus tells you that it is finished.
It is finished.
Your salvation is won.
Your sins are forgiven.
Eternal life is yours.
Heaven is your home!
“It is finished.”
You don’t need to try and earn his love.
You don’t need to complete your salvation.
You don’t need to pay your way into heaven by working hard and becoming perfect.
Jesus did it for you.
(3) Go and Tell
Because right after Mary realizes that Jesus is standing right in front of her…
Having conquered sin and death…
Renewing her hope again…
She’s overcome with emotion.
She holds onto him.
She doesn’t want to ever go back to guilt and loneliness and despair. Never again!
But Jesus says something interesting:
“Do not hold onto me. Instead, go and tell.” (v.17)
Because there were others who had lost their hope.
There were others who were in despair.
There were others who were shacked to guilt.
Mary’s eyewitness message – would change that.
She would give them hope.
She would give them joy.
She would give them freedom.
Friends, there are still people like that today.
There are people who don’t know their Savior.
People who don’t know the resurrection story.
People who think Easter is all about sugary yellow marshmallow chicks
They are overcome with guilt.
They are dealing with a lack of joy.
They are struggling with despair.
Can you do me a favor?
Listen to your Savior.
Go and tell.
Later today at your Easter party, turn to the people who didn’t come to worship to celebrate this message and share the story of Easter. Go and Tell.
Later this evening when you are on your phones, take a note or two from this sermon and share on social media. Go and tell.
Tomorrow morning as you head to work – gather around the coffee pot, talk with your coworkers about why you liked Easter and how amazing this message of the risen Savior is. Go and tell.
And understand this.
You won’t be just giving them a story.
You won’t be just telling them a fairy tale.
You’ll be giving them true hope.
Do you know what a guy romper is?
Apparently, it’s a thing. A romper is a shirt and short combo. It’s a onesie – first made popular by women and that kind of makes sense. But the other day someone told me that they had made it into a guy thing. I didn’t believe. I doubted.
Maybe you’re doubting.
But it’s real. I saw it. Pictures of guy’s rompers unbuttoned near the top and exposing manly chest hairs in all their glory.
Sometimes things are unbelievable.
Sometimes things are “guy romper” unbelievable.
And somethings things are dead guy, put in the tomb, and three days later risen from the dead unbelievable.
Do you believe the unbelievable? Or do you doubt?
Today we’re going to hear about a disciple who doubted and we’re going to listen to how Jesus handled the situation. My hope is that it helps to remove some of your doubts. Before we do that, let’s pray:
I. Waiting to See?
Our lesson for today comes from John 20:24. It says: Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.
Now…I don’t know what Thomas was doing.
Maybe he was out grabbing some Chinese takeout.
Maybe he was working out with his run club.
Maybe he was applying for jobs – since the disciple gig fell through.
For whatever the reason Thomas missed the very first Easter. When all the other disciples were filled with joy, wonder and amazement at the appearance of the resurrected Lord, Thomas was being filled with disappointment as he waited in line at the grocery store with only one checkout attendant.
So…when Thomas carefully approached the unmarked apartment that the disciples had made their hideout, he braced himself for the sadness that he was about to encounter: Grown men crying. Grown men scared. Grown men grieved by the reality that the Savior that they loved, that they devoted years of their life to, that they hoped in, was dead.
Thomas looked in his shopping bag.
I hope this bucket of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream will do the trick. Passover Pecan – it’s a new flavor.
But as Thomas opened the door, he didn’t find the melancholy that he expected.
Thomas! Where were you? I can’t believe you missed it!
It’s Jesus. He’s alive. We saw him.
I didn’t believe it at first either…but it’s really him. Truly him…I touched his hands. I felt his side!
It’s Jesus! It’s Jesus! Jesus is alive!
Thomas’ words had quite the bite. Enough! Stop being crazy. I don’t know what happened or what you think you saw – but whatever it was …it wasn’t Jesus. He’s dead. His body bled out. His lungs collapsed. The soldiers, who are paid professionals at killing people, killed him. They took his body down from the cross. They confirmed his death. They brought his body to others who confirmed his death. Our friend, Joseph, buried him! I think he would have stopped if he had noticed the lungs moving. But he didn’t. They buried him. They closed the grave…Do you know why?
The other disciples humored him.
Because he was DEAD!! D.E.A.D. DEAD! Dead – dead. Dead…dead…DEAD! And our discipleship is dead! If you want to stay here and make up stories and follow some imaginary friend, go right ahead. As for me, I’m going to go live. I won’t follow what’s dead. Because dead things are dead and dead things stay…DEAD!
It was quiet for a moment. Thomas’ chest stopped speaking to catch his breath – as his blood pressure sky rocketed.
Then, someone spoke.
Thomas. I know how you feel. I felt the same way. Even when I saw him…I thought it was just a ghost.
But then…Then, I touched him. I felt the hand that had helped me away from my sinful life. Then, I put my finger into the nail marks and I placed my hand into his side. I saw him eat – bread and fish --- just like a living human being. I thought he was dead. But, Thomas, I saw Him. I felt him. I was with him.
And all the other disciples concurred. They took turns telling how they had seen him, how they had touched him, how they had felt him. Surely, they couldn’t all be seeing things. Surely, they couldn’t all have been tricked. Surely, they couldn’t all be so foolish.
And Thomas listened.
And Thomas thought.
And Thomas laid down one simple ultimatum:
“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands with my own eyes and touch the wound mark on his side with my own hands – I will not believe.” (20:25)
That’s Thomas. Affectionately known forevermore as Doubting Thomas. Which is unfortunate. Perhaps the man would have preferred to be known as Believing Thomas or Ravishing Thomas or Muscular Thomas. But he’s remembered mostly for one thing – doubting.
What about you? Is that the adjective that could describe you? Do you doubt or do you believe that Jesus rose from the dead? Do you believe he’s your Savior?
You have basically the same information:
You know that he died. Thomas knew that.
You have people telling you that Jesus rose – Thomas did too.
You know that typically dead people stay dead. That was something that Thomas knew and Thomas believed…deeply.
To be fair, Thomas had the miracles:
He saw the blind man see – and when he doubted it – he asked the blind man how many fingers he was holding up – and the blind man told him. Repeatedly.
He saw the lame man walk…and when he doubted it – he asked the man to stand – and he started doing the Electric Slide.
He saw the men with leprosy cured…and when he doubted it – and after much coaxing – he touched skin that felt as fresh and new as a Neutrogena model’s face.
Yet when Thomas is faced with the biggest and most impressive miracle of all – he doesn’t believe.
He gives an ultimatum.
Good idea? Bad idea? Giving an ultimatum to God. That’s like a little preschooler turning to his parent and saying, “Unless I see these so called ‘germs’, then I won’t wash my hands…!” The ultimatum is silly. The child should trust the parent. He knows way more. She understands way more.
And the ultimatum for God is just as silly. The child – (read: human) – should trust the parent— (read: God). He knows way more. He understands way more.
He is way more!
And yet. We aren’t that unfamiliar with ultimatums. In fact, Thomas’ nickname, did you see it? It’s Didymus. Didymus means “twin.” It probably meant that Thomas was a twin.
But I can’t help but notice how my language, sometimes, twins Thomas’?
Yes, God. I’ll believe that you’re with me as a pastor – as long as you add 12 new church members by the end of the week.
Yes God. I’ll believe that you’re with us, as long as you get groundbreaking going on the preschool by next Thursday.
Yes, God. I’ll believe that you love me as long as you stop people from being mean to me.
And when I talk like that. I can’t help but think that my last name must be Didymus.
I can’t help but think that I am Thomas’ brother.
Are you our relative too?
Sure, I’ll become a believer in Jesus – when he appears to me and proves it.
I’ll trust you more God…if you find me a job by the end of the week.
I will be an awesome believer – once you get me the perfect boyfriend.
I’ll really devoted myself to you – when you finally give me a kid.
I’ll believe in God – if he heals me from this cancer.
Here’s the deal with ultimatums -- If anyone should be giving anyone ultimatums, it’s God giving it to us.
He created the earth.
He provides for it.
He created you.
He provides for you.
He sent his Son.
He lived perfectly for you.
He rose from the dead.
He is the one with the right to an ultimatum because he’s the One with the power!
And (to be honest) he has given an ultimatum? Wanna hear it?
John 3 says this, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life…but whoever does not believe will be condemned, because they haven’t believed in his Son!”
In other words:
God came off his throne.
God became human.
God lived 33 perfect years when you couldn’t.
God died innocently in your place so you wouldn’t have to.
God rose triumphantly to prove it to you!
Finally, God used someone in your life – maybe a mom, maybe a dad, maybe a Sunday School Teacher…maybe me right now – to bring this message to you.
And if, after all that, your response is: I don’t believe it.
Well… God says you’ll believe it one day.
One day – when it won’t be a matter of faith.
One day when you feel the hand of his wrath.
One day when it’s too late.
II. Believing to See!
But don’t believe out of fear. Believe in the risen Jesus because it’s true.
Fast forward our story one week. The day of the week is the same. The time of day is the same. The cast of characters is the same. The door is locked the same. And Jesus appeared among them – the same. Listen to this. Verse 26 is almost a carbon copy of verse 19: Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
But one thing is different. This time Thomas is there. And Jesus walks right up to him.
“Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (v.27)
Thomas felt the flesh of his hand.
Thomas felt the ridged remainders of the nail marks.
Thomas felt the jagged edges that the spear had left behind.
Thomas looked Jesus in the eyes.
And this time? He fell to the ground:
“My Lord and My God!” (v.28)
Jesus lifted him up. Jesus hugged him. Jesus forgave him.
And then, Jesus said something very interesting:
“Because you have seen me, you have believed. Thomas, blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
Is that you?
Do you believe even though you haven’t seen?
Do you believe even though you’ve only heard?
Then, you are blessed.
The blessings are numerous:
You have forgiveness with God.
You have forgiveness from all of your doubts.
You have forgiveness for your unbelief.
You have peace with God.
You have joy in your salvation.
You have God’s love.
You have none of God’s wrath and all of his blessing.
You have the promise that you will see him.
Can you picture that? That’s what heaven is. The moment when you and I will see our Savior with our own eyes!
You will see the nail marked hands – a testimony to his love for you.
You will see the flesh wound in his side – a testimony to his compassion for you.
You will see Jesus – move and breathe and being alive – a testimony to His Power.
Thomas believed because he saw.
Don’t ask to see and then believe; but believe and you will see.
That’s what faith is. Hebrews says this, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for; and certain of what we do not see.”
And what do we hope for? That we too will conquer death. That we too will be in heaven. That we too will be with God. That we too are forgiven!
And what we do not see? Jesus’ hands. Jesus’ feet. Jesus’ side. We don’t see the risen Lord Jesus.
But just like Thomas didn’t see Jesus; it doesn’t mean that Jesus isn’t risen.
And, in fact, it almost makes you wonder if Thomas’ absence wasn’t God ordained.
God knew Thomas would doubt.
And God knew we would doubt.
So, God led Thomas away.
And Thomas doubted.
But then Jesus appeared.
And Thomas’ doubts went away.
And if doubting Thomas, doubting skeptic, I’ve seen Jesus do all kinds of miracles, but I won’t believe this miracle to be true – Thomas doubts, but then believes.
That means the truth? Is true.
It’s not a myth.
It’s not fake new.
It’s not a fairy tale.
Jesus has risen. You are his.
Stop doubting and believe. Amen.
“Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But Thomas said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:24-29)
Last week was Easter! IT WAS AWESOME! The breakfast was delicious. The flowers smelled sweet. The church was full. The dresses were beautiful. The music was inspiring. Most important of all we heard the foundational message of our Christian faith: Christ is Risen! HE is risen indeed!
You went back to work. Your boss filled your desk with things to do. The pollen took over the city of Raleigh. Traffic was hazarodous as always. Coworkers were rude as always. Your family wasn’t very kind as always. The news was filled with more sad stories of humanity’s sinfulness.
Did it appear at all like Easter was a mirage? Did it feel like it’s a nice story, but how could the message of Easter – Christ risen and sins forgiven – be real.
Did you at all start to doubt?
In today’s lesson we’re going to her a story that literally took place one week after Easter. While some of the disciples were undoubtedly still filled with the Easter Gospel, others…at least one, was filled with doubt.
Here's the story of Doubting Thomas.
“Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came." Maybe he was out getting some food. Maybe he was out for an evening walk to clear his head. Maybe he was returning the Old Testament scroll he had been searching for signs of Jesus’ return to the local Hebrew Library.
Whatever the case. Understand this: Thomas missed it! He didn’t get to see Jesus on Easter Sunday. He didn’t get to experience the initial joy of seeing the Lord alive and well with his fellow disciples.
So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
Can you imagine how excited they were to tell him? “So there we were sitting around in doom and gloom, frightened of the Pharisees, and talking about how awful it was Jesus had died, when BAM! There he was. Jesus. He looked just like him. The piercing eyes; the kind smiles; the gentle beckoning. At first, we thought it was real (I mean, I believed it more than Andrew did) but we thought he was a ghost. Then, he had us touch him. His wounds were right where the nails had been. The spear mark was right where John had seen it go into his side. He ate some food for us and it didn’t fall on the floor like it would if it were a ghost. Sure enough – Mary’s best fish recipe disappeared as fast as it does when Peter eats it. Thomas it was amazing! We saw the Lord. He’s alive!”
Instead of believing them. Instead of jumping for joy. Instead of joining in the celebration with his brothers who hours earlier had been as dismal and unbelieving as he had been, Thomas doubted.
“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Ever seen a magic trick before? If you’re like me, then the only reason you are watching magic is because you want to turn to your friends and tell them exactly how they did that trick. You want to prove it wrong. So…when Carl the Magician asks some kid to examine an egg and make sure it’s an ordinary egg, before he changes it into a real live baby chick, you start thinking, “If only he had asked me to examine it, then the trick wouldn’t have worked.”
Thomas felt like that. He felt that his friends had been duped. Or that his friends were duping him. He wanted to examine this supposed resurrected Lord of heaven and earth, because he doubted their story. He doubted their sanity.
He doubted Jesus.
He made his demands. He wanted to “See the nail marks in Jesus’ hands and put his finger where the nails were, and put his hand into Jesus’ side, then, (and only then) he promised that he would believe”
Ever felt like Thomas? Not just about a story that your friend told you, but about God’s Word? Ever doubted that Jesus is real? Ever doubted that Jesus didn’t exist? Ever doubted that this is all one big, useless, irreverent, irrelevant, cruel, and useless joke!?! (Everyone is keeping their necks stiff. Don’t want to be caught admitting to doubting Jesus in church.)
I’ll start us off then. I doubt. Yes, the supposed Pastor, the leader of this congregation, the “Professional Christian” struggles with doubt.
“Really? You think in Baptism sins are washed away? It’s just water and a few words. Do you see any sins washing off the child? Can’t see them. I doubt it.” “And Communion. Some bread and wine, yes. But Jesus’ body and blood? You can’t see it. I doubt it.”
“I’ve never actually seen a dead body rise from the dead…how can you tell that poor widow that she will see her husband again?”
Didymus, Thomas’ second name, means twin. Did you know that? Sometimes I feel like Thomas’ long lost cousin. I doubt.
Do you too? Are we triplets?
If so, then join me in panicking, because we are doubting God. The incredible, Almighty, Divine master of the Universe, who never lies, and in fact, cannot lie, and for whom nothing is impossible has been told, “I doubt it,” by measly peons like us.
That’s a terrible thing.
Because what happens when humans doubt each other? What if you saw a story on the news and you tell your friends all about it and they say, “I don’t think so. I doubt that’s what happened.” Don’t you get incredulous? “I saw it with my own two eyes. I swear.” They still doubt. Then you start yelling, “I mean it. I absolutely saw it. How can you doubt me?” Then, we pick up our bags and leave in a huff.
Is that how God will react to us? He should. How many times has he told us this stuff. How many times has he assured usof his love. How many times has he told us the exact truth of what he has done.
And yet we still doubt God!?!
God should shout at us.
He should leave us.
He should let us stew in our unbelief and eternal misery.
But God doesn’t.
He doesn't act as an impatient, angry, sinful human being, but as the loving, compassionate God who came down and died for our sins of doubt. Take a look at what Jesus did for Thomas. A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
Again – it’s the same amazing love as last week. Only this time Thomas isn’t just ignoring all of Jesus’ miracles, all of the Old Testament prophecies, the reports of the women, and Jesus’ own words –Thomas also had ignored his comrades in the ministry.
Jesus should call Thomas out and fire him from the Twelve.
But he doesn’t. He makes a second appears. He makes himself visible to Thomas. He comes in peace.
Then He, the Almighty Risen, taking orders from no one, God of the universe, responds to puny, sinful, Thomas’ three fold request. 27 He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hands and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
And Thomas? Well. He’s convinced. Doubting Thomas – becomes Seeing Thomas becomes Believing Thomas. But not just a “believe that Jesus is alive.” It’s greater than that: Thomas said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”
Brothers and sisters – Doubting Thomas was convinced. Are you?
Here’s the deal. God is coming at you. Today. Tomorrow. Everyday. He comes at you again and again patiently, reassuring you. God comes at you again and again –patiently, lovingly, reassuring you.
He wakes us up from our stupor by splashing the water of baptism over us – providing tangible evidence that we’ve been buried and risen with Him. He invites us to stretch out our hands and take and eat, and taste and drink and taste that all of our doubts and fears are groundless. He speaks softly in his Word. He says, “I love you.”
How wondrous that our risen Lord doesn't waste his best strength upbraiding us for littleness of faith. Instead, he pours his best efforts into up-building us: fanning dying embers into a roaring blaze.
It’s as if Jesus comes into the room a second time, a third time, a fifty-seventh time – to tell you yet again: “Yes. It’s true. I died for you. I rose for you. Through faith in me, you are forgiven. Stop, doubting, but believe.”
If you’ve found yourself repeating Thomas in his doubts of Jesus, may God also cause you to join Thomas after seeing Jesus yet again, “My Lord and My God!”
Remember our second lesson for today. James 1:6 says, “Do not doubt, because the one who doubts is like the wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” It’s like being a surfer on a wavy day. You might stay afloat for awhile, but then, you fall in. Maybe you get back up on your own, but you’ll lose your balance again. In fact, if you surf much like I do, then you’ll spend 99% of your time on this great sea of your life, doubting. Drowning.
How do you stop? Wince really hard? Tied a red ribbon on your finger? Lock yourself in your room never to see or run into anyone or anything that might make you doubt?
Scripture says, “Doubting is like being tossed by the wind.” Scripture also says that he who stands on God’s Word – stands on a Rock. (Mt. 7:24) A solid rock. A rock that gives us firm footing. A rock that keeps us afloat. A rock that saves us from drowning.
A rock that gives us confidence.
So. Go to Him. If you have doubts, go to God.
Don’t turn on your smart phone and ask Siri, “How do I know if God is real?” Then, listen to her read to you a capitalized and unpunctuated post from YahooAnswers.com and call it good.
Go to God! Pray to Him for courage. Pray to him for confidence. Run to your Bible and hear his gentle voice – “God loved the world (and you) so much that he gave his only Son that whoever believe in him will not perish, but have eternal life.” Join us in church to hear his powerful Word – “Sanctify them by the truth O Lord. God’s Word is truth!” (Jn. 17:17) Feel the gentle waters of your Baptism --- cooly touching you, gently consoling you -- “Your sins were washed away. You were made holy. You were made right with God…in the name of the Lord Jesus!” (1 Cor. 6:11) Approach the Lord’s Table to hear his confident word, “This is my body given for you. This is my blood given for you.” (1 Cor. 11:24-25) Then, taste his body broken for you. Taste the bitterness of his blood – shed for you. Find God right where he promises to be – in His Word – in his visible tangible word – Baptism and Lord’s Supper – Find God and be confident.
Is your child afraid of the dark? Maybe you too were once afraid of the dark. I was too. But, do you know what helps with that, a lot? Knowing that just down the hall—no matter how many times you run there for help, no matter how many times you scream out of fear, no matter how many times you shed tears because you doubt you’ll make it through the darkness alive…
…your parents – are right there waiting for you. Ready to assure you. Ready to wipe away your doubts.
That’s God. Always there. Always waiting. Always ready to assure you that I’m alive. I saved you. I love you. Amen.