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Back to the Series  Enountering Jesus




ENCOUNTERING JESUS IN OUR DOUBT
JOHN 20:24-31

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
July 5, 2009


Please turn with me to John 20 - starting at verse 24.  We are in the midst of a series looking at Encountering Jesus - meeting Jesus at our times of deepest needs.  We’ve looked at Encountering Jesus in our loss and encountering Jesus in our fear.  This morning we’re going to be looking at encountering Jesus in our doubt.

Did you see this in the news?  Yesterday, President Obama attended a July 4th TEA Party Rally in Washington D.C. and announced that he was going to eliminate taxes for people earning over $250,000.

Maybe you saw this?  Michael Jackson admitted yesterday that he faked his death as a publicity stunt for his comeback concert tour.

Maybe this.  On Saturday - Iranian President Ahmadinejad said that the Jewish holocaust did take place - apologized to Israel for any hardship he may have caused - and in an effort to promote Israeli security renounced Hamas and offered to open Iran to any Palestians who want to relocate there.

One last attempt.  Bill Gates and Steve Jobs announced a new collaborative project of Microsoft and Apple to be released as the MicroPod.  In a related story, Bill Gates apologized for the Vista operating system.  He was quoted as saying, “What were we thinking?”

Doubtful.  Yes?

Having been inspired by Steve Y. - from Dispair.com  “Doubt - In the battle between you and the world - bet on the world.”

One of the things we don’t talk about much as Christians is our doubts - the gap between what we know intellectually and what we believe down deep in our hearts. 

Remember these words from Eden, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?” (Genesis 3:1 ESV)  Its an old trick of Satan getting us to doubt.  “Maybe I misunderstood God?”

The world - orchestrated by Satan - the world bombards us over and over again with philosophies and religions - crud from the world aimed at getting us to doubt God’s truth.  “Maybe Jesus isn’t the only way to God?  What if any path to God is the right one?  What if there is no God?” 

God forgives our sins.  We know that intellectually.  But we doubt it in our hearts.  Maybe because we have so much trouble forgiving ourselves.  If God forgives us why do we carry around so much guilt?  “I’ve messed up so bad.  Why should God forgive me?  How can I really be free of my past?  How could God every use someone like me?”

We know that Jesus loves us.  But, think about it.  Jesus loves everybody.   That’s a lot of people.  “Maybe God does listen to my prayers but why should He do anything about my problems?  Who am I?  If God loves me why do I feel so alone?  Maybe I’m just suppose to muddle through all this on my own.”

Somehow it seems wrong - as Christians - to talk about doubt.  “You’re a Christian.  All that’s settled.  Just believe.”  This morning we want to encounter Jesus in our doubts.

John - chapter 20 - starting at verse 24:  But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus - “Didymus” which is a Greek word meaning “twin” - Thomas may have had the nickname Didymus because he may have been a twin - we don’t know - But Thomas, one of the twelve, [nicknamed] Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.  So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!”  But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

Let’s pause.  Verses 24 and 25 focus on Thomas’ Doubt.  Let’s say that together, “Thomas’ doubt.”

The Sunday after the crucifixion was a day of loss and fear for the disciples.  Mary Magdalene and some other women had discovered the empty tomb.  Peter and John came to the tomb later.  But they left - having no explanation for what they had seen.  Later Mary would claim to have seen and talked with Jesus.  Throughout the day others would claim to have seen Jesus alive.  All of which was hard to process.

 

Theyd seen Jesus treated with inhuman brutality.  Watched as He struggled to carry His cross.  Heard the sound of hammer blows as nails were driven into His hands and feet.  Heard the thud of the cross being dropped into place.  They’d watched Him hang in agony.  Finally they had seen Him die - taken down off the cross - heard the deafening silence as the stone sank into place before the tomb.  It was impossible that Jesus should be alive.

 

By the evening of the third day after the crucifixion the disciples are hiding in a locked room - confused - hopeless - fearful - afraid of what their countrymen might do to them.

 

In that room Jesus comes and stands before His disciples.  He speaks words of reassurance, “Peace be with you.”  He shows them the wounds in his hands and side.  This isnt a ghost story - a mass hallucination.  The reality of Jesus’ resurrection breaks through into their lives.  The disciples believe.  They rejoice.  Jesus is alive.

Then Jesus commissions His disciples to share the Gospel - the reality of His resurrection - what theyve experienced - share it  with others, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send You.”  (John 20:1-23)

Then He’s gone.  A scene impossible to imagine unless we would have been there.  Life changing had we been there - which - we read in verse 24 - Thomas wasn’t.

 

So when Thomas shows up - verse 24 - the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!”  Which probably was an understatement.  They we’re probably tripping over their words - interrupting each other - bubbling with excitement - trying to tell Thomas what they had experienced. 

 

Thomas’ response?  Famous words:  “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

 

Regardless of what the other disciples tell Thomas he isn’t buying it.  Maybe he thinks they all imagined seeing Jesus.  Maybe they saw a vision.  But he isn’t buying the story of a bodily risen Jesus.

 

Not just that - but he won’t believe it - “I will not believe” - unless certain conditions are met.  “I’ve got to see the wounds for myself.  I’ve got to touch His wounds myself.  Physical contact with a real body.  I’m not going to be fooled by some vision thing.”

 

Let’s be careful here - and not sell Thomas short.  We need to understand where Thomas is coming from.

 

In the Gospels - Matthew, Mark, and Luke - Thomas gets mentioned briefly by name.  In John - he gets speaking roles in three scenes.

 

First - is in John 11 - the resurrection of Lazarus.  Jesus is out beyond the Jordan River with His disciples - preaching and baptizing - about a days journey from Bethany.  When messengers from Mary and Martha arrive telling Jesus that Lazarus is very sick.  After two days Jesus says, “Let’s go to Judea.”

 

Which prompts a discussion between Jesus and the disciples - an argument really - between Jesus and the disciples who thought the plan to go to Judea was crazy because the last time Jesus was there the Jews had tried to stone Him.

 

Jesus says, “No, we need to go because I need to awaken Lazarus.”  Literally, “Lazarus is dead.  Which is a good thing because when we get there you’re going to see the power of God at work.  Your faith is going to be strengthened.”

 

Thomas - responds to all that - by saying, “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.”  (John 11:1-16)  Its kind of an Eeyore moment, “We might as well go along and die with Jesus.”

 

What we see here is Thomas’ devotion to Jesus.  He doesn’t understand it all.  Its probably a lost cause.  The situation grim.  They’re going to die.  But he’s willing to go - to risk his life - to follow Jesus.  He even challenges the others to come along.

 

Hold onto that:  Thomas - as a disciple - is devoted to Jesus - even if it means death. 

 

In John 14 - the night Jesus is betrayed and arrested - at the Last Supper - Jesus is telling the disciples that He’s going away to prepare a place for them.  Remember this? “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places.”  Jesus is talking about His crucifixion - His return to the Father - the coming of the Holy Spirit.

 

Jesus says, “And you know the way where I’m going.”

 

Thomas - while the other disciples are just sitting there in lah-lah-land watching the matza get stale - Thomas is the one who asks, “Lord, we don’t know where you’re going, how do we know the way?”  (John 14:1-6)

 

What we see here is Thomas’ courage.  He’s devoted to Jesus - wants to be with Him.  So Thomas is going to ask the hard questions - even if he’s suppose to know the answer.  Even if the others ridicule him or don’t understand him.  He’s not going to just go along with things.  He’s gotta know.  He’s not afraid to speak up.

 

In both these scenes - what Thomas does is used by God to open up an opportunity for great revelation.  With Lazarus - because Thomas challenges the disciples to follow - later they’re there witnessing Jesus’ power over death.  At the Last Supper - Thomas’ question sets up Jesus’ response, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”  A awesome revelation about Who Jesus is.

 

Thomas is someone - like us - someone who’s devoted to Jesus - who desires to courageously follow Jesus - to obey God - to be used by God in His ministry - to serve Him.  If he’s convinced of the resurrection he will be 100% committed to the mission.

 

Having doubts doesn’t change all that - doesn’t mean that somehow we’re spiritual failures - that we’re out and everyone else is in.

 

Let’s be careful not to sell Thomas - or ourselves - short - because we may have doubts.

Verses 26 and 27 focus on Jesus’ Invitation.  Let’s say that together, “Jesus’ invitation.”

Verse 26:  After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas was with them.  Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”  Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger; and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

A week goes by - and the disciples are together again.  If you go back up to verse 19 - you’ll see that the scene here in verse 26 is almost exactly the same as it was when Jesus first appeared to the disciples on the day of His resurrection - back up in verse 19.  Verse 26 is almost instant replay.  But this time the difference is that Thomas is there with the other disciples.

That’s not an accident.  This whole scene is a set-up - arranged by God - specifically for Jesus to meet Thomas at his place of doubt.

Jesus begins with Thomas as He began with the disciples one week before, “Peace be with you.”

Jesus’ greeting, “Peace be with you” “Shalom” coming from God - the source of peace carries a whole lot more meaning that a trite, “How’s it going?”  Jesus is offering His peace.  The inner well-being - not as the world gives it - peace that comes from God’s presence with us.  Jesus speaking His peace into the midst of Thomas’ doubt.

Then Jesus meets Thomas’ conditions for belief.  Thomas’ “I won’t believe unless…”  Its an astounding invitation.  Can you imagine this?  “Go ahead and touch the wounds.  Put your hand in my side.”  Touch the holes left by the nails driven through here for your sins.  Put your hand in the place where the spear went through as I was dying for the sins of mankind.

We don’t know if Thomas actually went and put his finger in Jesus’ wounds or his hand in Jesus’ side.  If you were there would you have done it?  What a moment.

 

We need to see something more here.  Jesus’ invitation isn’t just about touching wounds.  Jesus is inviting Thomas to explore those wounds.  “Put your finger here.  Put your hand in here.”  There’s a significant intimacy in all that.  To reveal our wounds to someone else is to reveal the depths of who we are.  What goes on deep within us.

 

Jesus is inviting Thomas to come - with all of Thomas’ doubts - and Thomas’ wounds that drive those doubts - all the feelings that we often have - inadequacy - failure - loneliness - whatever the depths of what keeps us from believing that God really does love and care for us - and to see in the wounds of Jesus the reality of our own woundedness.  To experience intimacy with the resurrected Savior Who died for us.

When we see the wounds of Jesus - to hear His voice.  “Those wounds are there because I love you.  I know you have doubts.  I know you’re wounded.  But bring your wounds to Me.  Bring your heart to Me.  Be healed.”

That’s an amazing invitation that Jesus offers to each one of us.

Verses 28 and 29 focus on Thomas’ Faith.  Let’s say that together, “Thomas’ faith.”

Verse 28:  Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

You should underline that verse in your Bibles.  Thomas’ answer is the climax of the whole Gospel of John - what John has been driving at since chapter one:  “In the beginning was the Word… and the Word became flesh.”  (John 1:1,14).  Its the clearest statement of Jesus’ divinity in Scripture.

The Greek word that “Lord” translates “kurios” - the Greeks used that word to translate the Hebrew “Yahweh.”  Yahweh is the name of God that describes Him as self-existing - the “God Who Is” - who exists without beginning or end.  The God who causes existence.

God - here in verse 28 - is the Greek word “Theos” - meaning the one true God.

Thomas declares that Jesus is the God.  To look into the face of Jesus is to look into the face of God - the Almighty - the one true God.  For Thomas - there’s no doubt.  Only belief.  God has come to Him.  Whatever doubts he may have had Jesus has responded to.  God’s truth is revealed.  Jesus is the risen Lord - victorious over sin and sorrow and death - woundedness and doubt.

Then verse 29 - Jesus speaking to Thomas, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed?  Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

 

That’s a challenging statement - challenges us to act on God’s revealed truth.

 

Those who did not see and yet believed - notice the past tense - “did not see” - past tense - “and yet believed” - past tense - are the Old Testament saints who looked forward to the coming Messiah.  (S6E3) People like Abraham and Sarah - Isaac - Jacob - Joseph - Moses - and Rahab.  Those that the writer of Hebrews says, “Men of whom the world was not worthy.” 

 

Those who lived by faith - looking forward to what God had promised them.  And yet what they never saw in their time here on earth.  The realization of their faith in the incarnate and resurrected Jesus.  (Hebrews  11:1-40)

 

Thomas is privileged.  For 3 years hes followed Jesus all over Palestine.  Seen miracles.  Heard His teaching.  Asked Jesus questions.  Shared intimate moments.  Only a few men in all of history have had that privilege.  Then, in His doubt the resurrected Jesus physically comes to him - and he’s invited to touch the risen Savior.  Thomas believes.

 

On one hand Jesus is validating the belief of Thomas.  “Thomas, you got it right.”  On the other hand, is a challenge.  “Thomas, now that you believe what will you do?  How will your life change?”

 

The Apostle Thomas went to India to share the Gospel - to those who had not seen - to Malabar on the west coast of India - then to Madras on the east coast - where he was martyred - run though with a spear while he was praying.  Today there are around 6,000,000 Christians in India - called St. Thomas Christians - 6,000,000 St. Thomas Christians who claim that it was Thomas who first shared the Gospel with their forefathers.

 

Bottom line:  Thomas convinced of the truth of the resurrection - because he saw - jumps in with both feet - 100% commitment - lives out his faith with devotion and courage.

Verses 30 and 31 are John’s Application.  Let’s try that together, “John’s Application.”

Verse 30:  Therefore - because Jesus is God - in the flesh - risen - victorious - which should transform how we live our lives - therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;

Verse 31 - stay with me - but - because Jesus is God - in the flesh - risen - victorious - which should transform how we live our lives - these have been written - what are these?  All the things that John did write down - about Jesus - His birth - life - death - resurrection.  But these have been written so that you - who’s you?  Us!  When we read verse 31 - we need to put our name there instead of the “you” - But these have been written so that __________ may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

John writes so that - like Thomas - at times doubting - we might have God’s truth revealed to us - and believing our lives will be transformed.  God’s truth is the answer to doubt.  Let’s repeat that together, “God’s truth is the answer to doubt.”

At home - when I turn the light on over the stove - there’s a little beep sound.   We have all these appliances that beep at us.  Cell phones that play just about any sound - loudly - to get our attention.  On the computer Windows starts and there’s this heavenly music.  If we didn’t hear something or see something happening - lights blinking - if things didn’t vibrate - hum - or explode we’d doubt if they were working properly.

God demonstrates the truth of Jesus’ resurrection through the empty tomb - through the rolled away stone - through the facts of the resurrection.  Jesus demonstrated it to His disciples with each encounter.  Jesus demonstrates God’s truth to Thomas with His wounds.  We need those images - what John has written here.  We relate to them.  They connect with our lives.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth - a group of believers that had all kinds of doubts about the resurrection - and death.  “If Jesus is not resurrected we all are in serious trouble.”  Remember that?

In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul lists their doubts - and responds with God’s truth.  Read in the positive its an amazing statement of the truth and implications of Jesus resurrection.

Since Jesus Christ is resurrected from the dead everything that we’ve told you about God and life with God and His power to transform and heal our lives is true.  We really are speaking for God - testifying of what God has done.  Our faith isn’t some vain worthless collection of spiritual happy thoughts.

When you put your trust in Jesus as the Savior your sins really are forgiven.  Your relationship with God really is restored.  Those who have died trusting in Jesus are not dead.  People really do come back from the grave.  He lives.  They live.  You’ll live.  We have hope.  There is eternal life.  Don’t pity us - join us!

When the world crushes in - when you’re doubting - struggling - cling to God’s truth.  Jesus lives.  God loves you - is deeply concerned for you.  His forgiveness is real.  Your life really does have God given meaning and purpose. God’s truth is the answer to doubt.

_____________________________
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE ®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.