John 20:19-31 (GW)
That Sunday evening, the disciples were together behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jews. Jesus stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you!” When He said this, He showed them His hands and His side. The disciples were glad to see the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Me, so I am sending you.” After He had said this, He breathed on the disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whenever you forgive sins, they are forgiven. Whenever you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Thomas, one of the twelve apostles, who was called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.”
Thomas told them, “I refuse to believe this unless I see the nail marks in His hands, put my fingers into them, and put my hand into His side.”
A week later Jesus’ disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at My hands. Take your hand, and put it into My side. Stop doubting, and believe.”
Thomas responded to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to Thomas, “You believe because you have seen Me. Blessed are those who have not seen Me but believe.”
Jesus performed many other miracles that His disciples saw. Those miracles are not written in this book. But these miracles have been written so that you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and so that you will have life by believing in Him.
There is a story about teacher who announced to his class a few days before the Easter break, “The Easter story is nothing but a myth. Jesus not only did not rise from the grave, but there is not God in heaven who would allow His son to be crucified in the first place.”
One student protested, “Sir, I believe in God, and I believe in the resurrection.”
The teacher said, “You can believe what you wish, of course. However, the real world excludes the possibility of miracles like the resurrection. The resurrection is a scientific impossibility. No one who believes in miracles can also respect science.”
Then the teacher proposed an experiment. Reaching into a refrigerator, he got out a raw egg and held it up. “I am going to drop this egg,” he said. “Gravity will pull it toward the floor. Surely the egg will break apart.” Looking at the student with a challenge,” the teacher said,”Now I want you to pray right now and ask your God to keep this egg from breaking when it hits the floor. If He can do that, then you will have proven your point, and I will have to admit that there is a God.”
After pondering the challenge for a moment, the student slowly stood up and prayed: “Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that when my teacher drops the egg, it will break into a hundred pieces. And also, Lord, I pray that when the egg does break, my teacher will have a heart attack and die. Amen.”
The class gave a loud gasp then sat in silent expectation. For a moment the teacher did nothing. Then he looked at the student and then the egg. Without a word he carefully put the egg back into the refrigerator. The teacher announced, “Class dismissed,” and he sat down to clear his desk.
Apparently the teacher did believe in God’s existence more than he realized. Yet many people, like that teacher, deny that God exists. They question Him and attack Him whenever they get the chance. That teacher was not willing to bet his life that God did not exist.
Many people do doubt the existence of God. Many people even doubt the resurrection. On that first Easter, even one of the disciples of Jesus refused to believe in the resurrection. He had doubts. Today we are going to think about that man, and see that we have doubts like his doubts. We are also going to see how Jesus relieved this man of the problem of doubt, and how He relieves us today.
On Easter night, the disciples were together in a house, hiding behind locked doors. Even though some of them had seen Jesus alive, they were still scared. What were the Jewish leaders going to do to them? Would they be arrested now? Would they be accused of stealing the body? Would anyone believe them if they told people that Jesus had risen from the dead? They were hiding from the Pharisees and Sadducees – hoping to avoid confrontation.
Suddenly Jesus was standing among them, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” Jesus always says just the right thing at the right time. He told them that they could have peace in their hearts. He was there, and they had nothing to worry about. He showed them His hands and side to prove to the disciples that He was not a ghost, but that He was the same Jesus they had known, the same Jesus they had seen crucified just 3 days earlier.
The Apostle Thomas was not there. When he later came to be among them, the disciples told him that Jesus had appeared to them. But Thomas did not believe saying: “I refuse to believe this unless I see the nail marks in His hands, put my fingers into them, and put my hand into His side.” You can’t get much more skeptical than that, can you. I will not believe, unless I see visible proof.
Why did Thomas refuse to believe? Because Thomas was a practical person, and he lived in a practical world. He was shattered on Good Friday when Jesus died. And he was not about to succumb to fantastic, emotional illusions. Dead was dead, and that was it. No one in their right minds would doubt it when the Romans pronounced a prisoner dead. They were experts at killing. It is not that Thomas did not want to believe that Jesus had come alive. But Thomas knew how things happened in the world normally. Dead was dead, and that was it.
That is how many in our world see the resurrection of Jesus today. It is an interesting idea, but did it really happen? Some describe the resurrection idea as a spiritual concept only. They believe that Jesus arose, only in the sense that His spirit goes marching on. It is like the ideals of Abraham Lincoln or some other famous people as they continue to influence people yet today. But to think of a physical rising from the dead, is beyond what human reason can accept.
But scholars over the years have noted that it would be a contradiction in terms for a Jewish person of that time to say that someone rose from the dead, but left his body in the tomb. That is not how people talked back then. Furthermore, it is to be noticed that numerous disciples were executed because they would not deny the resurrection. No sane person would die for something that did not happen. Of all the events that took place in the 1st Century, no historical event has better or more widespread documentation than the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Yet, we Christians today live in a sea of doubt. When you are swimming in doubt, it is hard not to get wet – to have that doubt affect your way of thinking. Have you ever doubted? Have you ever wondered about this whole idea of Jesus and the Cross and the resurrection? Have you ever asked yourself if your faith is really only superstition? Have you ever wondered, “Am I a Christian only because my parents were? Often we are afraid to face our doubts because we are afraid of what we might find. We are afraid of what others might think. People might find out how weak our faith really is, so we keep our doubts to ourselves. And yet, our doubts do not go away. They are always there, and like a cancer, our doubts slowly weaken our faith, until we believe in Jesus less and less, and we become more and more skeptical, like Thomas.
What can we do to get rid of doubt? Nothing, really. There is no cure on this earth that will take away our doubts. If we were to find Noah’s ark up on a mountain, if the burial shroud of Jesus were verified, if all our friends and family had believable arguments, that would not make us believe. None of those things can cure us of our doubt. Only one thing can.
That one thing happened to Thomas one week later. On the Sunday after Easter, the disciples were together, and Thomas was with them. The doors were locked again. Suddenly, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” Jesus said again. Then He focused on Thomas. He invited Thomas to do what he wanted to do – to touch the wounds Jesus had sustained on the Cross. “Stop doubting, and believe.” Jesus told Thomas.
This is what cured Thomas of his doubt. And Thomas responded by saying, “My Lord and my God!” Thomas had become a man who believed in Jesus, even though everything he knew about the world would tell him otherwise.
The only solution to getting rid of doubt is to have moments with Jesus Christ, like Thomas did. “Now wait just a minute,” you might say. “Jesus appeared to Thomas. How am I supposed to have a moment like that?” Let us think for a moment. When does Jesus come to you, and speak to you? When does Jesus chase away our doubts? When does He transform us into people who strongly believe in Him, like Thomas did when it was all said and done?
Today, Jesus comes to us through His Word. Every time we hear the Word of God, Jesus steps into our lives and says, “Peace be with you.” Every time we receive the Lord’s Supper, Jesus is right there in His body and blood. That is when He chases away our doubts. That is how Jesus appears to you and speaks to you, just as He spoke to Thomas.
There was a student in college who once wrote about wrestling with her doubts about faith in God. The classes she attended had caused her to question the existence of God. She was losing her faith, swimming in a sea of doubt. She was trying to rely on her human reason to find proof that God exists and that Jesus rose from the dead.
But she discovered that by trying to reason it all out did not work. She did not get rid of her doubts that way. She wrote: “Finally, I turned to the Word of God, to find some answer. I needed the Holy Spirit to fan into flame once more the faith that I needed.” It was God who changed her, and He did that only through His Word.
That is how Jesus changes us today. Jesus said to Thomas, “You believe because you have seen Me. Blessed are those who have not seen Me but believe.” Jesus is speaking to us. We have not seen Him with our own eyes like Thomas did. But we have believed, by Jesus coming to us through His Word. The Apostle John sums up that Jesus did other miraculous things that are not recorded in the Bible. But these miracles have been written so that you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and so that you will have life by believing in Him.
The more frequently we stay in contact with the Word of God, the more often we receive the Lord’s Supper, Jesus speaks to our hearts, just like He spoke to Thomas. Jesus alone takes away our doubts. Through God’s Word let Jesus change us into Christians who strongly believe that Jesus is the Christ, even though we have never seen Him. May God through His Word grant us the same heart He granted to Thomas, a heart that moves us to say “My Lord and my God!” Amen.