Thomas the doubter! – John 20:19-31
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 17, 2016
No doubt about it there are some things that I just cannot believe in: Alien abduction, ghosts, lake monsters, or Sasquatch. Nope, sorry I just do not believe in them. Now least you think I am a total skeptic you need to know I was raised by a mother who completely believed in each of these things. In fact, she would drag us as children to haunted houses, buy hundreds of books on UFOs (which she read to us like bedtime stories), and walk the woods in hopes of finding Big Foot. None of which changed my opinion of any of it.
In John’s Gospel we are introduced to the disciple some call The Doubter, but of course he was not the only one who did. From the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, Chief Priests, and other disciples we have discovered over the past several months that there were many who doubted Jesus was the Messiah. Let’s see what Thomas the doubter can teach us this morning…
Thomas was not the only doubter, in fact right here we discover that…
I. The disciples were skeptical! (Vv. 19-23)
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
1. It is fascinating to me to find out that far from the heroes or the stalwart upstanding men the disciples are often portrayed to be, they in fact were just like us! They had problems, they had fears, and they had their doubts about Jesus. I know this to be true because we discover from John that “On the evening of that first day of the week… the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews”! It is still Sunday the evening of the resurrection and where do we find the disciples? Are they out telling everyone about the empty tomb? Do they believe Jesus has indeed risen? No way! They let their fears get to them instead of their faith! However, in the midst of their doubts and fears, “Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!'” That’s what God always does when we are fearful or in doubt of the outcome; he gives us his peace. And just to make sure they get the full idea and can trust what their eyes are seeing, Jesus gives them something to hold on to as well because “After he said this, he showed them his hands and side.” Physical proof is what they needed at the moment and Jesus gives it to the room full of skeptics who now “were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” But Jesus is there for more than just to sooth their fears; he is there to give them a lifelong task. And so, “Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.'” He is sending them into the world. Plus Jesus is not sending them out alone and so “with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.'” Jesus was sending them as his representatives and giving them the knowledge, the Spirit, they needed at that moment. This is not some priestly commission whereby Jesus mystically gives his followers the personal right as he has to forgive sins; rather it is dependent upon the Gospel’s terms: If one believes in Jesus, then a Christian has the right to announce his forgiveness, if they do not believe they are not forgiven! The disciples were skeptical but now they believed!
EXAMPLE: A skeptic is one who is inclined to doubt. If such a person is honestly seeking to know the truth, his doubting may be the first step toward finding the truth. Not all skepticism is wrong, however, there can be barriers that help create our skepticism. The Radio Bible Class relates, “The first barrier, surprisingly, isn’t an unwillingness to believe that God exists; instead some doubt that they’re important enough for God’s attention. Second, some believe they are unworthy of His forgiveness. People are often their own harshest judges. The third hurdle? They wonder why God is not communicating with them if he is out there.” There can be a forth reason as well, a person’s upbringing or how one is raised. The disciples were raised as pious Jews and therefore believed in God, but because of their upbringing they had a hard time God would be a man, die, and then rise from the dead. The disciples were skeptical!
We found out that the disciples had their skepticism and now we find out more about how…
II. Thomas was a doubter! (Vv. 24-29)
Now Thomas (called 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 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 it.” 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.”
1. There is always one in the crowd and Thomas was the one. John relates that “Now Thomas (called 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 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 it.'” Not seeing the empty tomb nor being with the disciples when Jesus had first appeared to them, he still could not believe. He was the original man from Missouri the Show Me State! Hey, do not be too hard on Thomas because wouldn’t you agree that chocolate chip cookies are better eaten than described! And so we find out that “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!'” Jesus is ready and able to show Thomas exactly what he needed to experience for himself! Jesus miraculously stands among his men! And lest they be frightened, like that night on the lake when he walked to them on the water, he tells them “Peace be with you!” again. In the midst of all that is happening, Jesus is there for a specific purpose and person. Jesus is there for Thomas challenges him, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” God loves doubters and is more than willing to answer their toughest questions if they will only listen and are willing to respond. Jesus had Thomas’ full attention. We are not told if Thomas actually did what Jesus requested, but I tend to think he did because Thomas’ response is completely changed from doubt to “My Lord and my God!” And Jesus is so totally Jesus here in this moment. This is what I mean; Jesus uses every moment to teach and tells Thomas this wonderful glorious truth: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed!” That’s us folks! That’s all of us who are willing to come to Jesus without being able to actually see him! Thomas was a doubter but now he too was a believer!
EXAMPLE: Joanie Yoder wrote, “Many true believers in Christ are plagued with doubt about their salvation. Even though they have come in repentance and faith to Jesus as their Savior, they still wonder, ‘Will I really go to heaven?'” I remember being left behind asleep on the hood of our Oldsmobile in downtown Wenatchee when I was three-years-old. I started to cry and a nearby policeman came over to comfort me. Shortly my Mom and Dad followed by my brother and sister came rushing around the corner. It had only been moments, but waking up alone, I thought I was left behind. There are those in our day and age who believe in Jesus but cling to ungodly biblical teaching thinking that God would leave them behind. He never leaves us nor forsakes us! Thomas doubted because he had not experienced the risen Lord, then he did and his doubting disappeared. Dear believer stop doubting God would ever leave you behind and learn from Thomas who was a doubter!
You know what, God does not mind if we doubt or are skeptical because of he did none of the disciples or most of us would be saved! In fact, John reminds us that…
III. The proof is in the pudding! (Vv. 30-31)
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
1. The idea that the proof was in the pudding is a shortened version of “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” One had to eat the pudding in order to know what was in it. In olden days during some holidays they would cook a surprise in a pudding, not necessarily like the sweet pudding we are used to, but you had to eat it in order to discover what was in it! And here John ends his narrative with more proof than we as readers could handle! He tells us, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.” Evidently John had witnessed more than he could relate to us. Rather than wonder at what we might have missed, instead we should rejoice with John concerning Jesus! And we learn that John had a very specific purpose for making sure we could read his testimony concerning Jesus, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” The proof is in the pudding!
EXAMPLE: The Radio Bible Class relates that “The resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most well-established events in history. Paul cited as irrefutable evidence the more than 500 eyewitnesses who saw Jesus after he arose. Just as certain is the fact that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross of Calvary fully paid the penalty for the sin of all mankind, so that everyone who trusts Him as Savior receives forgiveness. And it is Christ’s resurrection that guarantees this. In his book The Resurrection of Jesus the Christ; Fred John Meldau underscores the significance of Jesus’ resurrection by describing Israel’s annual Day of Atonement ritual. Meldau writes, ‘If [the High Priest] offered correctly, he came forth in due time; but . . . if he failed to offer correctly, he died there behind the veil. In like manner, the coming forth of Jesus the Christ, in His resurrection, after His atonement for our sins on the cross, shows that His offering was accepted. The empty tomb is God’s ‘Amen’ to Christ’s ‘It is finished.’ When Christ emerged from the tomb, our sin was completely paid for. His resurrection was proof positive!” The proof is in the pudding!
The disciples were skeptical! Thomas was a doubter! The proof is in the pudding!
This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.