John 20:24-29 (NLT)
24 One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. 25 They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in His hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in His side.”
26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” He said. 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at My hands. Put your hand into the wound in My side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” 28 “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. 29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen Me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing Me.”
- Doubt can be called the leprosy of faith, eating away at our hearts until we are unable to sustain that life-giving faith.
- Doubt can be called a thief, robbing us of the truth of God’s unfailing grace.
- Doubt can be called blindness, causing us to believe that God doesn’t love us.
- Doubt can be called demoralizing, making us feel unworthy to ask God to forgive us.
- Doubt can be called deafening, denying us the ability to hear God calling us to His Heart.
- Doubt CAN Be All Of This WHEN We Refuse To Acknowledge It And Deal With It In The Presence Of God.
This leads me to the one thing you need to remember:
Knowing About Jesus Is No Substitute For Knowing Jesus In Our Heart.
It seems that after I turned 50, a lot of my notions and ideas began to change, and one of them is about Thomas. When someone doubts something, we often say, “Oh, don’t be such a doubting Thomas.” Doubting Thomas. What a moniker to be stuck with nearly 2,000 years later. Now I have come to a different opinion of Thomas.
Some of it has come out of my own personal experiences, and some of it has come by reflecting more on the Scriptures without the usual and typical comments people make about him. I have found that Thomas’ strength comes out of what WE call—His Doubts.
Be fair to Thomas. He wasn’t there the first time Jesus appeared to some of the disciples—the same disciples who Doubted the report of Mary and the other women. And don’t make a big deal about him not being there. The scriptures do not say why he wasn’t there.
Maybe the others sent him out to Burger King for some food, or to Publix for some groceries. They were afraid of the Sanhedrin, but it was Thomas who said, “Let us go to Jerusalem with Jesus that we may die with Him.” He’s not afraid of the Sanhedrin, send him out. And we don’t know When Thomas was back with the other disciples. And it doesn’t matter When he came back. Point is, He Came Back!
Now they are telling him, “We saw Jesus and He’s alive! Isn’t that great Thomas?” And Thomas should believe them, right? After all, these guys believed the women’s report from the cemetery. I mean, James and John were fishermen and we all know fishermen never lie.
And there’s Matthew who was a tax collector and everyone knows how truthful and honest tax collectors are. And there’s Peter telling the same story and we all know how reliable and stable Peter is. And Mary Magdalene is saying the same thing, and everyone knows she’s always been the sanest person around. I mean, with these kinds of witnesses, Thomas should be saying. “All right! I just knew Jesus would do something else!”
But Thomas doesn’t say that. His response to all these witnesses is: “Unless I see . . . I won’t believe it.” I have come to like Thomas and even more—I love his response. Of all the things said by them after the resurrection, Thomas makes the most profound statement of all. His Heart Is The Heart Longing For Faith. He does not want to be known as the doubter. His heart wants to believe in the deepest way possible.
So I have sat in the class taught by none other than Thomas, and I want you to join me as Thomas teaches us some powerful lessons about what it means to be a Real Disciple of the Risen Jesus! Don’t call him the Missing Disciple. Simply mark the role of who is there and who is not present. Don’t read more into this than what’s here.
Sure, he may have had his doubts about why Jesus had to die, but so did all the others. They have been on a roller coaster ride. One day Jesus is hailed as King, and a few days later called a criminal.
Each of them had their own notions about what Jesus should do. Each of them was weighed down with the traditions they had been taught about the Messiah. And Jesus met none of their expectations or traditions. It was bound to be disappointing. But none of them seem to say what they are feeling. None of them seem to be willing to deal with their doubts.
Only Thomas has the courage And The Faith to deal with his doubts. And here is the first lesson Thomas teaches us:
1. Doubting Can Be The Most Fertile Ground For Faith To Grow.
When We Seriously Deal With Our Doubts Before God, It’s Ripe For Growth. Why do you try to hide your doubts from God? Do you honestly think God doesn’t know when you doubt? Life can be tough and there can be lots of things that make us question our faith and even question our God’s goodness and love.
A child is stillborn. A promising high school student dies in an automobile accident. A trusted spiritual leader falls flat on his face. Someone’s son commits suicide. A faithful leader and servant in church dies from ALS. My Mother suffered from dementia. Bad things, horrible things happen to good people.
So we seek God’s counsel. We pound on the doors of heaven but there’s no answer. But because of the seed of faith that God put in us, we keep on pounding. And It Is Faith Making Us Pound On Heaven’s Door Because We Know There’s No Other Place Where We Can Find The Answer. It is in these moments that our faith can grow the deepest—when we know that we can keep coming back and that God will not stop loving us. Where else can Thomas turn with these doubts?
Their word about the Resurrection is not enough for Thomas.
Their experience does not satisfy the hungering and thirsting of his heart.
Thomas is living out one of those beatitudes: Blessed Are Those Who Hunger And Thirst For Righteousness For They Will Be Satisfied! In my imagination, I can just see Jesus doing a fist pump when Thomas makes that declaration and saying, “He gets it! I’m proud of Thomas! Just look at that hunger of his!”
So Thomas says out loud for everyone to hear: “Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.” And if you are paying attention, you will hear the second lesson from Thomas:
2. You Can’t Live On The Experiences Of Others!
Some people never get close enough to God, they never surrender their heart completely—in order to have a faith story about God in their life. They Want Just Enough Of God In Their Life To Feel Comfortable In Their Complacency.
They listen to the stories of others and protect the traditions and say “This is enough! This is all I need!” And Those Without That Genuine Experience Will Fight For Those Traditions More Than They Will For The Message And Ministry Of Jesus Christ. Our culture is sick to death of precious traditions and ancient stories. They told their story. But Thomas wanted more.
And the good news for those witnesses is this: They Were So Genuine, So Convincing That Thomas Wanted That Same Presence In His Life! No Bible stories about Jesus for Thomas, no sir! He wanted the real presence. And our culture wants none of the traditions and ancient stories—
But They Do Want A Genuine, Authentic Story Of What Jesus Is Doing Right Here And Now In Relationship With Us.
The Greek word for I see is eidō. It means more than to see with the eye. It Means: To Cherish. To cherish means we recognize the real value. There are many things we cherish which have little or no monetary value. But they are important to us because they have personal meaning.
Resurrection Had To Have Personal Meaning For Thomas Or It Was Nothing.
To cherish the Resurrection, it must have personal meaning for us. Thomas wanted the relationship, not the Cliff Notes and not the Readers’ Digest version. And if you are paying attention to Thomas, you now know the third lesson he teaches us:
3. He Stayed Until Jesus Came To Him!
Even with those doubts Thomas stayed with it for 8 days. And because he did, he was there when Jesus came again.
Our Doubts Never Disqualify Us From The Relationship God Seeks To Have With Us. And Our Doubts Do Not Disqualify Us From Serving God.
Thomas chose to hang in there, to wrestle and struggle and seek for himself the reality of the Risen Lord. His hunger for God couldn’t be satisfied with “their” story—he knew that the only way his hunger would be satisfied is through HIS own story.
Personally, I would rather go into battle with 1 Doubting Thomas than 100 comfortable pew sitters. There are too many sitting in churches this morning who want an Easy Faith, so easy even a caveman can do it. They want it to be neat and tidy. But life isn’t so neat and tidy, and Jesus understands this.
That’s why Jesus came back 8 days later for Thomas, to bless Thomas with His presence. Some people look at verse 29 and think Jesus is chastising Thomas: “Why couldn’t you believe without seeing?” But most of the ancient manuscripts do not use Thomas’ name. The pronoun used by John can be plural: Jesus said to THEM. Literally it says: “Blessed are they, believed, and now you (plural) are blessed; yet no less blessed those be who believe in my resurrection, without the evidence.”
Now I understand: the blessing is equal for Thomas and the others and for us. Their blessing is not greater than ours, nor is ours greater than theirs.
The Blessing Is In Coming Face To Face With Jesus.
And if you are struggling to believe, then remember Thomas:
He Stayed Until Jesus Came To Him, And Jesus Did. And Jesus Will Come To You.
Sometimes life can be a real mess and the upheaval can feel like an erupting volcano. What do you do when life is like that? What do you do when there are more questions than answers? What do you do when the neat answers don’t fit the messy questions?
Be a Doubting Thomas. It’s looks like this:
- Refuse To Settle For Neatly Packaged Answers That Rarely, If Ever, Satisfy The Heart.
- Don’t Be Content With What Someone Else Says About Jesus.
- Yearn For Your Experience—Know That The Force And The Power Of Resurrection Can And WILL Have Meaning For You!
- Have That Unquenchable Thirst And Appetite To Cherish The Living Presence Of Jesus Himself.
Our culture isn’t interested in our traditions or stories told of long ago. But they are interested in and are hungry for a relationship. Be a Thomas—and hang in there, because Jesus is coming to you. A lot of people know ABOUT Jesus, and that is good—But…It…Is…Not…Good…Enough!
The Gospel insists and demands that you KNOW Jesus personally. Have you been struggling? Doubts can only lead to growth when we bring them into the presence of God.
The Good News about bringing our doubts to God is this: Jesus is coming for you, and He’s coming with the blessing. Will you accept Him today?
- Do You Know More About Jesus In Your Head Than You Have Experienced In Your Heart? Then today is the day like Thomas had—to experience the Risen Lord and fall in love with Him—and His beauty. To give up WHAT you know, for the One who knows you and desires for you to know Him!
- Are You Having Any Doubts About The Future About This Place? Thomas was looking for a future with Hope And Promise. He would not have found it unless he brought it to Jesus. When he brought those doubts to Jesus, everything changed. I’m asking you to bring your doubts about the future of this place to Jesus. It changed the outlook of Thomas—it will change your outlook, too!