October 13, 2019
Jesus had been crucified several days before on the first Good Friday. Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy man and a secret believer, asked Pilate for the lifeless body of Jesus. Accompanied by Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, they prepared His body for burial, wrapping it from head to toe with a mixture of spices, myrrh and aloes. Remember, it was the day of Preparation for the Sabbath – which would begin at 6:00 that evening. It was almost upon them – they had to hurry. So they laid Jesus’ body in a new tomb near the place of crucifixion, rolled a stone in front of the entrance. And that was that – He was dead. And indeed, He was.
The next day the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I am to rise again.’ Therefore, give the orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise, His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” And so, the order was given, guards were posted, and the stone was sealed. That was all Saturday, the second day. Please notice – the grave was made secure – meaning there could be no stolen body, no wrong tomb theories. But raise from the dead? Alive?
It was early the next day, the third day, the first day of the week, Sunday morning, the first Easter. While it was still dark, Mary Magdalene had gone to the tomb and found the stone rolled away from the entrance. She ran and told Peter and John – assuming Jesus’ body had been taken. They all ran back to the tomb and found it just as Mary had said. There, inside the tomb they saw the strips of burial cloths lying empty. His body was gone, but alive?
Well, then began the first of many appearances of the risen Lord to His disciples. Of course, there were those then, and now, who doubt. He began first by appearing to Mary Magdalene, who went and shared the news with the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” Later that evening, still the first day of the week, while the disciples were meeting in a room behind locked doors, Jesus came and stood among them, saying, “Peace be with you!” He then showed them His hands and His side to convince them it was He. They were overjoyed with the news. But, there was one of the Twelve, actually two counting Judas, who were not present in the room when Jesus first appeared. It’s here we pick up the story in John 20:24-31.
What an amazing confession of faith. This previously absent disciple we read was Thomas – you know him as the Doubter. But who was he? We don’t know a lot about him. Didymus actually means Twin. He was one of the Twelve appointed by Jesus – we don’t know what he did before he was an apostle. His name only appears in the lists of the Twelve in Matthew, Mark, Luke and Acts, which is why, when we think of him, we think of this event in John. But there are two other brief snippets in John before this story that give us a fuller picture.
The first is found in John 11. Jesus and the Twelve had left Judea, crossed the Jordan River, because the Jews had tried to stone Jesus – you see, He had claimed to be God. While they were on the other side of the Jordan, Jesus gets word from Mary and Martha that Lazarus, their brother and a close friend of Jesus, is sick. They ask Him to come heal Lazarus. So after a couple of days, Jesus says to His disciples, let’s go to Judea. To where? “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” They were amazed He would place in life and danger, and likely fearful He might be endangering them as well.
But after a little conversation, Jesus again says, let’s go. His mind is made up – there is no deterring Him. It is at this point Thomas speaks up and says to the rest of the disciples, “Let’s go, so we may die with Him.” Wow. I think we see here two important character traits about Thomas. First, he was a committed follower of Jesus. He would follow Jesus anywhere, even if it cost him his life. And so, as many people are kind of hard on Doubting Thomas, let’s remember this passage too – he was willing to follow Jesus to death. Second, we see he is a bit of pessimist. “Come on, let’s go, we might as well die with Him,” forgetting they had been unable to stone Jesus last time. (Got it mostly right, in both counts…)
Well, that’s the first vignette. The second is a few chapters later, chapter 14. It’s the night before Good Friday, the night before the crucifixion, the night of the Last Supper. Jesus had many things to share with His disciples. One of those was He going away – to His Father’s house to prepare a place for them. And, if He’s going to prepare a place for them, then certainly He will come back to take them there. And He says, you know the place where I am going, referring to His death and return to heaven. At this point, Thomas says, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Again, two things we see about Thomas from this event.
First, we see again he’ll follow Jesus anywhere. The idea here seems to be “Lord, we don’t know the way, but if you’ll just show us, we’ll follow.” We continue to get this idea that Thomas is a committed follower of Jesus. Oh, and don’t miss – we all know John 14:6 – Jesus answered and said, I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me. That was in response to Thomas’ question.
And second, we see that things have to be clearly spelled out for Thomas. Jesus had spoken plainly of His death and resurrection to the disciples, but they didn’t understand – none of them, including Thomas. He had spoken of His death, but when the time came for Him to leave, they didn’t understand where He was going. He had spoken of His resurrection, but they didn’t understand till they saw Him alive – which brings us back to John 20. The other ten had seen Him alive, but this one who was a bit of a pessimist, perhaps, this one who needed things spelled out for him, this one who needed proof, had not seen Him.
So the next time we see Thomas speaking, it was “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.” Actually, “I will by no means believe it.” The implication was, you can prove it to me by no other way than for me to see for myself. This is too extraordinary – this is too miraculous – this is too unbelievable. For me, seeing is believing.
Well, let’s advance the story. It was a week later, and the disciples were again together behind locked doors. This is significant. They’re still hiding, perhaps fearful, only this time Thomas was with them. Notice, John points out again, Jesus came to them – just as He passed through the grave clothes and when He was raised from the dead and walked out of an enclosed, sealed, guarded tomb, so also He walked through locked doors. He appeared to them again, with the same greeting, “Peace be with you!”
Now, put yourself in Thomas’ sandals. Can you imagine the inner turmoil he felt at that moment? He had denied the resurrection, or at the very least, he said he wouldn’t believe it until he saw Jesus with his own eyes and touched Him with his own hands. And yet, here Jesus stood. In fact, after the greeting, Jesus looked straight at Thomas and said, see the marks – see the proof of the crucifixion; see the proof that it’s really me. Stop doubting and believe. In fact, that could be translated, stop being an unbeliever and become a believer. Which is what I would encourage you to do. Stop doubting, and believe. Become a believer with us.
Upon seeing Jesus and hearing His words, notice, there’s no record Thomas actually accepted the invitation to examine the scars. Rather, he perhaps threw himself at Jesus’ feet, and exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” These are some of the most important words in Scripture. If we have been hard on Thomas, we need be no longer. This is a stunning declaration of faith. Literally, Thomas says, “The Lord of me, and the God of me!” The testimony of people throughout the Gospel of John is now complete:
- In chapter 1, John the Baptist said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
- In the same chapter, Andrew said, “We have found the Messiah.”
- Again in chapter 1, Nathaniel said to Jesus, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.”
- In chapter 4, the Samaritans said, “…we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.”
- In chapter 6, Peter said, “We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”
- In chapter 7, some of the people were saying, “This certainly is the Prophet,” while others were saying, “This is the Christ.”
- In chapter 9, the formerly blind man said, “Lord, I believe [You are the Son of Man],” and he worshiped Jesus. You see, when you come to realize who Jesus is, that’s your only response – to worship Him.
On it goes, until we get to this ultimate confession – you are the Lord of me, and the God of me.
It is a very personal confession as it must be with us – He is my Lord, and He is my God. Notice, Jesus does not correct him, for He is indeed Lord and God. The Gospel of John starts with the words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Here, it ends with a most unyielding skeptic declaring the same truth.
Here’s what I want you to catch. To this confession, Jesus says some profound words that have direct implication for us today. You believe, Thomas, because you’ve seen. That’s good. But, blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed. Blessed are those who believe in Jesus, without having to physically see Jesus. Those who believe the clear and compelling evidence. You see, that’s me. And that’s you, if you to have confessed Jesus as your Savior, your Lord, and your God – even though you have never put your hands in His side or your fingers in His nail prints. Even if you’ve never seen Him. You see, Jesus is here saying that He will not provide this kind of proof for those after Thomas – He is about to ascend to His Father – He is no longer here to do that. You see, faith is the conviction of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. That’s why we call it the Christian faith. So, how then can we believe without seeing? What proof do we have?
John tells us here the reason he recorded his gospel, the reason he wrote of these things, to include this appearance before doubting Thomas, is so that you will believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and by believing, you can have eternal life. Even though, you’ve never seen Him. There were many more things John could have written – we don’t have everything Jesus did recorded – but what we have is enough. Paul says it this way in Romans 10:
13 for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.”
14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?
15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!”
16 However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?”
17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
In other words, the word about Christ and His gospel. That’s what is needed to believe. Here’s the truth: we’re no different than Thomas. We would never believe if there wasn’t enough evidence. God made us that way – we’re
You say, what does all that have to with I Peter? Very much. Remember Peter was there to witness all this. He was an eyewitness. He knows what it means to confess faith, to believe, to face opposition, and to deny. He melted in the face of persecution at Jesus’ trial. And yet, he was there after the death sentence was carried out, when the tomb was empty. He was there when Jesus appeared first to the ten, and then to the eleven. He heard what Jesus said to Thomas. And so, as he’s writing to these suffering believers in Asia Minor some three decades later, and he says believe, even though it costs you. He writes these words, I Peter 1:6-9.
Do you see? It is not seeing is believing, but believing is seeing. The believers in Asia Minor had not seen Jesus. He died, raised and ascended thirty years ago. They’d not seen Him – they still didn’t see Him. But they believed. Of course, there is plenty of evidence to believe in the historical reliability of the Gospel narratives. There is plenty of evidence to believe Jesus is the Son of God, that He lived a perfect life, died in our place, so that we could be reconciled to God. But…to be clear. We believe the clear, forceful, faithful evidence. But, we have not…yet…seen.
Have you ever wished you could see something – with your physical eyes? You think your faith would be strengthened? Remember the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16? The rich man did not believe and after death was suffering in the torments of Hades. Lazarus, who did believe, was in paradise. The rich man had five brothers still living, and begged that Lazarus be sent back to warn his brothers – to plead with them to believe. But the rich man was told, “They have Moses and the prophets. If they won’t listen to them, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.” In other words, they have the Word of God. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.
As so, we saw last week, we greatly rejoice in God’s great mercy toward us through this gospel – causing us to be born again to a living hope, an eternal inheritance, and a sure, future salvation. So we greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, we have been distressed by various trials. In I Peter, those various trials are primarily opposition and persecution for our faith. And we can face that opposition because we know the truth. And such commitments will cost us.
But, we also found those trials of our faith are not without purpose. God intends to mature us, perfect us, humble us, grow us. You see, our faith is more precious than gold, and is
Bringing us to verses 8 and 9. Last week, we looked at verses 6 and 7 as Peter explained the necessity and results of suffering in salvation.
- There are Trials in Salvation (6)
- Resulting in Proof of Salvation (7)
- And so we Persistence in Salvation (8) My brothers and sisters, I want you to hear that today. We persist in belief, even though it costs us, because we love and believe in or trust in Christ.
- Receiving the Outcome of Salvation (9)
So, we’ll simply finish by looking at verses 8-9. In the midst of the sufferings and testing and trials of verses 6 and 7 – we still persist. We still believe. “and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.”
Is that true for you? In the midst of the struggles and opposition and sufferings in the brokenness of life, do you still find unutterable joy? I understand loving and believing in Jesus is at times difficult. I’ve said the prayers before – can I see You? Could I have more evidence? And yet His Word and His grace are always sufficient. What He has undeniably done in the past is enough to see us through. So we love Him – it’s the word agapao – so we love Him even though it costs us. And we continue to believe in Him, even though we are living in an increasingly hostile culture. No longer a Christianity-affirming culture, because the gospel is a rock of offence. But they can’t take my faith, nor can they take my joy.
If we continue to love and believe, even though we have yet to see Him, Peter says we can rejoice with inexpressible, unutterable joy, which is full of the glory of believing. Inexpressible joy. It’s so joy-filled, you can’t put it into just the right words. One of my commentaries suggested, it’s one of the reasons we sing. Music has a way of expressing our inexpressible emotions of joy. Have you ever noticed that? Most of you don’t cry when I preach – although you may want to. But have you ever been moved to tears with a worship song? It’s a close as we can come to expressing inexpressible joy.
Obtaining, ultimately, the outcome of your faith – the salvation of your souls. Remember, the Bible speaks of salvation in past, present and future terms. We have been saved or justified; we are being saved or sanctified; and we will be saved or glorified. Peter often speaks of salvation with that future look. We will one day receive the fullness of our salvation. We haven’t yet, but we will.
And so, I encourage you this morning to stop doubting and believe. Believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died for your sin. Turn from your sin, confess Him as your Lord and your God, call on Him, and you can be saved. And the words of I Peter 1:8-9 will be true for you, “8and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.”