Do You Believe?
Belief is a funny thing. Whether we categorize ourselves as “believers” or not we all believe in something. Some of you might believe in Bigfoot. Others of you might believe in Nessie. But belief goes deeper than that, does it not? We all have something that we hold to. We all believe in something. Whether it is ever spoken or not. Perhaps for you money is what you believe it. What I mean by this is it is the primary motivating factor in you life, not because you’re greedy but because you believe it is the best means to produce the type of life you want. Or perhaps you believe in being a good person. You believe that being good is the most important thing for you. Or maybe for you the thing you believe in is having a good time. You think that we should order our lives by pursuing comfort and pleasure and all pain should be avoided. All because you believe that pleasure is the highest good for the human life. Others of you still might say something like “well I’m a believer” meaning you are a Christian and hold to the belief that Jesus Christ, the eternal son of God, was crucified, dead, buried, and resurrected on the 3rd day.
Others of you still might say something like “well I’m a believer” meaning you are a Christian and hold to the belief that Jesus Christ, the eternal son of God, was crucified, dead, buried, and resurrected 3 days later.
Regardless of what you might say you believe in we all have something we believe in, maybe you’ve just never put it to words. Whatever that belief shapes your daily life or your desired outcomes of specific events. Another way you might say it is “where does your hope lie? What do you trust most?” It is with that idea that we turn to a passage that is all about belief.
I doubt it will shock most of you that on this day, Easter, that a church will celebrate the single most significant aspect of the Christian belief. As we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ we will be looking at one man’s shift from unbelief to belief.
I doubt it will shock most of you that on this day, Easter, that a church will celebrate the single most significant aspect of the Christian belief. As we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ we will be looking at a passage that describes one man’s shift from unbelief to belief.. But before we read our passage we should give it a little context. The start of our passage takes place after the resurrection of Jesus, after the very first Easter morning. Several women had discovered Jesus tomb empty on the 3rd day after his brutal crucifixion. Then two of his disciples also investigated his empty tomb when they heard about it. They couldn’t believe it. In fact there were two of his followers who actually went on a journey with Jesus and didn’t realize he it was him walking with them because they were under the impression that he was dead. Rumors of his resurrection, the empty tomb, were spreading like wildfire through the small band of followers of Jesus. But it was too much to believe. It couldn’t be true. People don’t just rise from the dead. Yet these two followers walked with him and stopped for a meal. When he broke some bread and blessed it they realized it was Jesus himself. He was there touching something. He had a physical body. This wasn’t just some imagination of a spirit. Then that night these same two followers returned to Jerusalem to tell the others this wonderful news.
In the midst of them gathering and discussing these wonderful things Jesus appears before them. He shows them his hands and his side. This is a physical body. No a disembodied spirit. The Lord Jesus had risen. Their friend, their rabbi, was standing before them, alive.
But one was missing. One of the 12 was not with them. He is strangely absent from their little gathering. We’re not sure why. Perhaps he was dejected. Perhaps he wanted to process his grief alone. Perhaps he was contemplating his future. We’re not told why.
With that in mind let’s read our passage.
Hear the living and active word of the eternal Lord.
24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” 26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
This is God’s ever enduring Word.
In our passage we see four distinct things occuring. Each one building upon the previous one.
The Challenge: Disbelief Expressed
The Challenge: Disbelief Expressed
The first thing we see is Thomas’ disbelief. For Thomas the prospect of Jesus being resurrected was too much. He couldn’t believe it. There was simply no way that he would believe it. Thomas is a man that would fit well in our own day. He was entirely skeptical. He was a realist. He was only going to believe what he could touch. If he couldn’t touch the very wounds of Jesus he wasn’t going to believe. He was also literal. He took everything at face value. In addition to being a realist and quite literal he was willing to jump into a cause. He even suggested one time that all the disciples go with Jesus to Jerusalem to die as well. He was willing to die for a cause. If Thomas was alive in our day he might be out marching in a protest in Washington or standing in protest outside of City Hall.
So he lays down a gauntlet so to speak. He tells his friends that unless he sees and touches the wounds Jesus received he wasn’t going to believe. His demands are a bit outlandish when you think about it. Think of the gruesome nature of what he is suggesting. He wants to stick his finger into the holes the 6 inch Roman nails made and thrust his hand into the gaping wound that a Roman spear caused. This isn’t asking for a hug or a hearty handshake. He is requesting to invasively explore Christ’s wounds.
It is an outlandish request. More than what is actually necessary. It is far beyond what we might call reasonable. But notice something he never questions. He never questions the reality of the crucifixion, because it happened.
You know it is easy to give a guy like Thomas a hard time. What Thomas, you couldn’t believe what 20 or 30 other people told you? You’re not going to believe the experts and witnesses? You have to investigate for yourself. You know what though? We all know people like this. Maybe this is you. Maybe you’re here today and that is you. You won’t believe because you think you need more evidence.
You need to know that you’re in good company. I was this person. I needed more evidence. I needed more proof. I couldn’t believe what others had told me. It was just their story. I needed more. If that is you I want to urge you to consider something. While you sit here I’d like you to ponder an idea. Is it that you actually need more evidence or are you using that as an excuse? Are your demands for more evidence a wall you’ve put in the way so you don’t have to respond? Have you actually investigated the evidence or is it a means to kick the can down the road? Additionally when you’ve considered evidence have you assessed it and treated it the same way you do other issues? For many people the claim that they lack of evidence is simply a means or excuse to avoid. If that is you this day I want to encourage you to genuinely consider the evidence. What do you have to lose? If Christians are right, then the resurrection of Jesus is the greatest event in human history. If Christians are wrong, you’ve lost nothing.
24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
The Challenge Accepted: Disbelief Confronted
The Challenge Accepted: Disbelief Confronted
As the passage progresses we see that Jesus returns when Thomas is present and Jesus confronts his unbelief. When Jesus confronts the unbelief of Thomas he says the exact same things that Thomas said. It is a striking picture of the all-knowing nature of Jesus. Jesus knows exactly what Thomas said. He knows exactly what transpired, because he is God. Jesus is omniscient.
Now imagine if you were Thomas. Imagine a few days ago you declared to your closest circle of friends what he said. Then you’re with these friends a week later and bam Jesus shows up. All of a sudden Jesus is in the room. Imagine how Thomas felt. Now imagine Jesus turning to you. “Why hello Thomas, fancy seeing you here.” Can you just feel the knot in your stomach forming? As you think to yourself “Ohhhhh!” Then Jesus says to you “Thomas would you like to come place your finger in my wrist? Come on bring that finger over here. Oh and let’s go ahead and bring your hand while you’re at it. You can feel my side. It’s ok Thomas. Touch them if you have to. Thomas don’t be unbelieving but have faith.”
Let that sink in. Feel the full weight of what Thomas felt. This actually happened to him. He actually saw the resurrected body of the Lord and he could have touched him.
Jesus encouraged Thomas to turn from unbelief to belief. When it comes to belief in Jesus there is no neutral ground. You can’t simultaneously believe and not believe. None of us are neutral when it comes to Jesus. We either believe or we don’t. Here Jesus encourages him to believe.
26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”
The Response: Disbelief Replaced
The Response: Disbelief Replaced
Then Thomas responds with really the only logical response to what has happened. He responds and his disbelief is replaced. Thomas believes. He believes because he has seen the risen Lord. He has seen him with his own eyes. Perhaps he has even touched his body, we’re not told. But he offers this beautiful response of belief when he encounters the Lord.
He exclaims “My Lord and My God”. Thomas has become a believer. The full weight of who Jesus is and what he has done falls on him. He declares Jesus to be his Lord and God. This dramatic change should not be lost on us. For a Jewish man to declare that someone is Lord and God is the equivalent of blasphemy. He is using terms about Jesus that no good orthodox Jewish man would have used for anyone but God. He is declaring Jesus to be the very God revealed in the Old Testament. This is a radical shift in perspective. He goes from “naw. No way. Can’t happen. I don’t believe you. I need proof beyond any shadow of a doubt.” to “this is the God of my people. This is the God who spoke the world into existence. This is the God who led us out of Egypt. This is my God. Oh this is my GOD!”
This declaration is a declaration of allegiance. By declaring Jesus to be his Lord he is declaring that he determines every aspect of Thomas’ life. This is MY LORD. Not just some Lord, but his. This is personal. There is not a single aspect that doesn’t fall under Jesus’ Lordship for Thomas. It has often been said “Jesus is either Lord of all your life or he is not Lord at all”. You can’t have Jesus as a partial Lord. Jesus is Thomas’ Lord.
He is also his God. This is personal. The people of the Old Testament would sometimes declare that God was the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. Or they would declare that God was “their God”. In the Old Testament it is revealed that God is immensely personal. It is no different in the New Testament. Thomas declares Jesus to be his God. He is our God. He is worthy of our praise and worship and obedience in all of life.
For Thomas the evidence was more than sufficient to change his perspective. Sufficient evidence for him to repent and believe. Jesus tells us that their is sufficient evidence for us to believe without having seen. Their is sufficient evidence for belief without seeing Jesus’ nail pierced hands and spear pierced side. It all starts with our assumptions or presumptions. If we come expecting that miracles aren’t possible then we will write of any miracle before we’ve investigated. But if we start with even the idea of a miracle being possible then we can come to dramatically different conclusions. You know this to be true. It is evident in politics all the time. If you start with the assumption that a particular party or individual can only do wrong then you will only see wrong. Or if you start with the idea that they can do no wrong then you will assume as such. Our presuppositions dictate our interpretations. Don’t let your presuppositions get in the way of the truth.
28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
The Purpose: Belief and Life
The Purpose: Belief and Life
It is clear from the passage that Jesus is glad that Thomas believes but he also wants others to believe. In fact that is the last thing we see. We see that John tells us the purpose for which he wrote the Gospel of John. John writes so that we might believe and by believing have life. This is in fact part of the entire reason behind the Bible. The Bible is written so God would reveal himself and we might place our faith in him. John wants us to believe. His desire is that we would put our faith in Jesus. He is not impartial. But that doesn’t mean what he is saying isn’t true. We have a tendency to view anyone who isn’t impartial with a bit of skepticism. But when someone isn’t impartial it doesn’t mean they’re not trust worthy. Think of your doctor. Your doctor is not impartial to your health. They do care about it. They care if you are sick or if you are well. They care if your blood pressure is too high or too low. They care if your cancer tests shows something off. They care about your health and therefore aren’t impartial.
John writes with the intent that others will believe. He wants this because he himself experienced it what it was to be transformed by belief. He saw it with his own eyes. He has nothing to gain but the joy of seeing others believe.
And when they believe they have life in Jesus name. This is eternal life. Life to the fullest. True life the way God intended for us to live from the very beginning of creation. Life that overflows with joy and satisfaction. Life that doesn’t require fancy cars or perfect health to be satisfied. Life that doesn’t need anything tangible or fleeting to be full. True life. Life abundant.
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
This is an offer that God gives to all mankind. It was part of the reason Jesus came to die. That if any person would repent and believe he or she would have the abundant life. But why would God do this? Why would God offer this to people who continually reject him? Why would Jesus, God in the flesh, come and die for others to have abundant life? That seems like an awful high price to pay for people who regularly reject him.
Why does God offer the abundant life?
He desires it for us.
It is what is ultimately good for us.
He gets glory from it.
Well there are three reasons God does this. He does it because he desires it for us. We’re told that God desires that none should perish and all should come to repentance. He also offers it because it is what is ultimately good for us. It is the way humanity was created to live. Abundant life is good for us. It is the way life is intended to be lived and best lived. He also does this because he get glory when people live the abundant life. When people live in right relationship with God he gets glory. He receives the praise he rightly deserves when people live in proper relationship to him.
Do You Believe?
Do You Believe?
So my friends the question that we must wrestle with today is Do you believe?
If you are here and you would already consider yourself a believer and you don’t struggle with believing in all that Jesus has done then I’d encourage you to rest in this abundant life he freely gives. Rejoice in his resurrection. Rejoice in the belief he has given you. Worship him for the good gift of faith he granted you.
Perhaps you are here and you would say “I am a believer” but I don’t feel like I have the abundant life right now. I’d encourage you to again turn to the risen Christ. Look to him and all that he has done. Let his work be your satisfaction. Don’t look to the things of this world. Look to the risen savior. He is the only one who can bring you abundant life.
Or maybe you find yourself and you would say that you had a religious experience when you were a child or many years ago but it really doesn’t impact your daily life now. Perhaps you walked the aisle or prayed a prayer but it has little impact on your day to day. I must encourage you to turn from unbelief to belief. Turn to Jesus. Turn to Jesus and declare “my Lord and my God.” For that is the only thing sufficient to save. Belief and faith are persisting things. If he is not Lord he is not savior.
And finally if you are here and you’d say “ don’t believe”. The Bible is abundantly clear that the only proper response to God and what he has done is to repent and believe. To turn from our sins and put our faith, hope and trust in the sufficient work of the savior Jesus Christ. Be like Thomas and turn to the risen savior. The savior who died for your sins, the savior who bore your penalty on the cross, the savior who rose on the third day victorious over death and the grave. Turn to him. Believe in him and have life in his name.