Don’t Doubt: John 20 v19-30
Two men were walking past a cemetery in Germany when they heard strange musical notes coming from one of the grave stones. One of the men really spooked out and with fear and trembling said to the other man “Can you hear that let’s run” The other man said calmly “Dont panic it’s coming from Beethoven’s grave he is decomposing”.
In our reading it’s Sunday night most of the disciples were together, I say most because one, Thomas was missing, the doors were locked and they were in fear of their lives, believing that the Jews would dish out the same punishment on them that their Master had to endure. I am a little surprised that they had not fled in different directions having witnessed the horrendous events of the crucifixion. Although the reason they stayed together is not made clear, Matthew Henry in his Bible commentary states his belief to be that they met together to know one another’s minds, to strengthen one another’s hands and to concert proper measures to be taken in the present critical juncture. Critical juncture, I think is an understatement! All they had been taught, all they had been through and witnessed with Jesus must have seemed totally wasted. They were frightened, they felt abandoned, they must have been in total confusion and dismay. Although Jesus had tried to explain to them why he had to go to the cross and the victory it would bring, they hadn’t grasped it. John 20 v9 tells us they still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead. Then Jesus came and stood among them and said “Peace be with you”. Try to imagine the scene, a room full of frightened men in fear of their lives, having been told about eternal life, yet unable to grasp what was meant by Jesus’ teaching of the victory over death by the cross. Do you think that they were instantaneously transformed into a cool, calm and collective bunch. I very much doubt it. I tell you from personal experience that when someone unexpectedly sees a ghost, they are far from calm. In fact if we read Luke’s account he confirms that they were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. Even after this event on the several other occasions Jesus met with them, some were still sceptical, and Jesus even eat a meal with them to prove he wasn’t a ghost. Ghost don’t eat!
Jesus then showed them his hands and his feet where those large nails had been driven through. The disciples we are told in v20 were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Although this doesn’t necessarily mean they were now calm, in fact Jesus said to them again “Peace be with you!” He then goes on to tell them that they were to be sent into the battlefield, they were to carry on in the same ministry as Jesus himself. However he first of all, knowing their human weaknesses did what? He breathed on them. Why? Probably for two reasons Firstly to let them feel his breath, dead men don’t breathe, but more importantly to anoint them with the Holy Spirit, because no disciple however well trained or read can be effective without this anointing. I tell you what a night this must have been, not only did they become reunited with Christ in person, but also were anointed by the spirit. What a special moment.
When told about this very special moment, Thomas didn’t believe them. Lets be honest the disciples were only ordinary blokes like any of us. How often do we kid each other, wind each other up or worst still, not tell the whole truth!
I feel sorry for Thomas, he doesn’t get a very good image in most of our minds does he. Even today people are called doubting Thomas. Yet this publicity is rather unfair really. Thomas deserves to be respected for his faith. At one point, when it was plain to everyone that Jesus life was in danger, only Thomas put into words what most were feeling, “Let us also go, that we might die with him” John 11 v16, he didn’t hesitate to follow Jesus. Yes he was a doubter, but his doubts had a purpose, he wanted to know the truth. He gladly believed when given reasons to do so. He expressed his doubts fully and had them answered completely. If we tell people something that they don’t believe our attitude is often ‘I’ve told them, it’s now up to them’. Fortunately Jesus never gave up on Thomas, after all we do not know where he was on this evening, he may have even been doing the Lord’s work, who knows? But we do know that Jesus by his grace and mercy came back a week later when Thomas was there with the rest of the disciples. You know I have a feeling that it wasn’t just to deal with Thomas’s doubt either. We are told it was the same house, and the doors were still locked, the other disciples were still very much security minded, probably still a little fearful. Jesus said to then again “Peace be with you” did he sense their uneasiness? The Lord then said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put into my side, Stop doubting and believe”. There is no evidence that Thomas placed his finger in the wounds, but he immediately made the greatest declaration of faith recorded in the New Testament “My Lord and my God”
Have you ever wished you could actually see Jesus, to touch him and hear his voice? Would you like to sit down with him face to face and get his advice or receive his healing? Thomas wanted Jesus’s physical presence. I know many ‘Doubting Thomas’ they are easy to spot, I should know I was, and still am occasional one. Many people have said to me as I try to tell them the good news and my experience of Jesus “That fine for you, but if he wants me, let him show himself to me” I then ask them do they really understand what they are asking for and if granted it would cause the second coming. Not a problem for me, if fact I long for it, but it could be a problem for them! God’s plan is wiser. By not limiting himself to one physical body, he can be present with us all at any time all over the world. He is here now in this very place by his Holy Spirit as well as in America, New Zealand…… He can be as real to you as he was to Thomas, if only you allow him to be. Someone once said to me “I’ve been to church but I’ve never felt or seen anything of Jesus, sadly I have to say sometimes I had the same experience, I’ve been to some church services where I come away empty. Whether that is a my own fault or the fault of the church, needs careful consideration. However there have also been very special moments in my journey with God when I have felt goose bumps as he breath on me or I have drawn so close in worship that I felt I was actually sitting on the lap of Jesus in heaven. Wonderful, special moments. The only trouble is when such things happen we can get greedy and expect it all the time and feel disappointed or let down when we experience the lowlights and not highlights! But make no mistake Jesus is there waiting for the opportunity to reveal himself in all His power whether we are in a church building or driving the car. Whether we are spiritually in the valley of depression, or having a mountain top experience.
Some people think they would believe in Jesus if they could see a definite sign or miracle, mind you it is likely that some wouldn’t recognise it anyway! I make no apologies for believing in power evangelism after all verse 30 -31 of our reading says “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 believing you may have life in his name” Sounds like power evangelism to me. However, Jesus also says in v29 “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”.
As I travel all over the place telling people my experiences of God, and there have been many, not that I boast but give praise and glory to God, I can guarantee that at nearly every venue here in the UK or abroad someone will say to me something like “You’re so lucky to have such strong testimonies” Although yes I have felt blessed and privileged to travel extensively sharing testimonies I normally reply “ No, first of all I don’t believe in luck and secondly if someone who has never been through dramatic experiences and yet still has faith, I am envious of their original testimony”. They never seem to believe me, but can you imagine such a testimony as ‘I read or was told and believed’ WOW! That’s what I call a conversion.
However I do believe that there is more, much more for all of us, our faith should not rely solely on our original or past testimonies. I believe that in v29 when Jesus says “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed” He refers to our first step of faith, he doesn’t mean blessed are those who close their eyes to my power. If we allow Jesus to be fully Lord in all we do and say, should we not expect more healing, more miracles, regular testimonies, as he restores us, his broken creation. Jesus stands amongst us today he offers you his peace. Peace with God, peace in our own consciences and peace with one another. Not necessarily peace in the world, but peace in Christ. A peace that passes all human understanding.
As Christ stood in the disciples midst at a critical time, he stands here right now. Maybe a critical time in our lives, certainly in the life of this church. What doubts do we have? Do we doubt his ability to provide, equip and anoint us for service? Are we afraid that the Holy Spirit will rock the boat! But wasn’t it the same Holy Spirit that calmed the boat on the Sea of Galilee. Isn’t it the same Holy Spirit which turned these cowardly disciples into brave martyrs, isn’t it the same Holy Spirit which added over 3000 to the early church in one day. Maybe it’s time for us to stop being doubting Thomases. It is my prayer that we at St. Chad’s experience week by week more and more of the Pentecost experience, more of those wonderful special moments? Jesus tells us to persist in pursuing God. People often give up after a few half-hearted efforts and conclude that God cannot be found. Some think they have arrived at their destination, but knowing God takes faith, focus, and follow-through, and Jesus assures us that our efforts will be rewarded. I believe most of us here today have received the free gift of salvation, but none of us must stop asking God for more knowledge, patience, wisdom, love and understanding. And as we receive because we have asked, we will experience more and more the breath of Jesus blowing on us, reminding us he is alive and active, and wants us all to be the same, alive and active.
Phil Yancey in his book ‘Reaching the Invisible God’ says “Doubt is the skeleton in the closet of faith and I know no better way to treat a skeleton than to bring it out in the open and expose it for what it is; not something to hide or fear, but a hard structure on which living tissue may grow”.
I believe that God is saying to us let us unlock the doors, take away the shutters, cast out our fears and doubts, be bold trust him even more. As we gather together as the family of God let us take the proper measures to see his glory here and in the lives of others, let us meet to strengthen one another’s hands for service and to know each other’s minds. We have the bare bones but we just need to allow Christ to put his flesh on them!
Let us be encouraged, but ask and expect more. We may not actually be able to see Jesus, but I tell you if we unlock our heart to him, to worship him, to give him honour, you will experience his presence in such a powerful way that we too will be able to say with total conviction “My Lord and my Master” and he in return will be able to say “Well done my faithful and obedient servants” Amen
Don’t Doubt JN 20 v19-30