19 That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. 20 As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord!21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” 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.”
Today as we continue in our series “Living in the Reality of the Resurrection” we will see how the risen Savior deals with disciples of doubt. Have you ever been dogged by doubt? Have you ever had doubts about your faith? Have you ever questioned whether this Christianity thing is really real, have you ever doubted the deity? If you have then you are not alone. The bible is filled with those who doubted and yet ended up being committed to the cause of Christ: Sarah & Abraham, Jacob, Job, Jonah, John the Baptist, Martha, Peter, and Thomas. For those of us who have doubted, be encouraged, you are in very good company. Today as we look at John 20:19-29 we come to the famous passage that deals with Thomas doubt. His biblical nickname means twin, but the church has given him a new nickname “Doubting Thomas.” And while Thomas gets a bad rap of being the doubter he was not the only doubting disciple. It’s easy to criticize Thomas for his doubt, but the truth is we have all been here. You see at some point we all deal with doubt, and the question becomes how do we deal with doubt effectively? The story starts not with Thomas doubt but with the disciples:
- Reaction to Christ’s Commission
They shared the Savior with Thomas. What about you who are you sharing the Savior with? Jesus didn’t just show up to comfort them but to commission them. He freed them from fear so that instead of living scared lives they could live sold out lives. When it comes to sharing Jesus many of us have locked lips because we are living locked up lives. We are letting fear rule instead of the Father. When we hole up and hide because of fear we are not just hiding our lives we are hiding the light, because we hide His hope. So, let me ask you when it comes to the Lord how locked up are your lips? Why don’t we witness, because we are more motivated by fear than we are moved by the Master. We care more about what others will say than what Christ has said. Many of us are basing our witness on the reaction of others instead of the command of Christ. Our focus is on me more than it is on the message. Look when it comes to telling others about Jesus there will be those who respond with rejection and refusal. But their response is not your responsibility. My job is not to convince others about Christ my job is to provide them with a choice about Christ. What they do with that choice is their responsibility. You are the messenger not the Messiah and when people refuse the message they are not rejecting the messenger they are rejecting the Messiah. We need to stop basing our decision to share Jesus on people’s rejection and start basing it on Christ’s commission. It’s here that we see Thomas reaction of:
Instead of rejoicing there was refusal. “I won’t believe it unless I see” Thomas wanted proof and while it’s easy to criticize him for being the doubter the truth is that all of the disciples had doubted. Jesus’ appearance to Thomas just happened to take place a week later…other than that it was no different from His appearance to the others. Because we are told in verse 20 that it wasn’t until Christ showed the other disciples His hands and side that they “saw the Lord.” Be careful about criticizing other Christians and labeling them because you may just go through the same struggles. For some reason Thomas had been absent on the first Easter Sunday morning when Jesus appeared to the disciples as a group. We can only guess why he wasn’t present, but could it have been because he’d fallen into a state of spiritual despondency and it was just easier to crawl into a cave and hide. Sometimes we need to withdraw and think things through for ourselves, but only up to a point. We need to emerge and engage so we can test our conclusions in the fellowship of believers, to make sure that we haven’t gone off at a tangent. We were created for community, that is why Hebrews 10:24-25 calls us to gather together. It’s easier for the Devil to pierce us with his fiery darts of doubt when we are separated from the flock. One of the dangers with doubt is that it can cause us to depart from fellowship and make us vulnerable to attack. The point is that hearing about Jesus wasn’t going to be sufficient to move Thomas from doubt to faith. He needed to see with his own eyes. The reality is that we all need to have a personal encounter with the risen Savior. Despite what the other disciples told him Thomas had to experience Christ for himself, and when we do we will start to own our own faith. As parents we desperately want to protect our kids, we want to just tell them and have them accept it all but in order for it to become their faith they are going to have to question and wrestle and struggle. If you want your kids to become grounded in their faith you are going to have to let them grow up and that means letting them go through the hard things. Christians don’t grow through coddling they grow through challenge. We can tell and tell and tell but at some point all that head knowledge has to be translated into a heart knowing and that only comes through an authentic encounter with Jesus. You can know a lot about God, but do you really know God? Because if not all you have is information without the inspiration. What about you, what is your reaction to Christ’s commission, is it one of doubt or one of devotion?