The Sermon for Easter 2 April 8, 2018
Text: John 20:26-29 18:2063
Theme: Christian, Meet Yourself: Doubter or Believer?
I once read a story about 3 men discussing the troubles and frailties that plague people. One man said, “The trouble with most people is that they eat too much.” The second man objected: “It isn’t how much you eat, but what you eat that counts.” The third man was a doctor. He said, “It’s neither what you eat nor how much you eat that affects you most. It is what is eating you within that is important.
That man wasn’t only thinking about food and diets. They had been discussing the frailties and troubles that plague people. In his mind the more serious troubles are not what you put into yourself but what’s already within you that is eating away at your life.
The trouble most people have today is with that “gnawing” inside of them, and I don’t mean hunger pangs. There are so many things to do; so many troubles; so many doubts; so many problems to be solved. Each eats away at a person’s peace of mind. They haunt the waking hours and disturb sleep. And it’s worse when it’s spiritual.
Doesn’t that somewhat describe Thomas? Surely, he had no peace of mind within him. The gnawing plagued him. And what about you? Have you met yourself yet and seen your own frailties that rob your peace of mind from you – spiritually?
I. Let’s approach this by looking at Thomas’ story and do a little character analysis. What we know of him for sure from the Bible unfolds itself in 3 chapters from John’s Gospel.
The first occasion on which we meet Thomas is a memorable one, not like our text at all. We first meet him as Jesus’ ministry draws to its close. The hatred against Jesus among the leaders of the Jews was climaxing. They sought an opportunity to get rid of Him. But Jesus’ time had not yet come. So He was staying away from Jerusalem.
One day a message came from His friends, Mary and Martha. The message read, “Lord, our brother Lazarus, whom you love, is sick.” Instead of going to him, Jesus tarried several days. Then He told His disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” Fearful of His life and theirs they protested, “But Rabbi, they just tried to stone You to death there.” It would be suicide to go where people hated Him. But Thomas spoke up, “Let us go with Him that we may die with Him” (Jn.11:16).
Had impetuous Peter said that, we wouldn’t be surprised. But this
came from Thomas, whom we often picture, because of this incident in our text, as a timid and weak disciple. Is he doubter or believer to you? “Doubting Thomas” is the way you probably know him. That’s not a title of endearment or strength but of scorn and weakness. Yet the first time we meet him in the Bible he is the only one of the Twelve ready to go with Jesus and to die at His side.
Hmmm, that puts Thomas in a little different light. He loved his Savior and did not want to be parted from Him. Let Jesus suffer alone? Even if it should mean casting his own life into danger, Thomas would go. Certainly, that picture of Thomas is a stronger one than the picture you know of him as “Doubting Thomas.” Here is loyalty, courage, love, and trust in his Master.
Have you met yourself lately? Would you be so quick and bold to say: “Let us go and die with Him”? Would you be willing to forgo the rest of your life this instant – to miss your children, grandchildren, family and friends – for Jesus’ sake? Dying for Jesus when many are not willing to live for Him! Have you met yourself yet? Thomas’ brand of discipleship here goes all the way – not a quarter of the way, not half the way, not three-fourths the way but all the way in love for the Savior. So you tell me. Is this the mark of doubter or believer?
II. The second time we meet Thomas we find him in the Upper Room with Jesus on Maundy Thursday evening, the night before Jesus was crucified. While they were eating at the Passover table, Jesus tells the Twelve that He will be leaving. But He adds, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In my Father’s house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to myself, that you may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going” (Jn.14:1ff).
Thomas broke in to say, “Lord, we don’t know where You are going, so how can we know the way?” I imagine that he said that with a bit of trembling in his voice, trembling with surprise? sadness? loss of a dear friend whom he loved? Jesus replied, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Christ is the way and the answer for distressed minds and souls, especially those plagued by weakness and sin. That’s what eats at our insides the most – our failures and disobedience to God. Was Thomas responding to that? If so, Jesus was assuring His friend that He was about to take care of our deepest distress so that we might share His Father’s House with Him. He even assured Thomas in the midst of his struggles that Thomas knew the way – it was through Jesus, Jesus, only through Jesus. “Let not your heart be troubled; trust in Me.”
You know, we may never have heard these words which fill so many Christians with comfort, hope, and assurance had Thomas not asked Jesus about it. Our Savior is the Way, the Truth, and the Life before God. We can depend on Him and all that He tells us.
If He says you are forgiven because of Him, believe it; it is true. If He says He will stand by you in sickness and in health, believe it; it is true. If He says nothing will ever be able to separate you from Him, believe it; it is true. If He promises to hold you safely in His hand, believe it; it is true. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life before God. And if you love your Savior, like Thomas did, who asked and received these answers, then you will follow Him gladly wherever He takes you in this life knowing that He is preparing a place for you above.
So, tell me. Is this the mark of doubter or believer – to wish to know better and more clearly the way to the Father’s House above?
III. Finally, we come to the last, infamous chapter of Thomas’ life, the one that everyone remembers, and Thomas would probably wish to forget – in some ways.
This last chapter takes us to the golden days following Easter. They were wonderful days, radiant days, joyous days for those who had seen the Lord alive. They had heard His greeting, “Peace be with you.” It was not just a greeting but a divine imparting of the peace of heart and mind that sinners long for in the atoning blood of our Savior. What joy these disciples had, except for Thomas who had not been there with the rest when Jesus appeared to them. See what you miss when you miss the Lord!
For Thomas these were dark days of grief and sadness, maybe of shame and despair too. Remember, he was the only one of the Twelve who had said, “Let us go with Him even if we must die with Him.” But when that time came, Thomas ran and hid like the rest of them. How his own actions must have plagued Him with guilt, much like it was for Peter. Have you never been saddened by your own failures to stand up for your Savior? Such feelings are somewhat a measure of our love for Him, imperfect as it may be. But we dare not forget that Jesus’ blood cleanses from all sin.
So, can you blame Thomas for wanting to be sure about Jesus? The rest of the disciples, at one point, had doubted too. And realize this was more than doubt. The original Greek word here means “faith-less,” “without faith.” That really tells us what doubt is. To be “faith-less” is failure to trust the word of God. Christ promised His death for sin. He promised His resurrection to life for us. Many times, He promised it and numerous times the Scriptures of old proclaimed it. But Thomas did not believe it; he did not trust his Savior’s words. Doubter or believer? More accurately it is “faith-less one.”
But notice the mercy and compassion of our God. A week after the first appearances, Jesus came again when Thomas was there. Searching him out specifically He said, “Thomas, put your finger here. See my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop being faith-less and believe!”
Thomas was looking for evidence and the Lord graciously provided it. How about that? Christ wanted to do that for His friend’s sake. But it was not just for Thomas’ sake. Jesus was thinking of you and me and many others when He said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
In one sense, because of Thomas, we get to hear those words which were not so much addressed to the Twelve as they were to you and me and all those who came after them. For we are among that vast company of people who have not seen the Savior with our eyes, who have not felt His nail-marked hands or spear-pierced side, and yet, by grace through the power of the Spirit, have believed.
And what do you believe? That Christ covered your sin and paid for all of it? Yes! That Christ rose from the grave and promised you life eternal? Yes! That Christ descended into hell and proclaimed the devil’s power over you done? Yes! What a joy it is for us to hear: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
“Though we have not seen Him, yet we love Him. And though we do not see Him now, yet we believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy because we are receiving the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls” (1Pt.1:9). That, dear friends, will take care of anything that is eating you within.
Doubter or Believer? Christian, meet yourself and join with Thomas to look at the risen Jesus and confess, “My Lord and my God.” God grant it to us in faith for Jesus’ sake. Amen.