Sermon: Believing Thomas John 20:24-31

Title: Believing Thomas

John 20:24-31

Truth Taught: When Thomas saw the evidence he believed

Introduction

Someone has said that you’re remembered for the dumbest thing you did in high school. You could have been a straight arrow and made straight A’s but it was that one time that you did……..
This is Thomas’ story. While not mentioned a lot in the NT, he did do other things but the nickname, Doubting Thomas stuck. Doubt is so associated with Thomas and has been used together with his name so much, that Doubting Thomas is used even today to call out someone who has doubts.
After the raising of Lazarus, Thomas speaks out…

John 11:16 (ESV)

16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Many things bring doubts into our mind. Sometimes doubts come and those doubts are good. Take a young adult who is out on his or her own now. He or she cannot feel comfort in their parent’s faith and must think through and even at times doubt whether their faith is real or not.

Sin can bring doubt into our lives. Often time we try to justify our actions by downplaying the truth that down deep we know to be true. The more we do this the more we open ourselves up to doubt. Sometimes we doubt because we don’t have all the facts. Often times when our questions are answered doubt leaves us. Finally, we can doubt when life just isn’t working out like we thought it would. Where is the abundant life Jesus promised us as His children?

Human Need

As believers, our doubts must be fought with truth. Ignorance leads to doubts. So, for us, the cure for doubting is truth.

Father, You have Gathered Your people that You may let us hear Your words, so that we may learn to fear You all the days that we live on the earth, and that we may also teach our children…amen

John 20:24–31 (ESV)

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.

  1. What Kind of Doubt Did Thomas Have?

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.” Martin Luther is a very good example of someone who was a lot like Thomas. Early in Luther’s life, he did not have the truth he needed. In fact, all Luther had was church tradition. He had no access to the Scriptures. He believed that God was angry and just couldn’t wait to pass judgment on Luther. Luther’s doubts were many, in those days. What did Luther need? He needed truth. Truth from God’s Word would scatter the darkness of doubt and discouragement for Luther. There was a moment in Luther’s life when, as he read and studied the Bible, God saved him. Luther has mentioned in his writings what the very verse was when, as he states He was born again by the Holy Ghost and heavens gates swung open wide and he walked through…
Romans 1:16–17 (ESV)

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
He says, “Here in it,” in the gospel, “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, ‘the just shall live by faith.’” A verse taken from the book of Habakkuk in the Old Testament that is cited three times in the New Testament. As Luther would stop short and say, “What does this mean, that there’s this righteousness that is by faith, and from faith to faith? What does it mean that the righteous shall live by faith?” Which again as I said was the thematic verse for the whole exposition of the gospel that Paul sets forth here in the book of Romans. And so, the lights came on for Luther. And he began to understand that what Paul was speaking of here was a righteousness that God in His grace was making available to those who would receive it passively, not those who would achieve it actively, but that would receive it by faith, and by which a person could be reconciled to a holy and righteous God.
Now there was a linguistic trick that was going on here too. And it was this, that the Latin word for justification that was used at this time in church history was—and it’s the word from which we get the English word justification—the Latin word justificare. And it came from the Roman judicial system. And the term justificare is made up of the word justus, which is justice or righteousness, and the verb, the infinitive facare, which means to make. And so, the Latin fathers understood the doctrine of justification is what happens when God, through the sacraments of the church and elsewhere, make unrighteous people righteous.
But Luther was looking now at the Greek word that was in the New Testament, not the Latin word. The word dikaiosdikaiosune, which didn’t mean to make righteous, but rather to regard as righteous, to count as righteous, to declare as righteous. And this was the moment of awakening for Luther. He said, “You mean, here Paul is not talking about the righteousness by which God Himself is righteous, but a righteousness that God gives freely by His grace to people who don’t have righteousness of their own.”
And so Luther said, “Woa, you mean the righteousness by which I will be saved, is not mine?” It’s what he called a justitia alienum, an alien righteousness; a righteousness that belongs properly to somebody else. It’s a righteousness that is extra nos, outside of us. Namely, the righteousness of Christ. And Luther said, “When I discovered that, I was born again of the Holy Ghost. And the doors of paradise swung open, and I walked through.”[1]

Do you see that for Luther, he needed knowledge from God’s Word. He was ignorant of the truth of salvation. The Roman Catholic Church had taught a false gospel that was really a works gospel. So Luther needed his past belief system shattered and replaced with truth.
This is exactly what Thomas needed.
Thomas was a devout Jew. He was one who believed in a works righteousness. He believed that keeping the Law and the Sabbath and being Jewish was how one was made right with God. Then Jesus comes along a shattered that system with His teaching. Then he switched his thinking to the things Jesus said. But now Jesus is dead. Do you see where Thomas is? He tired of being scammed and tired of believing things only to have them trampled on. He’s had it with all this stuff. He’s discouraged and questioning everything because he feels he been conned.   Scammed by the Jews, by Jesus, even by his friends who keep saying Jesus is now alive…yeah right. What Thomas needs is truth.
Life isn’t working out the way Thomas thought it would. He believed and trusted Jesus who spoke about a coming Kingdom and now there’s nothing but discouragement and doubt.
The kind of doubt Thomas had was the kind that comes about from ignorance. He needed truth.

  1. Truth Enters the Room and Doubt Leaves

John 20:26–29 (ESV)

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!”

There is a week lapse in time between the claims Thomas heard the disciples make and him actually seeing Jesus. What do you think Thomas did during that week?

He no doubt mulled over what the disciples told him. He rehearsed all that Jesus had done and said for the three years they were together.
He remembered that Jesus claimed deity…
John 8:56–58 (ESV)

56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

John 12:41 (ESV)
41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.
John 1:51 (ESV)

51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

He remembered what Jesus did…
John 5:8–9 (ESV)

Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.

Now that day was the Sabbath.

John 5:18 (ESV)

18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

John 10:27–30 (ESV)

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

John 11:43–44 (ESV)

43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Now Thomas and Jesus meet again.

Notice the first miracle is that Jesus appears to the disciples and to Thomas even though the doors were again locked. Our Lord extends to them again the great Shalom or Peace be unto you. Then before any thing else is said, our Lord walks up to Thomas, knowing already what Thomas had said, and shows him what he needed to see in order to believe. Do you see the astounding narrative?

Thomas was amazed, like before, Jesus appears through the locked doors (He is omnipotent). Jesus begins speaking to Thomas about the very things Thomas had privately spoken of, namely, the wounds of Jesus (Jesus is Omniscient). This man, Thomas begins to think, is acting a lot like the Jesus I once knew. Then our Lord shows the wounds to Thomas…

Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side.

  1. Thomas’ Faith and Ours

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.

Beloved, we no doubt have heard it taught that Thomas’ faith is good but those who have not seen…now that is the kind of faith God wants us to have. That’s not what this passage is teaching at all.
Mary Magdalene believed when she saw Jesus

The Apostle John believed when he saw the folded burial cloths

Thomas believes when he saw Christ and touched His wounds.

We too believe based on proof not based on here say.

John is the Gospel of evidence.

The Bible never asks you to believe what’s not shown to be true. Truth will increase our faith. When Thomas saw the proof he believed. He examined the evidence and discovered that this really is the same Jesus that taught me all God desires. This is the same Jesus that did all those things that only God could do.

John 14:1–7 (ESV)

14 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Application

When you feel discouraged and when it seems doubts are invading your heart and mind dwell on the truths presented in God’s Word and doubts will dissipate.

Application

Hebrews 12:1–2 (ESV)

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

If you’re wrestling with doubts, here are a few practical helps:
Soak in the Gospel according to John: “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” (John 20:31). The whole book is about believing.
It’s time to lay aside the weights of doubt. They need not impede your race. Your Savior died to free you from them and he’s going to help you. Trust him. And keep running with your eyes fixed on him (Hebrews 12:2).

 

[1] http://www.ligonier.org/blog/justification-faith-alone-martin-luther-and-romans-117/

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