Scripture: John 20:24-29
Sermon prepared by Rev. Vernon Luchies, Kalamazoo, Michigan
Doubts would not have risen had Thomas shown up for church that first Sunday evening. "Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came." That is how it all began. What a lot he missed by staying away. He missed the blessing of peace. He missed the Living Lord. He missed God's special revelation. For Jesus showed the wounds in his hands and side. He missed being overjoyed. He missed being breathed on and receiving that first Installment of the Holy Spirit.
By your presence here this evening, you must realize the importance of meeting Jesus Sunday evenings. When we come with such expectations, the Risen Lord will not disappoint.
For a whole week Thomas is left with his doubts. The other disciples are rejoicing in their sure knowledge that Jesus is alive. He has conquered death. But Thomas is plagued with doubts, depression and disbelief. It could have been so different had he gathered with the others that first Lord's day evening.
O what peace we often forfeit.
O what needless doubt we bear.
All because we do not gather,
Sunday nights for praise and prayer.
Yes, but it may be that Thomas had a legitimate excuse. The Bible doesn't bother to tell us about any excuse. It only tells us this: whether legitimate or not, Thomas was the big loser. One hour's absence cost him one week's absence of assurance of faith, joy and peace.
May none of us ever be absent when we could be present. May none of us ever skip some means of grace God has for us. The service that "we needlessly miss, might be the very one which would encourage, lift and quicken our hearts."
Well, perhaps Thomas wasn't in any mood to meet with the other disciples that first Sunday evening." But stop and think. Were the other followers in the proper mood? Surely not. They were in no better mood than Thomas. Jesus, who always meets with us when we meet in his name, can change any mood. Let's always snatch every opportunity to "follow on to know the Lord."
"Thomas . . . was not with them when Jesus came." He was not glad. For he did not see the Lord that first week. He was sad. His doubts kept him down, not at all sure about the future.
The disciples had a hand in resolving doubts
Overjoyed, the other disciples found brother Thomas and announced excitedly: "We have seen the Lord." They did not find him and say, "Hey, why weren't you there last Sunday night?" No, as the Father sent Jesus, so Jesus sent them: in love, not critically or judgmentally. Or talking to others about him. They were upbeat. Joyful. They had much to do with his being there this Sunday evening. How glad they must have been when he met with them.
But Thomas wasn't the easiest one to encourage. Thomas might have thought, "Perhaps Jesus did appear to them in spirit somehow from heaven. But coming to them in the body when the doors were locked? Come on. How could that possibly be." The other disciples tell him so well; how he invited them to examine his hands and side.
But Thomas is leery. He won't take anyone's word for it. He demands nothing less than a personal, scientific investigation. He tells them so. "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."
Resolving doubts happens in church
Verse 26: "A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them." It was Sunday evening. It might be called a repeat performance of that first Sunday evening. Again they meet behind locked doors. They slip into the meeting with the same precaution. The drummed-up story that the disciples had stolen Jesus' body might still cause them trouble.
Jesus has been alive for a week. And Thomas has still not seen him. Why did Jesus wait a whole week before showing himself to Thomas? Why didn't he come to Thomas privately? After all, he did come to Simon Peter that way. We may be sure that Jesus had his reasons. Thomas' ultimatum was not private. So Jesus challenge to Thomas is not private either. Jesus knows what each of us needs. We are all different. And Jesus treats us accordingly.
A more timely question is: Why did Jesus come back this second Sunday evening? Jesus knows that his followers need new bestowals of grace time and time again. He also knows that Thomas needs special attention. So Thomas' problem is dealt with at church. The house they are meeting in is now the house of God. Because Jesus is there. True, this is not the only place Jesus meets with us. But never forget, it is a likely place, a good place, a special place to meet Jesus. To have our doubts resolved.
In the word "church" is the idea of being called out, to be called together. Why is church thought so little of today? Is it because the Living Lord is not present anymore? No, It's because his people aren't present anymore. No one really expects to meet Jesus anymore.
Way back in the Old Testament, Asaph knew good things happen in church. Psalm 73:
O God, how good Thou art.
To all the pure of heart,
Though life seems vain.
Burdened with anxious care,
I groped in dark despair,
Till in Thy house of prayer
All was made plain.
At church, doubts are resolved. Because Jesus is there. All is made plain there. Do you have this conviction as you meet here Sunday evenings? If you don't, something is wrong. It is not Jesus' fault. Let us examine ourselves whether we are truly in the faith.
How thankful we should be. How thankful Thomas should be. Our doubts and misgivings do not keep Jesus away from church. Nor do they keep him from helping us in our doubts and unbelief. Thomas found that out before leaving that Sunday evening. May we discover the same thing this evening.
The Lord Jesus enters locked doors again. Again he blesses his people with peace. Thomas is covered with his blessing. You and I are also covered with his blessing."Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever. Now, Thomas is in church. He cannot hide in the crowd. No one can. Perhaps that's why some shy away from church. We like to be anonymous. But Jesus searches us out.
Resolving doubts is a personal matter
Perhaps you yourself have said at one time or other,"That sermon was directed right at me." Every sermon and every service should be that way. Every Lord's day, every time you hear the Word preached, you should sense that Jesus is speaking to you personally. That's true of you too, boys and girls, young people. Everyone of us.
Verse 27: Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."
The Lord Jesus comes to the gatherings to speak to his people individually as well as collectively. Thomas is not the only person involved. All the disciples, you and I are also involved. Thank God. All of us can benefit.
"How shocking!" Thomas must think. "Jesus is calling me by name. He's using the very words I used last week. How does he know what I said? How much different my words sound from his lips" Such thoughts must have raced through his mind. He doesn't need all that proof he demanded anymore. How childish his challenge seems now. Such unbelieving talk as this is cheap. Yet, very costly. He should have believed the testimony of his brothers.
How easy it is to talk boastfully and unbelievingly about the church, the pastor, the elders and deacons, even fellow members during the week. It hurts Jesus. "Why are you persecuting me?" O, that Jesus would confront us with our cheap talk. That he would call our bluff. When Jesus confronts us person to person, we realize that foolish talk is out of place. It's very detrimental to his church.
What condescending love! Jesus is concerned with Thomas and his doubts. As one of the Twelve, he should have known better. The week before this same condescending love was shown to the other disciples; "He showed them his hands and his side." Jesus deals with everyone of us personally. All we like sheep have gone astray. He wants us to return to the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls.
Resolving doubts is done very firmly
Come on, Thomas, carry out your fool-proof scientific investigation. By challenging Thomas, Jesus shows him how needless it is for Thomas to check him out. All the disciples must be thinking, "Wow Jesus must have been right there with us even though we were unaware of him!" After all, they were gathered together in his name. And he was right there with them. It's still the same today. Let's remember that when we're in school, at the office, at work, or at the kitchen sink, Jesus is always there.
Verse 27: "Stop doubting and believe. That's an order! Do what you have to do, Thomas. But for your own sake, stop doubting and believe" It seems Thomas doesn't need all this evidence now. Last week, he had laid out his ultimatum to the other disciples, "Without this evidence, I will not believe." Publicly he made the challenge, publicly Jesus calls his bluff. The Bible says, "Those who sin in public are to be rebuked publicly, so that others may take warning." (1 Tim. 5:20)
Jesus has to deal firmly with all of us at times. Sometimes we shy away from the Lord. We're afraid to get too close. We not only hinder our own fellowship with Jesus. We hinder that of our children, our loved ones, our fellow church members. We might think, "Is it fair that Thomas should be dealt with in this manner?" A better question is, "Is it fair that Thomas, or anyone of us, should be allowed to weaken the faith of those for whom Christ died?" No! We should lovingly admonish one another the more as we see the day approaching.
Resolving doubts leads to public confession
This is why Jesus deals so firmly with Thomas and with us all. Resolving doubts leads to public confession. In response to Jesus' challenge, "Stop doubting and believe." Thomas blurts out, "My Lord and my God!" What a wonderful, spontaneous confession. If you and I have unresolved doubts, don't air all of them before others. As an old hymn urges, "Tell it to Jesus. Tell it to Jesus... You've no other such a friend or brother. Tell it to Jesus alone!" Jesus has a unique way of helping and convincing people with doubts and misgivings. I am sure there isn't a person here who doubts the sincerity of Thomas' confession. In all the Scripture, you cannot find a more personal, more powerful confession, "My Lord and my God." Ringing in this confession are the words of the hymn: "King of my life, I crown Thee now, Thine shall the glory be!" Or Peter's confession: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." It contains within it all the happiness of life and death; I belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ!
"Jesus doesn't resolve our doubts just to make us feel good. No, it's to make us confess our faith in him. We previously mentioned Asaph, the Psalmist. How he: "groped in dark despair, Till in God's house of prayer, All was made plain."
But there's more to that Psalm 73. Coming to God's house led to this surprising confession:
"But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all Your deeds."
Has Jesus resolved your doubts? He wants to. He is able. If he has, he wants you to confess him here in church and out there in the world. He desires an overwhelming, personal, experiential confession from you: "My Lord and my God!" What are you waiting for. Bring all your doubts and your misgivings to Jesus! He assures you: "Whoever comes to Me, I will never cast out." When you come in all your helplessness he assures you that you are not coming to him on your own. No, it's only because his heavenly Father is drawing you.
What a comfort for all of us. Jesus accepts Thomas and his confession. Let this encourage you. Jesus can and will resolve your doubts. Assure your heart. Change your life. See him. Claim him by faith. Jesus says, "Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed" Through the Holy Spirit, we can see Jesus clearly by faith.
If that were still not enough, our chapter ends; "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" "Stop doubting and believe"
O Father, for the sake of Jesus your Son, give all of us here the grace to say with the hymn writer:
I do believe, I do believe
That Jesus died for me
And that through his blood, his precious blood,
I shall from sin be free
Overwhelm us with your grace and your presence, Lord Jesus. May we see you clearly with the eye of faith. May we see you clearly as our Lord and our God every Sunday morning and evening as we meet together in your name. May we ever proclaim you freely and joyfully to our neighbors and acquaintances Draw us ever closer to yourself. For it is your sovereign will.
Proposed Order of Service
We gather for Praise
Prayer for God's blessing
God's Greeting: Philippians 1:1, 2
Song: Psalter Hymnal #195 "Our God Reigns"
Confession: Our World Belongs to God, art. 26, 27, 28, p. 1027
Songs of Praise by song leader
God speaks to us through His Word
Scripture Reading: John 20:24-29
Sermon: "Resolving Doubts"
Prayer that God apply His Word to our lives
Song: Ps. Hymnal #73:6, 7, 8 "God loves All the Righteous"
Prayer requests and Prayer
Offerings for the Lord's work
We leave to Serve
Song: #320:1 & 2 "Lord, Dismiss Us With Your Blessing"
God's parting blessing: Ephesians 6:23, 24