Posts Tagged 'doubt'

Just Say Yes, Part 7

Many people in the New Testament said “yes” to Jesus, and none of them regretted it. Saying “yes” to Him is essentially what faith is all about. These people said “yes” to Jesus and they got what the needed because saying “yes” to Jesus is not only an expression of faith, but it is also obedience to God’s Word. When we say “yes” to the Lord, we are creating the conditions necessary to receive the promises of God and answers to our prayers.

We’ve looked at six people who said “yes” to Jesus:

• A couple of blind men gave the “yes” of faith to Christ’s offer of mercy and healing, Matthew 9:28;
• Some disciples said to “yes” to Christ’s question of teaching, Matthew 13:51;
• The Syrophoenician woman replied, “yes” to being a dog – a lost soul in need of healing and salvation, Matthew 15:27;
• Martha, Lazarus’ sister, said “yes” to Jesus being the Resurrection, John 11:27;
• In all, three times Peter said “yes” to the Lord when asked, “Do you love me?”, John 21:15, 16;
• While on the island of Patmos, John said “yes” to Jesus’ statement that He is coming soon, Revelation 22:20.

Fine examples all of people who said the right thing to Jesus. But I’ve saved the best “yes” till the end. It wasn’t just followers of Jesus who said “yes” to Him, He said “yes” to Somebody, too.

Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. (Matthew 11:26 | NIV84)

That’s Jesus saying “yes” to the Heavenly Father. It’s actually a very rare glimpse into one of Jesus’ prayers. Tasker wrote,

Here recorded is one of the most precious pieces of spiritual autobiography to be found in the synoptic Gospels. It shows that the dominant characteristic of His Incarnate life was obedience to His Father’s will.

A discouraged prophet

It all started with a question:

Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:2 | NIV84)

A very discouraged John the Baptist was losing faith. He sent some of his friends to Jesus to ask that very question. He had been stuck in prison for a while and he heard some puzzling things about the Man he introduced to the world as The Messiah. If Jesus was the Messiah, why was he still in prison? Why was Jesus showing no signs of Messianic activity, like judgment of the wicked that Jesus Himself had promised to do? He had some serious doubts and Jesus.

It’s hard to believe that a man like John the Baptist could ever have doubts. He was tough. He lived an austere life. He was devoted to his singular mission: to pave the way for the Messiah. If a stand up guy like John the Baptist could have his doubts, don’t be too hard on yourself or fellow believers if doubt floats into your heads. Even the most courageous and faithful of God’s servants experience doubt from time to time. But we can take a lesson from John: He essentially confessed his doubts to Jesus; he didn’t keep them bottled up inside. Doubt is the very beginning of faith, if you play your cards right.

If John the Baptist had his doubts about Jesus, Jesus had no doubts about John!

I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist… (Matthew 11:11a | NIV84)

But our Lord said more than that. He reassured John that He was the Messiah, not by giving him the “proof” he was asking for, but evidence. Faith is NOT about proof; it’s about evidence. God is His own proof and faith is accepting that fact. Here’s the evidence Jesus gave John:

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” (Matthew 11:4 – 6 | NIV84)

It may not look like it to you, but Jesus is paraphrasing Isaiah 35:5 and 61:1 as evidence that He was the promised Messiah. The evidence was that He was fulfilling the ancient prophecies about what the Messiah would be doing when He arrived on the scene. The Messianic Age had arrived because Jesus was doing exactly what the promised Messiah would be doing!

After giving John comfort; reassuring His cousin that He was truly the Messiah, Jesus paid him the highest compliment in front of everybody: Nobody was greater than John the Baptist. But then, Jesus says this:

yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Matthew 11:11b | NIV84)

That’s a highly contested verse. Chrysostom and Luther believed that “the least” refers to Jesus Himself. Jesus was “least” in the sense that He was younger than his cousin, that John came first, that it was John who baptized Him, and that for a while, John was more famous thanHe. That could be what Jesus meant. Or it could be that Jesus was referring to the “least” Christian. The “least” Christian is greater in privilege than John because John was still part of the Old Testament dispensation.

What Jesus said next is startling:

From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. (Matthew 11:12 | NIV84)

That’s a powerful verse, and it would have been something John the Baptist needed to hear. The kingdom of Heaven is coming; nothing can stop the Kingdom from advancing – from taking over this world of ours, and only those who are determined and devoted and committed can “lay hold of it,” or enter it, or be a part of it. Sitting in prison, feeling sorry for himself, John the Baptist was not the “forceful” man he should have been; the “forceful” man he always had been. This is Jesus trying to buck up his cousin. John the Baptist was better than this and he knew it.

The essence of verses 12 and 13 is found over Luke’s Gospel, but in the opposite order:

The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. (Luke 16:16 | NIV84)

It takes an effort to keep the faith. You can’t be lazy in walking the road of faith which leads into the Kingdom of Heaven. There’s no room for people sitting around watching the grass growing.

Jesus’ estimation of the world around Him

To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: “ ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’” (Matthew 11:16, 17 | NIV84)

A lot of people found fault with John the Baptist; they thought he was a little weird. But these same people thought Jesus was off His rocker, too, even though His way of life was drastically different from that of John.

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” ’ (Matthew 11:18, 19 | NIV84)

There was literally no way anybody could please these immature child-like adults. The people of Jesus’ day were like kids playing around at life; they were not serious people. They didn’t take John the Baptist seriously and they didn’t take Jesus seriously, either.

Not only the Jews, but the rest of the world was lost.

Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. (Matthew 11:20 | NIV84)

A person pays a high price when they witness the evidence that Jesus is Lord but then refuses to do the right thing. Their’s was a singular privilege; Jesus was living among them. His headquarters was there. He was preaching and teaching in those cities. He was performing miracles there. Yet they rejected Him. Verse 24 is one of the harshest statements ever made by Jesus Christ:

But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you. (Matthew 11:24 | NIV84)

This whole paragraph stands forever as a warning to all who have witnessed and experienced the presence of God and seen His power manifested but who refuse to repent. People like that, and make no mistake there are many of them, will be doubly condemned for their rejection of the light they have received.

Jesus is talking about godless cities, but John the Baptist was still on our Lord’s mind even as He rebuked and denounced the people who saw the evidence with their own eyes but still rejected Him. Jesus didn’t want His cousin; His friend; His co-worker to end up like the cities He rebuked. John the Baptist’s doubts couldn’t become more; they couldn’t take over the Baptist’s heart and soul.

Jesus and the weary

And that gets us almost to Jesus’ “yes.” Here’s what He said to God the Father just before He said “yes”:

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Matthew 11:25 | NIV84)

Even though Jesus was rejected by these proud cities, He was accepted by what we might call, “the common folk.” This is the first time in public that Jesus referred to God as His “Father,” but He also refers to Him as “Lord of heaven and earth.” That takes us right back to the beginning, to the book of Genesis, where we see that God is the Lord of heaven and earth; He created all that exists and He is the Father of Jesus Christ! And Jesus Christ is the revealer of God the Creator. And the only people who saw what Jesus was revealing – what John the Baptist began to reveal – were “little children,” that is, just simple, regular folks. They got it! John the Baptist got it!

And that was God’s plan all along, and that’s what Jesus said “yes” to:

Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. (Matthew 11:26 | NIV84)

This was something Paul understood well. He was a highly educated rabbi and theologian, but he completely missed the Messiah. He never noticed Jesus until the risen Lord confronted him.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Corinthians 1:18 – 25 | NIV)

Jesus said “yes” to all that. But John the Baptist was still on His mind. This was what John, sitting in prison, needed to know; what he needed to remember. Even in prison, John was the privileged one, not his jailers. John the Baptist was tired. He was weary. He needed strength outside of himself. Everything Jesus said and did here were with His cousin in mind. Even this passage:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28 – 30 | NIV84)

John the Baptist needed to hear those words. And maybe you do, too. Maybe you feel overcome by the world. Maybe you feel squeezed and pressured into a corner by circumstances of life. You know Jesus. You love Jesus. But, like John, maybe a doubt or two have rushed into your head. God’s got everything under control. Jesus has more than enough strength to keep you strong. All you have to do is go to Him, says “yes,” and accept the rest He offers.

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The Risen Christ, And the Power to Serve

Just in time for Easter, the media are pushing a new survey that says nearly one in four Christians don’t believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. From the Telegraph:

Nearly one in four Christians do not believe in the story of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, a poll has claimed. Fewer than one-in-three Christians in Britain believe “word-for-word” the Biblical story of Jesus rising from the dead, with another 41 per cent believing some sections should not be taken literally. But the Palm Sunday poll for the BBC found 23 per cent of those calling themselves Christians “do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead” at all.

Can you be a Christian and not believe in the Resurrection? Apparently so. It’s easy to blame our “post Christian society” for such a poll result, but a cursory glance at Church History tells us that the Resurrection has frequently been doubted. And the doubt started very early on.

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. (Matthew 28:16, 17 | TNIV)

Not too many years later, a large church in Corinth had a big problem accepting the Resurrection of Christ and the future resurrection of believers. Paul’s explanation went like this:

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all others. (1 Corinthians 15:12 – 19 | TNIV)

Verse 19 is a verse that all those so-called Christians who don’t believe in the Resurrection of Christ should get to know. Think about what Paul is saying in it:

If only for this life we have hope in Christ

That phrase speaks to all those people who claim to believe in Jesus as “the good guy,” the “loving rabbi” who taught about love and went about doing good. These people love the Beatitudes but don’t have any use for the divinity of Jesus Christ or of His literal Resurrection from the dead. There are plenty of people who have great respect for the Jesus of the Beatitudes. But the second phrase tells us that’s just not enough:

We are to be pitied more than all the others

In other words, it’s pitiful – pathetic – to have such a limited view of Jesus Christ. It’s not enough. The moral teachings of Jesus, as powerful and life changing as they may be, can’t save you. Simply living according to the Beatitudes would make our sick society relatively healthy, but not result in any souls getting saved and would offer no hope for the future. Indeed, hope for the future is grounded in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

History of the Crucifixion

The Crucifixion of Christ is a historical event. We can read about in the Bible and in other sources. For example, Cornelius Tacitus (55 – 120 AD), Rome’s greatest historian, wrote this:

Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus…

Josephus, a Jewish historian, wrote:

At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly, he was perhaps the messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.

And according to the Talmud, a collection of Jewish writing from 70 – 200 AD, we read this account:

On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, ‘He is going forth to be stoned because he has practised sorcery and enticed Israel to apostacy. Anyone who can say anything in his favour, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.’ But since nothing was brought forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of the Passover.

That the Crucifixion of Christ happened is indisputable. But it’s the Biblical record that gives us details of how it happened. When our Lord finally died on the Cross, a number of strange events took place:

• The heavy curtain of the Temple was torn in two, Matthew 27:51;
• There was an earthquake, Matthew 27:51;
• Many graves of Old Testament saints were opened up, Matthew 27:52;
• Some of the resurrected saints were seen in Jerusalem after the Resurrection of Jesus;
• A Roman centurion, no less, declared Jesus was truly the Son of God, Matthew 27:54

The burial, Matthew 27:57 – 66

Some time before sunset, shortly before the Sabbath was about to begin, one Joseph of Arimathea took it upon himself to secure the body of Jesus Christ in order to bury Him. For the body of a fellow Jew to go unburied was considered a terrible thing.

As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. (Mastthew 27:57 – 60 | TNIV)

What do we know about this man, Joseph of Arimathea? He was born to Matthias, and had at least one brother, Jonathan, and was intelligent and well-thought of by those who knew his family. He was born about eight years before Jesus Christ, and by the age of 17 had a strong desire to learn about the laws and customs, both religious and civil, of his people. He studied the teachings and philosophies of the Pharisees, the Saducees, and the Esseans, in order to choose the best Jewish sect to join.

Young Joseph would eventually join the Pharisees, but did not become obsessed with power and authority, as many of his peers did. His heart remained pure, and it was Joseph’s hope that through his efforts, the Jewish faith would grow in strength and purity and remain devoted to the teachings of Scripture. And just like when he was a young boy, all who knew this Pharisee were impressed with his sincerity and integrity and devotion to the faith.

But when Jesus Christ burst onto the scene and gained fame for His teaching and miracles, he caught the attention of the Pharisees, and some like Nicodemus and Joseph understood that there was something different – special – about this Jesus Christ. In time, Joseph became a convert and a disciple of our Lord’s.

It took a great deal of courage for this Pharisee to approach Pilate and ask for the body of Jesus, but Joseph did and his request was granted.

Burying Jesus had to be done quickly, and so there was no time for extensive preservation. Our Lord’s Body was wrapped up in linen and placed in a brand new tomb. The two Mary’s, who had been utterly devoted to Jesus for such a long time, were there, silently watching carefully where their Lord was buried.

Christ’s Resurrection, Matthew 28:1 – 10

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. (Matthew 28:1 | TNIV)

This visit recorded in Matthew is probably the same one we read about in John 20, but there only Mary Magdalene is mentioned. And only Matthew mentions this:

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. (Matthew 28:2 – 4 | TNIV)

The angel’s words in Matthew are similar to Mark’s record.

Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ ” (Mark 16:6, 7 | TNIV)

It’s interesting that none of the Gospel writers even tries to describe the Resurrection of Jesus, yet it makes sense: There were no eye witnesses to the actual event. Our Lord left His tomb quietly, after the Spirit gave Him life in a moment.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. (1 Peter 3:18 | TNIV)

The fact is, as much as we wish the Resurrection took place like some of the paintings portray it, nobody saw it happen; Jesus didn’t come out of the tomb with shocked guards watching Him. Silently, miraculously, and gloriously, our Lord simply rose up and passed through the stone with no fanfare.

For their part, the women didn’t linger at the tomb. They had a job to do; a witness to share. The angel kept the women from discussing how it all could have happened or speculating about things they couldn’t hope to comprehend. He ordered them to go and spread the news. On their way, who should they meet? None other that their risen Lord:

Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:9, 10 | TNIV)

This first appearance of Jesus was important given what He told them: “Do not be afraid.” It sounds like the women were afraid at that moment, but the Greek suggests they were living in a state of constant fear. The command of Jesus looks more like this: “Stop being afraid.” These precious women were afraid of many things this day, the least of which was the appearance of the Man they loved and worshipped. Fear had no place in their hearts this happy day.

The challenge, Matthew 28:16 – 20

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. (Matthew 28:16, 17 | TNIV)

The disciples were obedient to the word of their Lord. They went north to Galilee. We’re not told what mountain they were to go to, but in spite of their doubts, they went. A word of explanation and encouragement about Matthew’s account would be good right about now. For those of you who know your Gospels, it’s clear that Matthew has left out a lot material. He doesn’t mention all the post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus, but remember what the angel told the two women back in verse 7: “He is going ahead of YOU into Galilee.” In other words, in spite of Matthew’s rather truncated account, the women as well as the eleven disciples were present in Galilee. In fact, it’s entirely possible that this encounter in Galilee was mentioned years later by Paul:

After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:6 | TNIV)

Galilee was the perfect place for this meeting. It was probably near the end of Jesus’ 40 days on earth, given the familiarity of His words. In spite of everything, though, some doubted. I have always said that “doubt is the beginning of faith,” and I believe that to be true. These doubters, and we have no idea how many there were, still went IN FAITH. Their faith was far from perfect; who’s isn’t? The main thing is that in spite of their doubt, they still obeyed the word of the Lord. And we should too. We can’t let out doubts – our imperfect faith – keep us from living lives in obedience to the Word of God. In due time, the Lord will give us certain victory over those doubts.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18 – 20 | TNIV)

That’s what we call today, The Great Commission, but at the time they were simply words of instruction given by Jesus to His followers. Edward Blair, in his excellent book “Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew,” wrote that this commission from Jesus is the whole point of Matthew’s Gospel. In these three verses, we see the absolute, final authority of Jesus Christ, but also, as Blair called it, “its derivative authority.” With authority from Jesus, His followers were to go and evangelize the whole world. Not only that, we also see what discipleship is all about: teaching those evangelized the Word of God and not abandoning them at the very moment of the spiritual rebirth. And we have the promise to Jesus’ continued presence.

One of those who heard this Great Commission could possibly have been Joseph of Arimathea. It’s speculation, of course, but when you consider what became of this man, it seems more than probable. For some time after the death and Resurrection of Jesus, he lived a solitary life. Eventually, but he joined with Peters 72 disciples, according to tradition, and began to fulfill the Great Commission. As Roman persecution of Christians dialed up in intensity, and with martyrdom looming on the horizon, Peter’s followers dispersed, including Joseph of Arimathea, taking the Gospel with them.

Joseph travelled all over Italy, preaching and teaching the Gospel, and very often his life was in peril. Eventually he returned to Jerusalem, after the threat of persecution had died down, reporting to the church there all that he had done. The church, impressed with his missionary zeal, ordained Joseph of Arimathea and commissioned him to take the Word to what would become England. He would end up, as tradition has it, in Glastonbury, some three years after Jesus ascended to heaven. Still only in his yearly 40’s, Joseph had a long and powerful ministry of preaching and performing miracles by the power of God, and in one day he baptized 18,000 people. There’s surely a hint of exaggeration there, but there is no doubt that Joseph of Arimathea is an unsung hero of God’s Word.

You have to feel sorry for those who doubt the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. They will never exceperience what Joseph of Arimathea and countless followers of Jesus have experienced:  The continued presence of Christ in their lives and the power given them to fulfill the Great Commission through the Holy Spirit.

Easter, Part Two

The kind of person Jesus loves, John 20:24—29

Easter is all about the Resurrection of Lord from the dead.  Easter is all about Christ’s triumph over death, Hell, and the grave.   Most Christians love the Easter story.  I love the stories of the people Jesus appeared to after His Resurrection; for me, those are far more interesting than the fact of the Resurrection.  Don’t get me wrong, the Resurrection is basis of my faith.  However, given that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that His Resurrection had been foretold in prophecy throughout the Old Testament, the Resurrection is not a surprise.  And if the Jews had read their Scriptures with eyes of faith instead of religious eyes, the Resurrection of Christ would not have been a surprise to them, either.

I would like to take a look at Christ’s second appearance to His disciples because, at its heart, the lesson of this encounter is the triumph of belief.

1.  The first appearance, 20:19—24

In order to understand the second visit of Christ to His disciples, we need to glance back to His first visit.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  (verse 19)

Jesus’ friends were scared.  Consider:  these men had narrowly escaped arrest and probable death along with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane; they knew the odds were good that trouble was just around the corner for them because of their association with a known agitator.  Their doors were locked as they gathered this evening for fear that the Jews would send the authorities to get them as they had Jesus.

They were all there with the exception of the traitor, Judas, who was dead, and Thomas was nowhere to be found.

Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.  (verse 24)

The sudden appearance of Jesus in the locked room must have both startled and excited His disciples.  Obviously a locked door couldn’t stop a Man who just defeated death!  The “resurrection body,” while not like our bodies of flesh and blood, is clearly not ethereal, like the misty ghosts we see on TV.  Christ’s body bore the marks of His crucifixion, which suggests that there is a continuity between the physical body of flesh and blood and the resurrection body.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”  (verse 21)

The fact that Jesus had to repeat His message of “peace” shows that these had none of it.  They should have, because Jesus had warned them what was to come, but they were still fearful.  All it took was His appearance, however, to renew their devotion and their hopes.  But it took a lot more than that, however, to keep these men focused on their commission. They rejoiced to see Jesus again, but Jesus did something beyond merely appearing to them:

And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  (verse 22)

For their coming work, Jesus gave the disciples the Holy Spirit.  This was sort of like a mini-Pentecost.  The phrase “breathed on them” is found only one other time in Scripture.  In Genesis, we are told this:

The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)

This evening, Jesus Christ breathed “spiritual life” into His disciples; this spiritual life was desperately needed to give them strength and courage to carry on.   The days between the Resurrection and Pentecost were strange days for the followers of Christ and His disciples, the new leaders of this new movement needed special power from on high to remain faithful until the Holy Spirit was given in full measure to the whole Body of Christ.

But one man was missing this evening, Thomas.

2.  Putting conditions on Christ, 20:24—25

So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”  But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”  (verse 25)

For some reason, Thomas was not with the disciples the evening Jesus came to them to encourage them and to give them the Holy Spirit.  He should have been there, but he was not.  We can only guess why Thomas was missing, and it has to do with his character.

What do we know about this man?  Thomas was a devoted follower of Jesus, but he tended to be negative.  Though not mentioned often, when he is he is always seen as both devoted and despondent; he was always afraid that he would lose Jesus Christ or that their future would be bleak.  Thomas was the kind of man who always saw the bad, never the good.  He always seemed to expect evil and could never bring himself to believe the good when it occurred.

That he was devoted to Jesus is clear from John 11:16—

Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Thomas was afraid that Jesus was in danger and he loved his Lord so much he didn’t want Jesus to die alone.  So this doubter was undeniably loyal, outspoken, and a little pessimistic.  He was so devoted to Christ, that when He was crucified Thomas’ whole universe collapsed.

Despite the fact that his friends had repeated their eye witness account of their encounter with the risen Christ, Thomas was stubborn in his refusal to believe.  He was absolutely certain that Jesus was dead and, let’s face it, most dead people don’t up and leave their graves.

So for Thomas, simply hearing the truth was not enough.  This man needed more.  Whoever this was that supposedly appeared to the disciples would have to measure up to certain standards which Thomas himself would insist upon.  Notice that Thomas needed see something and he needed to feel something before he would believe.

There are a lot of people today who are just like Thomas.  For them, “seeing is believing” and they place a premium on what they feel.  If they don’t “feel it,” then it’s not real.

3.  The condescending of Jesus, verses 26—27

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 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.”

Literally it was eight days later and we find the disciples still in Jerusalem, still meeting in the same room, and still locking their doors.  This time, though, Thomas is with them.  We don’t know why Thomas decided to show up this time.  Perhaps his grief and sadness and lessened or, more likely, it was better to be among friends than to remain alone.  If a Christian is to “grow in grace,” he has to fellowship with other believers.  Hebrews 10:24—25 makes it clear as day—

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

We grow together when we come together.  Thomas’ doubts did not keep him from fellowshipping with his friends.

The rest of verse 26 is almost an exact replay of verse 19.  When Jesus reappeared this second time, once again He wishes them “Shalom,” “peace.”  Obviously peace was in short supply in those days.  Another reason Jesus’ second visit was a virtual carbon copy of His first visit was, perhaps, for the sake of the doubter; how could Thomas accuse the other disciples of making up a story when Jesus came and greeted them in the exact same manner as before.

What Jesus said to Thomas reveals that He knew what Thomas had said the previous week; Jesus knew all about Thomas’ conditions.  How startled Thomas must have been!  How did Jesus know what he said?

What is really interesting about how Jesus spoke to Thomas is that the Lord did not upbraid him for his doubts, but He challenged him to make the test he suggested.  In fact, for each demand of Thomas, there is a command of Christ.   Jesus told Thomas to “Stop doubting and believe” which can be literally,“ Stop becoming an unbeliever and become a believer” (Tenney)

Despite Thomas’ doubts, Jesus did not love him any less and He willingly submitted Himself to Thomas’ conditions.

4.  The doubter’s response, verse 28

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

We don’t know if Thomas actually reached out his hand to touch Christ’s wounds.   I don’t think he did.  He didn’t have to.  There are many people today who are much like Thomas:   “If I could just see Christ, I would believe.”  The problem with unbelief is not a lack of credible evidence of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The problem is with the human heart.

God will meet the honest doubt of a person; but He won’t waste His time on dishonest doubts.  Thomas, doubter though he was, already loved Jesus.  He was already devoted Him.  He had faith, but it was fragile.  This is the kind of person Jesus works with.  The man who, just few days earlier, wanted to place conditions on Christ, now called Him, “My Lord and my God.”  Those are powerful words and not insignificant words for a Jew to say.  The Law strictly forbade the deification of any man; what Thomas said of Jesus would be considered as blasphemy!  But Thomas, in light of the Resurrection, called the risen Jesus Lord (kyrios) and God (theos), both titles reserved for Jehovah.

When he realized who Jesus Christ was, Thomas’ wishes—his demands of Christ—disappeared, for he finally recognized his sovereign Lord.  When any of us recognizes who Jesus Christ is, we all have the same attitude as that of Paul:  May He increase and I decrease.

5.  Christ’s response, verse 29

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Thomas’ wonderful confession of Christ as Lord was perfect.  There was nothing wrong with what he said.  There was, however, something wrong with how he said it.  Thomas should have believed without seeing.  Christians are supposed to “walk by faith, not by sight.”  Jesus’ very mild rebuke of Thomas was not for his benefit; it was for the benefit of all those who, in the centuries that followed, would come to faith in Christ.  Jesus’ words are for people like us:  Blessed are they who have never seen Me, yet still believe in me.

In the experience of Thomas, we see how simple belief comes to maturity and how it changes the entire direction of one man’s life.

(c)  2010, WitzEnd

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