Doubting No Longer (John 20)
1. Good evening. My name's Thomas and I want to tell you my story. I doubted Jesus' teachings. I'll admit that. It wasn't that I didn't believe in Him. It just didn't make sense. That's what was so disturbing. You're probably most familiar with the story about me following the Resurrection of Our Lord. The one where I wasn't with the other ten the night after Jesus rose from the dead. The one where I said, "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" (v25). The one where Jesus gave my soul peace.
2. My story starts a few days earlier. Maundy Thursday as you call it. That day was bizarre. While we were getting ready for the Passover, Jesus took His cloak off and washed everyone's feet. He predicted Judas' betrayal and Peter's denial. Then He said He was leaving. He said (14:1-4):
- 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.
Why was He leaving us? What had we done to Him? Had we disappointed Him somehow? We're only human after all. We couldn't help that we didn't always understand. We couldn't help that we were sinners. But His last statement stuck in my mind. So I asked the most obvious question, "Lord, we don't know where You are going, so how can we know the way?" This was the first time that we'd heard He was going away. You don't necessarily assume that everyone knows your vacation plans when you haven't told anyone. But Jesus was different. He continued to say things that didn't quite make sense. He continued to say things that disturbed my soul. So it shouldn't be a surprise that I doubted the other disciples when they said they'd seen Him raised from the dead. It still disturbed my soul.
3. I, like most of the rest, fled for my life when they came to arrest Jesus in Gethsemane. I was scared. I didn't know what was going to happen next, but I made sure that nothing bad would happen to me. I went back into Jerusalem, but I stayed with some family members who were there for the Passover. That's why I wasn't there on Easter evening. I was visiting with family from Galilee that I hadn't seen much since I had been travelling around with Jesus. When the other disciples came to me the next day and told me, I was skeptical. This was probably all some mass hallucination. The traumatic nature of Jesus' death had them seeing something that wasn't really there. I tried to protest to that effect, but they reminded me of the time Jesus walked on the Sea of Galilee and we thought He was a ghost. I was still skeptical, but I said I'd be with everyone the following Sunday and see for myself. And so I was. All eleven of us were in the room. The door was locked in case the Sanhedrin decided to come after us as well. Then there He was. First words out of His mouth were, "Peace be with you!" I couldn't help but be comforted. My soul was at peace. It was disturbed no longer. I knew and believed at that point. Then He drove the point home further. He called my doubts. He told me to do exactly as I had said would be necessary to believe the reports. He said, "Stop doubting and believe" (v27). What else could I say? What else could I do? Here was Jesus, plain as day, standing before me. I had no reason to disbelieve. No reason to doubt. Everything still didn't make sense, but Jesus said something that stuck with me for the rest of my days: "Because you have seen Me, you have believed? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (v29). His appearance to us provided peace. But those who would never see Jesus in the flesh, those who only had the testimony of others, those who were like me the day after Easter, were blessed because they believed the testimony of those who came to them and told them about the risen Lord.
4. That is the message God sends out to the ends of the world. I proclaimed this message as I went into India and the eastern extremes of the Roman Empire. The peace of Christ assuages all doubts. You may not get to see the risen Lord in this life, but I hope that you will listen to those who present the message to you. That message delivers the peace that Jesus gave to me and the rest of the disciples by appearing to us and continuing to teach us. Those forty days of His appearing after His resurrection taught us everything else we needed to know so that we can proclaim Him to all nations. I pray that Christ's peace be with you today and every day. Do not doubt. Only believe. In Jesus' name. Amen.