Monday: John 20
We begin in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Lord Jesus Christ, bless us as we gather here this morning. Help us to pay attention. Help us to grow in our faith. Be with us, and send to each one of us here this morning, your Holy Spirit. Amen.
Have you ever been told to stop doing something? In school, you’re always being told to stop. “Stop talking to the person sitting next to you.” “Stop sleeping.” “Stop this. Stop that.”
In the story of Jesus, appearing to his disciples, remember what he said to one of his disciples? He told one of them to stop doing something. Jesus didn’t say, stop talking, or stop messing around. Remember the story? On Easter night, Jesus appeared to his disciples, and one of them was missing. It was Thomas. When Thomas showed up later on that night, he would not believe it when his friends told him that Jesus was alive. Unless I see Jesus with my own eyes, unless I touch his wounded hands and side, I won’t believe it, Thomas said. Thomas wanted proof – real, visible, touchable proof that Jesus was alive.
Remember what Jesus said to Thomas, a week later – the Sunday after Easter? Jesus appeared to his disciples again. This time Thomas was with them. What did Jesus say? Stop… what? Stop doubting and believe. And then Jesus spoke those famous words: “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.”
This week we’re going to really ponder what Jesus said here to Thomas, and to us. Stop doubting, and believe. What is it, that causes us to doubt? What is it, that causes us to believe? How can I be someone who has never seen Jesus in my entire life, and yet I strongly believe in him? How can I be that person? Those are some of the questions that we will be considering this morning and this week.
Whenever we hear this story, we often say to ourselves, “I would never be like Thomas. He was stupid. I would have believed right away. I would have been one of the strong disciples!” Is that really what would have happened? You wouldn’t have been skeptical? Have you ever thought about how much you and Thomas have in common?
You and Thomas both have had Christian educations. For you, it’s a Christian high school. Confirmation class. Maybe Christian grade school. Thomas had a better Christian education than you, some would say. Three years of being one of the 12 apostles – an amazing Christian education – watching and listening to everything Jesus ever said and did – live. Everything you ever read in the Bible, and more (because more happened than what you have here) – Thomas was there. He saw it all. He heard it all. He asked Jesus questions, he talked about Jesus with the other disciples – he had one of the best Christian educations a person could ever have had.
And yet, he still doubted. Even with all of your Christian education, haven’t you ever had a moment of doubt? Do I really believe all this stuff? Why am I a Christian anyway? It is because my parents are Christians? Is there really a heaven? Is there really a Jesus who died and rose from the dead? Do I really believe all this? Had you ever had a moment of doubt?
What is it that causes doubt? For Thomas, and for us, it’s often the same thing.
You see, Thomas saw things and heard that made him feel like he had put all of his trust in the wrong place. He saw Jesus arrested, even though Jesus was all-powerful. He saw Jesus tortured and shouted at by the crowds and crucified, even though Jesus was God and he could walk on water and calm storms and heal people of their diseases. Thomas saw Jesus die, even though Jesus could raise people from the dead. None of this made any sense. These things Thomas saw, and heard, gave him feelings of confusion and disappointment and sadness. All of these things made him feel like he had put his trust in the wrong place. That’s why he was so skeptical when the other disciples told him that Jesus was alive. That’s why he doubted.
Isn’t this why you and I sometimes doubt too? Yes, I’ve had a Christian education. I can get an “A” on most Bible quizzes. I’ve been taught to trust God, to trust Jesus. But sometimes I see things, I hear things, I experience things – bad things - and it feels like I have put my trust in the wrong place.
For example, a loved one dies – and it wasn’t good, in my opinion. It was too early. Or there was too much pain and suffering. The whole thing made me doubt that God is wise and loving. I see the world – it’s a mess. People are starving. People are hurting each other. The bad people seem to be successful. The good people seem to be struggling. Less and less people seem to believe in Jesus Christ or even care. The whole thing makes me doubt that God is powerful, that Christianity really even matters. Is there really a God? Is Jesus really risen from the dead, and living and ruling eternally? Have you ever seen things or experienced things that caused you to wonder if you have put all of your trust in the wrong place. Just like Thomas?
Don’t you wish that you could have visible proof that everything you have ever been taught is true? That’s what Thomas wanted. Give me something, God, something to show me that you’re real. Just one miracle. Or maybe not a miracle – how about just answering my prayer with an obvious “yes.” Let me know that you’re there, do something, and then I’ll believe.
What is the cure for doubt? In John chapter 20 – Jesus himself was the cure for doubt. When Thomas was standing face to face with Jesus, he changed from “I will not believe” to “My Lord and My God.” Face to face with Jesus Christ takes away doubt.
How does that work today? Jesus isn’t going to appear to visibly appear to you today, and tell you to stop doubting, and believe. He could if he wanted to. But instead, he said, “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.” How can I believe without seeing? What is the cure for doubt today?
You go to the most under-rated place in the world. When you’re having doubts, you start walking across the room. And the Devil says, “No, don’t do it. It won’t help you.” You’re almost across the room, and the Devil says, “What you’re about to do is a waste of time.” You pick up your Bible. You carry it to your couch. And the Devil says, “Maybe there’s something on TV you can watch. The Bible is boring. And it doesn’t make any sense. So don’t read it.” You get to your couch and you sit down. And right before you open it the Devil says, “Don’t trust this book. It’s all made up. There’s mistakes in there, you know.”
And then you open your Bible. You really don’t have a plan. You just start reading. And as you do the Devil goes away, and your doubts start to go away too. You relax, and you wonder why you didn’t do this a long time ago. You read the bible with an open mind. Yes, the world is a mess. And yes, you’ve experienced disappointment and pain in your life. But as you read the Bible, you find comfort. You find hope. You see, that page of Scripture that you have open is the face of Christ. You look at that page and read those words, and you are looking into the face of Christ, and he is speaking to you, and it’s just as real as that moment that Jesus was speaking to Thomas, and Jesus says to you, “Stop doubting, and believe.”
There on that page of the Bible Jesus speaks to you. And your faith gets bigger. And your doubts get smaller. And you believe.
I don’t know if it’s possible to ever be completely free of doubt on this side of heaven. It seems that just when one of my doubts goes away, another doubt takes its place. We will always be struggling with different doubts, as we live in this sinful world. We will have good days, and we will have bad. But we will believe, because we have he Word. That’s where Jesus helps us to believe, even though we can’t see him.
He is just as real the oxygen I breathe, he’s just as real as the cell phone signal we can’t see. I’ve never seen him before, but I believe that he who is God and man died on a cross as a sacrifice to take away my sins and the sins of the world. I’ve never seen him before, but I believe that he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. I can’t prove it to you, but I know there is a heaven. I know that someday I will rise from the dead, and so will you, even though it goes against all science and logic and everything I have ever seen. I believe it all, even though I can’t see it, I can’t touch it, I can’t prove it, I can’t explain it. But I believe it.
Even if everything in the world tells me the opposite, I will still have faith. Will you? Walk across the room. Open that Bible, again and again. Every page of Scripture is the face of Christ, looking at you. Keep your eyes on him, keep listening to him. That’s how you keep your faith. That’s how you believe. Blessed are those, who have not seen, and yet have believed. Amen.
We pray: Dear Lord Jesus, forgive us for those times we have doubted you. Fill us with a strong and confident faith in you, every day of our lives. Amen.