Summary: On the day of Jesus's return we will see him, in person, face to face. Until that great day, we are those who have not seen, yet believe. We are those who have not touched and seen and heard.
There are some things about us that we just have, naturally. Think about how children look. Every child receives some features from his or her parents, like red hair or brown eyes or a certain shape of nose or chin.
And sometimes we think faith is like that too. We say, “I’m pretty sure I have faith, because my parents have faith. It kind of runs in the family.” Or we make the assumption, “I have faith, because I grew up in the church.” But faith isn’t like that. And it doesn’t come naturally. Faith is—it must be—a gift of God.
Why? Because by ourselves, we’re all dead. By ourselves, we don’t have even a drop of God-pleasing stuff. Quite naturally, all human beings reject the good things of the LORD, and every one of us would be lost in wickedness and condemned for lack of faith.
I know that’s a gloomy way to begin a sermon. Yet the good news is we’re not lost nor condemned! Instead of conforming to the pattern of this world, we’re being transformed by God to walk in the newness of life.
And in our text, Jesus speaks about what a marvel faith really is. For we can believe in the risen Lord Jesus without seeing him. We can be sure of what we know, even without having it all proven and verified. By God’s grace we believe in Christ, and by his grace we are richly blessed. This is our theme from John 20:28-29,
Blessed are those who haven’t seen the risen Christ, yet believe!
1) the faith of someone who saw
2) the faith of those who have not
1) the faith of someone who saw: The disciples had been through quite a week, a lot of ups and downs. Only six days ago they’d been filled with great joy as Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey. But the excitement of his triumphal entry soon fizzled. Because just four days later, Jesus has been betrayed by Judas. He was hunted down, abandoned by his disciples, arrested by soldiers, and put on trial. It was all so dismal and disappointing.
At the mercy of his captors, Jesus was knocked around and flogged and ridiculed, until the sentence of death was handed down by Pilate. There followed the torture of the cross—spikes hammered into hands and feet, and an agonizing death by suffocation, as He was suspended in mid-air on those wooden beams. Then came blood and water, rushing out of his pierced chest. Finally, Jesus’s lifeless body was taken down and buried.
It looked like all was lost. The disciples cowered in hiding on that Sabbath. But then came the rush of events on Easter Sunday. Disciples had gone to Jesus’s tomb, and they found it empty! At the same hour, Mary Magdalene was met by the Lord Jesus himself. Not dead, but alive! Not bruised and bloodied, but changed and glorified—so glorified He needed to tell her, “Do not cling to me” (20:17).
The risen Lord sends Mary to tell the others. They don’t have to wait long to see how wonderfully true her report was. For later that day, “When the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’” (v 19). They don’t have to grieve or fear. It’s as if Christ comes to his own funeral service, and He announces to all gathered, “Cheer up, everyone. Cancel the funeral. Because I’m alive!”
And Jesus wants to make sure his disciples know that it’s him. For maybe later they would doubt themselves. Maybe they’d look back and say it was all a dream. So Jesus “showed them his hands and his side” (v 20).
His body had been changed and glorified, and the wounds partially healed. Yet the disciples could still see where the nails had been, could see where the spear had found its mark. This was no phantom-Jesus; this was no dream. This was their flesh-and-blood Jesus, alive and well—still bearing the marks of what He’d been through.
Compare it to how people tell the stories of their scars. “You see this scar?,” they say, pulling up a pant leg. “Knee surgery, back in ’98.” Or, “See this burn mark? From an accident at work.” In a way that cannot be argued, scars confirm a person’s story. Those marks in our skin connect us to what happened, even if it’s decades in the past.
So when the disciples see Jesus’s hands and side, John tells us, “[they] were glad” (v 20). They really knew it was him. But think about why Jesus has done this. He showed himself, not to give them a last curious look before He went to heaven. No, Jesus had a specific purpose in appearing on that day. For these were his disciples, the men who would first bring the message of his salvation into all the world.