Summary: Doubts don't disqualify us.
Dealing with our Doubts
Rev. Brian Bill
A defendant was on trial for murder and there was strong evidence indicating guilt, but a body was never found. In the closing argument, his lawyer, knowing his client would almost certainly be convicted, made a last-ditch move. He stood up and said, “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I have a surprise for you all.” He looked at his watch and continued, “Within one minute, the person presumed dead in this case will walk into this courtroom.” He looked toward the courtroom door. The jurors, somewhat stunned, all looked as well. A minute passed but nothing happened.
Finally the lawyer said, “Actually, I made up the previous statement; but you all looked at the door, expecting him to come in. Therefore, I put to you that there is reasonable doubt as to whether anyone was killed and insist that you return a verdict of not guilty.” The jury, clearly confused, was excused for deliberations. About five minutes later, the jury returned with a verdict of “guilty.” The lawyer was stunned and questioned them, “How could you do that? You must have had some doubt; I saw each of you stare at the door.” To which the jury foreman replied, “That’s true, we looked at the door…but your client didn’t.”
In a similar way, the disciples were filled with doubts about the resurrection and didn’t expect to see Jesus walk through the door. They were convinced he was dead, even though his body could not be found. But with the door sealed shut, the Lord suddenly appeared in their midst.
As we wrap up our series in Luke’s Gospel, we’ve been focusing on the moments that most mattered. Today we want to learn how to deal with our doubts. Our main point is this: Doubts don’t disqualify us. Last week we listened in to a conversation that Jesus had with two guys who were walking on the road to Emmaus and we learned that God gives us all the evidence we need to believe and receive. This was our outline:
• Get it out
• Look it up
• Take it in
• Pass it around
As these two travelers pass around to the other disciples what was passed on to them, something incredible and stunning happens. Turn to Luke 24:36: “While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’” I love that phrase: “Jesus Himself” because it shows that this is the same Jesus that had been with them; He is personally present.
In our text we see the disciples huddled together in a room. It’s Resurrection Sunday and it has been an eventful day for everyone involved. It’s now evening and they’re excited, yet afraid. The disciples are emotionally up and down. They were pumped up when Peter shared that He had seen the Savior but according to John 20:19, the door was locked and bolted shut because the Jewish leaders wanted to arrest and dispose of anyone who had been associated with Jesus.
Steven Cole suggests that many Christians live this same way when they say: “I used to feel so good. I felt like Jesus was near but I don’t feel that way anymore.” When we use words like this we know we’re living by feelings, not by faith. Friends, our faith is built on fact, not on feelings. Feelings by their very nature will fluctuate. I still remember a very simple illustration that I came across when I was nineteen years old and brand new in my faith. It’s from Campus Crusade for Christ (now Cru) and a train is used to demonstrate that facts are the engine, faith is hooked up to facts and the caboose is the feelings. Fact Faith Feelings.
Suddenly, in the midst of all their emotions, Jesus appears and says, “Peace be with you.” I don’t imagine those were the words some of the disciples were expecting. There is no rebuke, no “how could you?” Jesus doesn’t scold or shame them. The first words out of his mouth show one thing: He accepts them.
• Jesus offers peace even though He knows your past.
• Jesus offers peace when you’re afraid in the present.
• Jesus offers peace when your mind is filled with doubts.
• The peace of God and the presence of God are inseparable.
The disciples are anything but peaceful in verse 37: “They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.” The word “startled” indicates that they were “suddenly surprised.” The word “frightened” is from the word “phobos” and carries with it the idea of “flight” and of being in a continual state of fear. John MacArthur says that they were “stunned and startled and shocked into a condition of terror.” The disciples were so alarmed that they wanted to bolt.