Summary: Just as Thomas was at heart a sincere follower, so too must we reach out and touch Jesus by faith.
John 20:24-29 – From Doubting to Doing
Harriet, the church gossip and self-appointed supervisor of the church’s morals, kept sticking her nose into other people’s business. Several residents were unappreciative of her activities, but feared her enough to maintain their silence.
She made a mistake, however, when she accused George, a new member, of being an alcoholic after she saw his pickup truck parked all afternoon in front of the town’s only bar. She commented to George and others that everyone seeing it there would know that he was an alcoholic.
George, a man of few words, stared at her for a moment and then just walked away. He said nothing. Later that evening, George quietly parked his pickup in front of Harriet’s house and left it there all night.
Sometimes sight is not the best sense to use in order to determine what is real and what is not. Our eyes cannot always determine truth. Something may look real and not be, like George and Harriet; but something else may not be seen at all but be very real, like the air you breathe. And it requires faith to turn doubts into action.
We look today at Thomas, from John 20:24-29. This is Jesus’ 6th appearance after His resurrection, exactly one week later. The rumors had been flying, but many people still claimed to have seen Him, including most of His disciples. Except Thomas. Thomas had not been around when Jesus appeared to the other disciples behind locked doors 7 days before. We don’t know where Thomas was that first day. Perhaps due to fear, depression, disillusionment, discouragement, withdrawal seemed to be his only method of dealing with the supposed loss of his friend and master, Jesus.
Folks, let me tell you: when you get depressed, where do you go? Do you run from others? Do you hide? Do you get away from it all? Do you pretend it’s not happening? Or do you get with others who could help you? Folks, it’s OK to hurt, to bleed. It’s OK to be depressed from time to time. It’s OK to not be perfect, or functioning perfectly 100% of the time. You certainly don’t need to escape from reality for long periods of time when you’re hurt. Let’s be a kind of church that people can turn to in troubles, not run away from.
So the disciples told Thomas afterwards: v25a. But Thomas was not ready to get over hurting that easily. As much as he wanted to believe, he could not simply accept the accounts of others without proof: v25b. We look back and scoff. We look back and say, “How could he not believe? Jesus told him He would rise from the dead? All his buddies had seen Him? Thomas was a fool for not believing.” Oh?
The world is full of people who behave the same way, even among Christian circles: “I will not believe unless…”
- We want the Church to be a place filled with perfect and holy people so that we can believe in it, and believe there is goodness in the world.
- We want the minister to preach eloquent sermons so that the gospel can make sense to us.
- We want our lives to be free of suffering and pain so that we can believe in the goodness of God.
- We want God to answer our prayers so that we can keep on believing God is interested in our lives.
- We want to have religious experiences of Jesus and of the Spirit so that we can prove that God’s presence is real and that therefore God himself is real.
- We want the Gospel, the Church, the Bible, even other Christians, to keep on giving us proofs, proofs, proofs, proofs!
You have to understand one thing about Thomas. He probably does not deserve the nickname of “Doubter”. There are 3 pictures of Thomas in the gospel of John. The first one, John 11, tells us that he was willing to follow Jesus, even if that meant dying with Him. The second one, John 14, shows that Thomas was willing to ask the question: How can we follow you if we don’t know where you are going? That is, we want to follow you, but aren’t sure how. Folks, these are not statements made by a doubter. These are statements made by a follower. Thomas was, above all, a follower of Jesus. But in the course of events, he became discouraged. And he needed more than what others were saying in order to have faith again.
What about you? Are you discouraged? In your walk with the Lord, has something happened to bring doubts into your mind? Are you looking for proof of Jesus’ love, of God’s power, of the Spirit’s usefulness in your life?