Summary: "Seeing and Believing" is a message on how an encounter with the resurrected Christ turned doubt to faith for Thomas. It teaches that saving-faith in the risen Savior is a choice, a gift, and a blessing.
SEEING AND BELIEVING
THOMAS is one of the well-known disciples of Jesus, even though very little is known about him. Matthew, Mark, and Luke each mention him only once, listing him one of the twelve disciples. Everything we know about Thomas is found in the Gospel of John, which focuses the spotlight on him on three occasions. Two of these occasion are unfamiliar to many, even though they are famous events in the ministry of Jesus. For the most part, Thomas’ notoriety is connected to his encounter with Jesus in our text. As a result of this episode, Thomas has been labeled with epithet, “DOUBTING THOMAS.” And to this day, Thomas is the unwitting poster-boy for doubt, skepticism, and unbelief.
In spite of this unshakable reputation, Thomas was a true believer. Like the other disciples, Thomas forsook everything to follow Jesus. He was willing to live and die for Jesus. In John 11, when Jesus decided to go to Bethany to help his dying friend Lazarus, the disciples reminded him that the residents tried to kill him the last time he was there. Yet Jesus was determined to go back. John 11:16 says: “So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’” This statement is pessimistic, maybe even sarcastic. But all the disciples thought it was suicidal to return to Bethany. Yet Thomas demonstrated personal courage and spiritual devotion in bidding the disciples to follow Jesus to Bethany, even if it meant certain death. Thomas was a believer. But he was not gullible. During the LAST SUPPER, Jesus announced he was going away. One of them would betray him. And Peter would deny him three times before the roosters crowed the next morning. But Jesus did not want their hearts to be troubled by this news. He was going away to prepare a place for them in the Father’s house. He would come back to get them one day. And they already knew the way there. John 14:5 says: “Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’”
This statement and question reveal Thomas to be a man of faith and reason. His was not a blind faith. It was faith seeking understanding. This is evidenced by the fact that Thomas was apparently content with Jesus astonishing answer to his question in. John 14:6: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Thomas believed in Jesus. But our text finds Thomas at a point where his faith was attacked by his doubts. The civil war within Thomas helps us as we struggle with this question of faith in our own lives: How can I believe when I have all these doubts? WILLIAM BARCLAY called Thomas “the man who became certain by doubting.” His story teaches us that a dose of doubt may be good for your faith. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith that keep it awake and alert. So do not let your doubts stop you from trusting Jesus. Trust Jesus with your doubts. Jesus welcomes your doubts and will answer them with evidence that demands a verdict. That is what happened when doubting Thomas met the risen Savior. This encounter shows us what it means to trust Jesus with your doubts.
I. FAITH IN THE RISEN SAVIOR IS A CHOICE.
This passage begins with an attendance report of the first post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to his disciples. Verse 24 says: “Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.” John does not tell us why Thomas was absent. And we must be careful not to jump to any dogmatic conclusions. Whatever the reason, Thomas missed out on a great blessing. Verses 19-23 read: “One the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be wit you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, even so I am sending you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.’” Thomas missed out on all of this. And his absence warns us that the weeds of doubt grow fast and strong in the soil of isolation. Faith is cultivated through fellowship with Christ and other Christians. So don’t miss the meeting. Feed your faith and starve your doubts by being marked present when the believing community meets together.