Summary: Faith is a journey from skepticism to certainty.
Title: Skepticism Isn’t Terminal
Text: John 20:19-31
Thesis: Faith is a journey from skepticism to certainty.
There are many questions that are deeply troubling to me… (tongue in cheek)
• What if your hot pocket is cold? Is it still a hot pocket or is it a cold pocket?
• What if glue stuck to the inside of the bottle?
• What if you wore not pants into a restaurant where a posted sign read, “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service?
• What if a built building were called a “built” rather than a building?
• What if you had to ploy troops before you could deploy them?
• What if you die with a broken leg… do they remove the cast before sending you off?
Perhaps you remember the “what if” scandal that swept across the country last year after the publication of Brown’s book, The Da Vinci Code? The question lingers still… What if Jesus actually fathered a child?
But, the question that hung like a dark cloud over those who were Christ’s closest friends and followers following his crucifixion is this, “What if he really is dead? What if Jesus is still in the ground somewhere in the Middle East? What if we live in a Christ less world?
The Apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 15, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless, we are guilty of perpetrating a resurrection ruse, there is no resurrection of the dead, our faith is useless, we are still under the condemnation of our sins, and if we have hope in Christ only for this life, we are the most miserable people in the world.” (Some versions state that if there is no resurrection of the dead, we are to be “most pitied.”) I Corinthians 15:14-19
Those first followers of Christ had to be harboring some doubts that first week following the death of Christ… the bible says they were meeting behind locked doors, because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders.” How does God engage us when we are shrouded in doubt and fear?
How does God engage skeptics?
I. Jesus comes to us in the midst of our doubts and fears.
That evening, on the first day of the week, the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. John 20:19-23
Snipers are highly trained marksmen who single our key people in order to break the will of the enemy. During the Revolutionary War the British, who were volley fighters would marshal rows and rows of troops against an enemy who approached them from the opposite direction. It was an insane way to do battle…. So the Americans began to use snipers who would single out the highest-ranking officers as targets, which left the ranks of soldiers with out leadership. Without leadership, the ranks broke and the army scattered in disarray.
The religious leaders, who spearheaded the movement to eliminate Christ, figured that if they cut off the head of the snake, so to speak, the movement would die. And, true to human nature, the disciples were cowering behind locked doors fully expecting that those same religious leaders would soon be doing a mopping up operation just to make sure they were done with Jesus and his followers forever.
They were of mixed emotion:
A. Grief over the death of Jesus Christ.
B. Fear for their own lives.
The dominant emotion on that day was fear and uncertainty. And then, Jesus showed up and everything changed.
They had a religious experience, so to speak...
II. People have differing religious experiences… some are more skeptical than others.
In our story, Jesus is suddenly standing among them! He spoke to them saying, “Peace to you.” And as he spoke, he held out his hands for them to see… The bible says, they responded with joy when they saw him. But Thomas wasn’t there… he does not feel joy. He is skeptical of their story.
However, one of the disciples, Thomas, was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand in the wound in his side.” John 20:24-25
A. Religious or spiritual experiences vary… attempts to standardize religious experience are counter productive.
• What if we all had to wrestle with God as did Jacob?
• What if we all had to have a Moses and the burning bush experience?
• What if we all have to have an Elijah moment where we stand in the mouth of a cave during a windstorm, a lightning storm, and an earthquake until God speaks to us in a still small voice?