Summary: Learning to trust God and take Him at His word is a difficult task for many people.
John 20: 19 – 31 Unless I See
Intro: Have you even played the game, “Truth or Dare?” --- You remember, you tell a person that you want to either tell the truth or accept their dare. If you choose “truth” the other person asks a question that you must answer truthfully. If you choose “dare” the other person dares you to do something that you must do. --- I think that is sort of what is happening here. The disciples are closed behind locked doors and they are talking about seeing Jesus alive again. Can’t you just hear Thomas saying, “Truth or dare!?”
I. The expression “doubting Thomas” originated with this story. So what is the story about and how does it relate to you and me?
A. This story is about disciples; but the language here indicates that John is not talking about the 11 apostles. --- Rather, he is talking about the whole faith community in general – all believers, even you and me.
B. After the disciples get over the shock of seeing their dead friend, Jesus well and alive, John says in verse 22 – “When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” -- Jesus breathes (emphysao) – used only here in all the NT and is equal to God’s breath in Genesis 2.
C. To other unique words are used here by John: aphiemi – “to forgive” and krateo – “to retain.” Both words are used in relation to the disciples and the sin of other people.
II. But this story is not just about the disciples and the power that Jesus gives to them and through the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is also about “DOUBTING THOMAS.”
A. Initially, Thomas is no different from the other disciples. He just wanted to see what they had seen; but, then he goes a step further. He wants to touch.
B. As a child I thought it would be so much easier if I could just see, touch and talk with Jesus. I could ask questions and I wouldn’t have doubt. But, here was a man who HAD seen Jesus and he still has doubts. --- But this story does not focus on doubt and skepticism, but on the grounds of faith.
C. Verse 27 finds Jesus again in the room with the disciples and this time Thomas is there! Jesus offers Thomas what he wants and then says, “Do not doubt (apistos) but believe (pistos). This is the only occurrence of these words in John’s gospel. Because of those words in scripture, many feel it is inappropriate to doubt God or to doubts in our faith. We, like Thomas, want proof.
III. I remember my grandmother using an expression that I think might be appropriate here. When she was skeptical about something or someone, she would say, “Well, seeing is believing.” But is it? Was it for Thomas?
A. The biblical account never tells us whether Thomas touched Jesus. Was seeing enough for him? Jesus had “touched” him in a way he would never forget. Not a physical, transient touch; but one that would last beyond a lifetime.
B. Jesus offered himself to Thomas just as he offers himself to us each day as living proof of God’s love for us. Yet, we are often too selfish, self-centered or distracted to recognize him.
C. Verse 29 says “Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Conclu: So, my grandmother was wrong. Seeing is not believing. --- When I took clinical/pastoral education, one of the things we had to learn was to trust each other in our “group.” The professor had each of us in turn blindfolded, and standing with our arms crossed in front of our chest and fall backwards trusting that someone would catch you and not let you fall. It is a really hard thing for many people to do because if they don’t catch you, you could get hurt. It is just as hard for some people to trust God. Maybe you are one of those “doubting Thomases.” Will you just let go and fall back into the loving arms of Christ or walk blindly through life constantly bumping into people and things?