Summary: Thomas was not the only one with doubts. This sermon examines the doubts of John the Baptist
Today we will begin with a quiz. I have been the pastor here for over three years so it’s time to find out how well you listen.
There will be the names of some of the disciples displayed with a choice of two answers to describe him. When you have the answer, shout it out for all to hear. Ready?
Simon Peter was known as a tax collector or a fisherman. Fisherman is correct. With a show of hands, was being a fisherman a bad thing?
John was known as a zealot or the disciple that Jesus loved. The self proclaimed disciple that Jesus loved is correct. Again, with a sow of hands, was making such a claim about himself a bad thing?
Matthew was known as a tax collector or a fisherman? A tax collector is correct. Was being a tax collector a bad thing?
Judas was known as a zealot or a betrayer. Betrayer is correct. He betrayed Jesus. Was being a betrayer a bad thing?
Thomas was known as a doubter or a tax collector. A doubter is correct. Was being a doubter a bad thing? Most of you raised your hands. Thomas had doubts and his name forever became synonymous with those who loose faith. The dictionary defines someone who is a “doubting Thomas” as a “person who insists on proof before he will believe anything; skeptic.”
But this was not a character flaw of Thomas. He was a follower of Jesus. He did not doubt who Jesus claimed to be. Thomas was a believer. He was not a skeptic. And he certainly did not insist on seeing proof from Jesus before he would believe. If anything, I believe that Thomas was using wisdom when he made the statement “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.” (John 20:25)
I think he recalled what Jesus had said to the disciples earlier found in Matthew 24:23-27 “Then if anyone tells you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah,’ or ‘There he is,’ don’t believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. See, I have warned you about this ahead of time.
“So if someone tells you, ‘Look, the Messiah is out in the desert,’ don’t bother to go and look. Or, ‘Look, he is hiding here,’ don’t believe it! For as the lightning flashes in the east and shines to the west, so it will be when the Son of Man comes.” Perhaps Thomas was more afraid of being duped than anything else.
Reality is, we all at times have had our doubts. Are we doing the right thing? Are we going in the right direction? When life gets harsh, we wonder if God is there. We have our doubts as to whether God cares or not, especially when we lose our jobs, our health, or a loved one. We may even go so far as to question the reality of God. Does He really exist?
There is a true story of a young pastor in his early thirties. He was being influenced by some rather brilliant minds as to the validity of the scriptures. Some of these deep thinkers had come to the conclusion that since the Bible was riddled with inconsistencies that knowledge, and not Jesus, was the way to solve the world’s problems. The Bible was outdated and could not be trusted. His mind became riddled with doubt in everything he believed.
One night, at a retreat, he walked out into the woods and set his Bible on a tree stump and he cried out: "O God! There are many things in this book I do not understand. There are many problems with it for which I have no solution. There are many seeming contradictions. There are some areas in it that do not seem to correlate with modern science. I cannot answer some of the philosophical and psychological questions that are being raised. But Father, I am going to accept this as your Word-by faith! I'm going to allow faith to go beyond my intellectual questions and doubts, and I will believe this to be Your inspired Word!"
The next day he spoke at the retreat, and 400 people made a commitment to Christ. In August 1949, he would hold a crusade in Los Angeles that would go 5 weeks longer then planned. It was through his honesty about his doubts that God blessed Billy Graham with a ministry that has reached millions.
The one who helped plant the seed of doubt in Billy Graham’s heart was also an evangelist. He was from Canada. His name was Charles Templeton. Charles and Billy were good friends. Charles also began to develop doubts about the validity of the Bible. But unlike Billy, he chose the path of rejection instead of dialogue with God. A man who had at one time preached to crowds of 10 to 30 thousand people nightly became known for a book he wrote titled “Farewell to God” - My reasons for rejecting the Christian faith.