This message was preached at Word Of Grace Church on April 4th 2021 by Colin D via zoom. For the audio please click here. To listen to the worship please click here.
Skepticism To Confession
Introduction to the Series:
- This is the 2nd Sunday after Easter, and we are 5 Sundays away from Pentecost. In the Gospels and the Book of Acts, we read about the various appearances of Jesus after His resurrection and up to his ascension.
- Theologians have made several attempts to answer the question: What was it that He taught them? Was there a new Revelation? Any progressive enlightening of their minds?
- The 10 appearances (starting from to Mary at the tomb, too, the road to Emaus, to Thomas, to Peter at the Sea of Tiberias, etc) which we read about are powerful and we can learn from those, we can be encouraged, we can be inspired. Over the next few weeks, we are going to look at these appearances of our Saviour, learn from them and be equipped to do the good works we are called to do just like the Apostles were.
Today, we will concentrate on the appearance of Jesus to the disciples when Thomas was present, we find this in John 20:24-31
I’ve chosen the title “SCEPTICISM TO CONFESSION”
One line Summary:
Love, compassion and gentleness of Jesus leads a sceptic to make the most wonderful of confessions “My Lord and My God”
We are all familiar with this passage, and over the years this has been known as the story of “Doubting Tom/Thomas” this nickname has been associated with Apostle Thomas because of this story.
We shall see how “Doubting Tom/Thomas” is not entirely correct and robs from the the objective of the story, and, in that, we shall try to examine if doubt disqualifies one from receiving from God.
We will see the love of God in action in the way Jesus deals with Thomas and of course we will then see the result of the Love in action, in the confession of Thomas. Along the way of revisiting this popular Biblical story, I hope we can be encouraged in our own lives, we may find that the compassion of God and His love can swat away self-defeating thoughts which hinder us in our walk of faith.
Does Doubt Disqualify
We see in this story/episode, there are 3 principal characters, we have Jesus of course, and Thomas and John, through whose eyes we are seeing this happen. Keep in mind that the objective of John writing to us is very clear: That we may believe (Verse 31).
Apostle Thomas is mentioned in the NT 12 times, out of which 8 times he is mentioned in the Gospel of John, I am sure that it is by design, John has over the chapters built up the case for his ultimate objective, that his readers may believe and put their trust in Jesus -the Christ. Let us do a little character sketch of Thomas, from what we read about him in John:
- John 11:16: When Jesus tells the disciples about the death of Lazarus, and tells them that they will now go to Judea, Thomas makes this statement: Let us also go that we may die with him.
- John 14:5: Jesus is talking about making room for believers and accepting them to where he is and Thomas has a very practical question? We don’t know where you are going so how can we know the way? And that leads to the famous “I am the way the truth and the life” verse.
- John 20:24- 29: The story we are concentrating on.
So, what we see, 1. That is Thomas is a straight shooter, 2. He asked practical questions or rather very earthly questions to Jesus, 3. He, much like Peter, had a grand view of his devotion to Jesus, willing to die with Him. 4. He simply wanted the same proof, as was given to the other disciples, of Jesus’ resurrection, it isn’t too much of a stretch to imagine Thomas remembering Jesus’ own teaching that many will come claiming to be Him, and Thomas simply didn’t want to go along without being convinced.
As I grew up, I struggled with the problem of doubt, every time I read the story of Peter walking on water or the fig tree withering due to faith, I wanted to be a man of that faith, and I would attempt at having bold faith, but the thoughts of doubt would follow and the more I tried not have those thoughts, the more they came
As I was mulling on this, over the years, (not immediately), God, through His Spirit and His Word, gently made me understand 2 things,
First, I discovered, that there are different Greek words for doubt, all translated into English as doubt, but they all have a slightly different meaning and connotation in Greek. Now we don’t have the time to go into all of the Greek words, but the ones relevant to our discourse are 1. Distazo: To stand in two ways, or to waver and
2. Diakrino : to separate thoroughly, to withdraw from, to oppose
3. Apistos: not believing. And Jesus when he was giving us instructions to not doubt, he was using the word diakrino, which means to separate, that is to turn away from, He was telling us not to withdraw from the faith with which we speak in the first place.
And Second, In the passage of Peter walking on water and of course other places where the question “why did you doubt?” came up, I was concentrating more on the people who are being spoken to and not on our Lord and Saviour, It was such a wonderful moment when it dawned on me that in all those instances Jesus always stepped in and did what He does so wonderfully: Saves the day!! It is this Character of our Saviour that we should concentrate on, He will never let us down, He is in control and will not let any harm come to us. Praise the Lord! What a wonderful Saviour, isn’t HE?
We are not disqualified by our weakness, 2 Cor 12:9 His Power is perfected in our weakness. He is a wonderful Saviour who knows us and is compassionate. So the answer is no our doubts don’t disqualify us, but as His Word warns us, we have to not separate from, the Faith in Jesus and His Grace and power, doubt of the kind of Pharisees, where they opposed the notion of Jesus as the Saviour, as Christ. And in this case, it certainly didn’t disqualify Thomas from having an amazing encounter with Jesus and his Love.
Love in Action
Stepping back in the passage, we see Jesus when He enters the place where the disciples were, He specifically addresses Thomas, and invites him to check the marks of His wounds (Verse 27). This is so wonderful, is it too much to think that Jesus specifically came to address Thomas and his concerns? Imagine, this is the Risen Saviour! Exalted God and He makes a special appearance to Thomas. Wow how special and loved Thomas must have felt.
Isaiah 42:3 says A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench. This verse talks about the Messiah, that He will not be like the Human rulers before him, He will rule with compassion and justice, and here we see Jesus demonstrating this verse, in that, He did not make light of the concerns of Thomas, He gently gives Thomas the “proof” he needs to stop his unbelief and make him believe. He did not enter the room and start blasting Thomas, condemning him for questioning the other disciples, He is compassionate and just and He simply invites Thomas to have a more intimate revelation of His Risen self.
Even as Jesus shows His hands to Thomas, He is gently reminding Thomas of what He had taught them, about His body being given for Thomas, about how He was pierced for Thomas. Jesus bears the marks on His body with love and Jesus, God from the beginning, who was with the Father from the start, who, the Bible tells us, created all things, chooses to identify himself with these marks and wounds! What a wonderful Saviour we have! He is indeed meek and gentle and his compassion for us is so amazing. We can be so encouraged that He values us to that extent, He values our reconciliation to God and Himself and chooses to be identified by that act of His.
We can even see this in the context of the lost sheep story, that Jesus came to Thomas, He didn’t let Thomas think whatever he wants to, He came to convince him.
My Lord and My God: the grand confession.
There is no record of Thomas actually, putting his hand on Jesus’ marks, but the Love of God, coming to him to address him, compels Thomas, convinces him and swats away his doubts about the resurrection of Jesus. How could Thomas not be touched by this wonderful gesture of Jesus, who knew the thoughts of Thomas and came especially to him, to be close to him and assure him.
The Gospel of John is usually divided into 4 parts the Prologue, the Book of Signs, the book of Glory and Epilogue, in the book of Glory we are told about the impending glorification of Jesus after his death, Jesus has now risen, Glorified, He could have chosen to have a choir of angels around Him to get Thomas to believe, but He chose a personal encounter with Thomas, very tailored for him. Thomas so touched by this has the greatest moment, where he recognises this is MY LORD: to whom I submit, and Jesus is indeed GOD: In whom I believe.
John, very especially has put this story in his writing, as a culmination of, the result of his efforts in making this written record, to get his readers to do what Thomas did, to believe that Jesus is Lord and God!
The journey of Thomas from being sceptical to the grand confession of faith should serve to encourage us, as Jesus himself put it, happy are those who don’t see but yet believe, again even in this statement of Jesus, we should not read it pessimistically, as it being a criticism of Thomas, but rather as the best-case scenario of having believed without seeing results in a special blessedness/happiness.
Let us be encouraged today, that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, He is always going to love us and even in scenarios where our limitations exist, He has compassion on us and He will be there, standing next to us and will lead us by His Holy Spirit and His Word, He will reveal Himself, His Godly Self, His Power to us as we need it and He will save us, and He will do so, in gentleness, in Love and meekness.
If we have gone away from His will, or have done things which we know are out of sync with God, we have encouragement that the God who loves us, who came to give his body for us, who bears the marks of the wounds He took for us, who was pierced for us, who was bruised for us, understands our limitations, and will gently bring us back in his fold, if we recognise and confess His Lordship and His Divinity.
What a wonderful Saviour!
As John says, so do I, all this I have spoken so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, if you have yet not believed, I encourage you, Believe and make the confession “Jesus, is My Lord and My God”
Word of Grace is an Evangelical (Born Again), Spirit-filled (Charismatic), Reformed, English speaking in Pune that upholds the Bible as God's inspired Word for life. We are a church community that has people from every part of India and parts of the world. We are here to put the Great Command and the into practice by equipping and releasing every member into works of service. Word of Grace is a part of a wider international family of Churches called RegionsBeyond.To know about us please log onto www.wordofgracechurch.org.