Do You Believe?

Posted: April 4, 2016 in John, Uncategorized

John 20:19-31, “Do You Believe?”

It’s going to happen to all of us at some point.  Whether today, tomorrow, or somewhere down the line, we’re all going to have to decide what we believe about God.  It’s impossible to avoid when thinking about life & death.  We have to deal with the question of God.  What we might not realize is that everyone already has a belief.  After all, everyone believes something about God, even if it’s only that they choose atheism.  Even those who haven’t thought about God at least know that they aren’t sure what they believe, which means they choose agnosticism.  Thus everyone believes something, although not everyone can be right.  Even those who claim that all belief systems are true have to acknowledge that everyone they say is true in turn claim that they are false…it’s a self-defeating system.  Someone has to be right & someone has to be wrong…or everyone has to be wrong…but not everyone can be right.  Everyone has a belief, but not everyone believes the facts.

Thus the question is: what do you believe?  And if you know that, the follow up is simple: why?  What belief system have you chosen – and why did you choose it?

For the apostles of Jesus (and everyone who follows in their footsteps), they (we) have answers to those questions.  We believe that Jesus IS God, the Messiah sent by God, and that only those who believe in Him have eternal life.  Why do we believe it?  Because Jesus is bodily risen from the dead.  Not only was His tomb found empty on the Sunday morning following His crucifixion, but He physically appeared to & spoke to many people.  His disciples remained His disciples precisely because of the resurrection.  They may have believed in Jesus prior to His arrest, but they disappeared at that moment – and they had no reason ever to reappear again, apart from Jesus’ literal resurrection from the dead.  They had proof.  And in turn, they themselves are our proof.

It’s once we realize the proof that a choice needs to be made.  When we’ve seen the evidence, what will we choose to believe?  Doubt, like faith, is a choice.  But only one of them leads to life.  Choose faith.  Choose to believe.

John 20:19–31

  • Faith on the 1st day (19-23)

19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

  • Considering that “the same day” to which John refers was Resurrection Sunday (Easter), that day had seen much excitement!  The women who had been so devoted to Jesus had gone to His tomb early that morning, only to find the door flung open.  Mary Magdalene had rushed back to the disciples to tell the news, and both Peter & John raced back to the site.  They confirmed it was empty, which set John off on his own journey of faith, and after each of them returned home, Mary actually saw and spoke with the Risen Lord Jesus!  She once again hurried back to the disciples to tell them not only what she heard and saw, but to convey a message personally sent to them by the Lord Jesus Himself.  One would think that the disciples would be in a tizzy!  We would imagine them buzzing with excitement & hope, wondering if they too would soon see Jesus with their own eyes.
  • What we find is a completely different situation.  Instead of excited anticipation is worry & fear.  They are hidden away behind locked doors – not for privacy as they prepared to go to Galilee (or anywhere else) – but John specifically tells us “for fear of the Jews.”  Their Lord had been arrested by the Jews & delivered over to the Romans for crucifixion, and they (understandably) feared the same thing happening to them.  Mary’s news didn’t help matters, in their eyes.  Instead of bringing joy, they feared this would bring their own trials all the more quickly.  After all, if the Roman guards had been scared away & news was beginning to circulate about Jesus’ resurrection, who would be blamed?  The disciples.  The Jews would soon be after them, so they locked the door, hoping to buy some time and protection.
  • How sad is this?  To be sure, we cannot judge them from 2000 years of Christian history.  We look back & think their reaction to Jesus’ resurrection ought to have been obvious – but we don’t have the imminent threat of death hanging over our heads like they did.  They had a single report of the resurrection from Mary, and perhaps a few others (as related in the other gospels) – but at best, it was sparse & almost too good to be true.  Yet it was.  It may have sounded too good to be true, but it was a fact that Jesus had risen from the grave.  They had eyewitness testimony attesting to it, and they had a choice to make.  They could either choose to believe, or not.  They chose not.  In the process, they missed out.  It was likely only a few hours, but those hours of panic and fear could have been avoided if they made the choice to live in faith and believe.  They were the first ones to receive the very best news in all history, and yet they cowered in fear as if it had never happened.
    • Jesus IS risen from the dead, and He IS the Lord.  But that fact won’t help us if we don’t believe it.  People could know true forgiveness & experience a real relationship with the living God.  Those same promises are available to every single man & woman & child on the planet.  But they will only be experienced by those who choose to have faith.
  • It was in the midst of this fear that Jesus showed up.  In His grace, He gave them what they needed, but what they were too afraid to believe.  He gave them confirmation – proof that He had risen from the dead.  The way He did it was amazing!  He simply showed up.  Notice what John says & doesn’t say about it.  He writes, “Jesus came and stood in the midst.”  John doesn’t say that Jesus knocked on the door – climbed through the widow – entered through a secret passageway…He simply came among them.  Whether He walked through the wall or simply materialized in their midst is unknown – but it’s apparent that no locked door was an obstacle for Him!
  • Keep in mind that Jesus had a real body – this is something that is going to be evident in a moment.  It’s just that this glorified resurrected body had capabilities that His previous body did not.  Jesus’ previous body had the same limitations as yours & mine; His new body was the same, but wonderfully different all at once.  (If it happened with Jesus, it’s quite possible that it might happen with you & me as well.  After all, everyone who believes in Jesus will have our bodies gloriously transformed in the resurrection/rapture.  Who knows what limitations we’ll leave behind & what new capabilities we’ll have in store?)
  • So Jesus is there with them.  In the midst of their fear now stands their Savior.  And what did He offer them?  “Peace.”  From a Hebrew/Aramaic perspective, that itself would not have been unusual, because that’s the standard greeting (שלם “shalom”).  But that greeting definitely carried a greater weight that day!  The peace that Jesus offered was amazingly new & brought wonderful news & great joy!

20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

  • You bet they were glad!  John sometimes has a tendency towards understatement – this seems to be a prime example!  They would have been overjoyed!  Their Jesus was there – He was standing right in front of them.  This was not a vision (it definitely was not a ghost) – it was the Man they always knew and recognized as Jesus of Nazareth.  That same Man was right there.  He even had the same wounds from days earlier.  If His face were not enough proof that it was Jesus, He even had the nail prints & spear impalement that He could show as extra ID.  There could be no doubt that this was Jesus!
  • Question: why did Jesus have some wounds & not others?  His hands and side are mentioned, but not His back where He was scourged, nor His scalp which was ripped by the crown of thorns.  By the time His physical tortures were completed, the Bible prophesied about Him that Jesus would barely be recognizable, having been marred more than any man (Isa 52:14).  His face was beaten by the soldiers, parts of His beard were ripped out, and more.  Yet as far as we know, none of these wounds remained.  John mentions only Jesus’ hands & side.  Seemingly, most of His wounds were miraculously healed (being completely restored in Jesus’ resurrection), while the wounds most directly associated with His crucifixion remained.  There is always a reminder of the cross – always a reminder of the cost of our redemption.  Even when John later sees Jesus during the visions of Revelation, Jesus is seen at one point as a “Lamb as though it had been slain” (Rev 5:6).  The wounds of Jesus that remain are not wounds of weakness; they are trophies of triumph – permanent identification of Jesus as the One who died for our sins & victoriously rose from the grave.  Jesus may have died upon the cross, but death is what died there!
    • BTW – this is part of the point of the Lord’s Supper.  When we celebrate communion later this morning, it is to remember the price that was paid for our salvation.  But we remember it…it’s in the past.  The price was paid & never needs to be paid again.  It was a terrible cost, but it was one that was paid in full.  The reminder is there for us to know that because Jesus paid it all, there is nothing left that we owe.

21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

  • No doubt the disciples were so overjoyed by Jesus’ appearance causing such a commotion, that Jesus needed to greet them all over again. J  That said, the repeated greeting of “peace” emphasizes a promise made by Jesus prior to the cross, now fulfilled in their presence.  John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."  As Jesus said goodbye to the disciples prior to the cross, their hearts were troubled & afraid.  No longer!  Jesus promised to give them peace, and so He did.  The peace Jesus gave would not be temporary or falsely based; it was permanent and true.  Jesus gave real peace because He is the Prince of peace!
    • How is it that Jesus can give such peace?  Because He is the peacemaker.  Understand our greatest war is not us against other people, or us against our stress, or even us against ourselves.  Our greatest war is us against God.  The Bible says that in our sin we are at enmity against God (Rom 8:7).  He is the rightful King, and we are the rebellious traitors.  Every time we assert our own will against God, we are committing an act of treason.  And our hearts know this, even if we don’t want to admit it with our minds.  But when we surrender our lives to Jesus, He gives us peace!  He makes peace between us and God & for the first time, we are finally in a right relationship with the God who created us.  When that relationship is at peace, everything else falls into place.  We still have other stresses & wars, but none that can consume our very eternity.  Peace with God is real peace – everlasting peace.  And it only comes through Jesus Christ.
  • Peace was only the first thing Jesus gave His disciples.  He also gave them a commission – an apostolic calling. “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”  Again, this wasn’t new to them – this is also something Jesus promised on the night before His arrest & crucifixion.  As He prayed for His disciples, He declared to His Father that He was sending His disciples into the world, just as He Himself had been sent by God (Jn 17:18).  What was spoken of in advance now came to fruition as Jesus commissions His disciples to be true apostles (“sent ones”) to go out into all the world & continue the mission that Jesus had begun.
    • In a sense, this is John’s version of the Great Commission (Mt 28:19-20).  Chronologically, those words were spoken on a different date in a different place, but the general idea was the same that Sunday evening in Jerusalem.  The disciples had a purpose – a calling.  There was a job to do, and they were to be about the business of doing it.  Would Jesus return for them?  Absolutely – and we still await His return today.  But they weren’t to go sit on a hilltop and stare at the sky waiting to go to heaven.  No – because they were going to heaven, they needed to try to bring as many people with them as possible.  They were to tell the news, make disciples, proclaim the kingdom of God & the gospel of Jesus Christ.
    • So are we.  Jesus’ words were spoken to the 10 disciples in the room (provided that Peter & John were among them), but the idea was given to all the church.  WE have been sent into the world by Jesus.  When we came to faith, it wasn’t just for our benefit; it was for Jesus’ use.  We are servants of the King, and He has sent us out on a mission.  What are you doing to fulfill it? 

22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

  • Jesus gave one last thing that evening, fulfilling one other promise.  He gave them the Holy Spirit.  Again, this is something that Jesus had promised the other night (right before He spoke of the gift of His peace, in fact).  Jesus taught much about the Holy Spirit that night.  He spoke of the Father sending the Spirit in Jesus’ name (14:26), how the Spirit would be another Helper who would abide with the disciples forever (14:16-17), how Jesus would send the Spirit from the Father to equip the disciples to testify of Him (15:26), how the Spirit had a ministry within the world convicting people of sin, righteousness, and judgment (16:8-11), and how the Spirit is the Spirit of truth who would teach the disciples all truth (16:13).
  • That’s all what the Spirit would do, but how would the Spirit come to them?  Here, Jesus breathes on them – but that’s where we run into a problem.  In Luke’s account, Jesus tells the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until He sends them the Holy Spirit & they receive power from on high (Lk 24:49).  The book of Acts (also written by Luke) shows the same thing, with Jesus telling the disciples 40 days after His resurrection to wait for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, because the Spirit would empower them to be His witnesses (Acts 1:6,8).  Of course Acts famously goes on to show the Spirit coming upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost with the sound of a mighty rushing wind and the appearance of tongues of fire upon each of the believers of Jesus (Acts 2:1-4).  So at this point, we may be asking ourselves: which is it?  When did the Holy Spirit come to the disciples: on the eve of Jesus’ resurrection, per the account in John – or on Pentecost, per Luke?  The answer: both.  This isn’t a contradiction in the Scripture, or any sort of problem with Jesus’ teaching.  This is all part of the same thing.  One event simply preceded & anticipated the other.  Someone who is promised an inheritance might receive a certified check one day through the mail, and a truckload of furniture weeks later.  He wasn’t lied to as to when his inheritance would come; it just needed to come in different ways.  It’s no different here.  Jesus gave them the Holy Spirit that night, while at the same time promising that Holy Spirit would come upon them later, enduing them with power.  IOW, part of the ministry of the Spirit would begin on Easter evening, but the other part would begin after Jesus’ ascension.  After all, Jesus was still on earth.  Much of what He promised of the Spirit was described as taking place after Jesus left.  When Jesus breathed on His disciples, He was dealing with a special time in history, never to be repeated: the interval between His resurrection & ascension.
  • The reason Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to the disciples that evening was because the He (the Spirit) was essential to them.  Because they saw Jesus, they believed in Jesus.  Now they needed to receive the life of Jesus – and His life only comes through the new birth the Holy Spirit provides.  As Jesus told the Pharisee Nicodemus years earlier, “unless one is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (Jn 3:5)  These disciples needed a new birth, and Jesus gave it to them the same way He gave birth to the 1st man in all history: through His breath.  Genesis 2:7, "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being."  Adam was merely a body until God gave Him the breath of life.  At that point, Adam truly became Adam, and he walked with life that God gave Him.  That same event was mirrored behind locked doors with the disciples when Jesus breathed upon them in the same way.  It was at that moment the disciples were born again – indwelled by the Holy Spirit & sealed by Him forever as people belonging to God (Eph 1:13-14).
  • The disciples had their new birth, but what they did not yet have was power.  It’s that aspect of the Spirit’s ministry that Luke describes, and this is why Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the Spirit’s arrival on Pentecost.  Just because the disciples were born again did not mean they had the fullness of the Holy Spirit in their lives.  Jesus directly promised that the Spirit would be with them & in them (Jn 14:17), but He also promised that the Spirit would come upon them (Acts 1:8).  It’s that special coming “upon” for which the disciples were supposed to wait.
    • Did this make the disciples second-place Christians?  Obviously not.  There was nothing partial about their salvation.  They had seen the Lord, responded in faith, and had received a new birth via the Holy Spirit.  They were saved, no doubt.  But just because they were saved doesn’t mean they had everything they needed to do what God was calling them to do.  That’s why they needed to be wait to be baptized & truly filled with the Holy Spirit to overflowing.  Many Christians today find themselves in the same place.  They are saved, no question about it.  They have repented from their sin, believed upon Jesus Christ, and truly follow Him as Savior and Lord.  Yet what they’re missing in their life is power.  They continually struggle against sin – struggle against doubt – struggle to walk as a bold witness of Jesus among the world.  What they need is power, which is exactly what is given through God the Holy Spirit.  When He comes upon us, He empowers us.  He helps us to live as the men & women that God intends for us to be.  When God saves us, He doesn’t expect us to live new lives of holiness in our own power; our own “power” is what got us into this mess to begin with.  God equips us personally, and the way He does so is through the Holy Spirit.  All we need to do is ask.
    • Have you asked?  Jesus promised that the Father would give the Holy Spirit to everyone who asks Him (Lk 11:13).  To ask to be filled with the Spirit is not to somehow doubt your salvation or to believe that Jesus’ work was somehow insufficient.  It’s simply to follow the instructions of our Lord and Savior.  Jesus wants you to be filled with the Spirit – we’re actually instructed to be continually filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18) – all we need to do is ask.  Why refrain from anything that the Lord wants to give?
  • So Jesus breathes upon the disciples, giving them the Holy Spirit.  Now they are born-again through the gospel of God, able to announce that same good news to others…

23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

  • Considering that only God has the power to forgive sin (Mk 2:7), these words have caused heartburn for many.  First, look at what it is NOT.  (1) This does not give Christians extraordinary power over others, giving us the power that belongs only to God.  As individual Christians, we do not hold the power in our hand to either grant someone eternal forgiveness, or condemn them to eternal damnation.  We are not another person’s judge unto heaven or hell. (2) Neither does this give some sort of corporate power of absolution to the church as an organization.  We do not have to get a priest or a pope to agree to our forgiveness in order for us to be truly forgiven. We don’t need certification from anyone expect the Holy Spirit in our salvation.   How can we know?  Because the Bible clearly talks about how we are forgiven in many other places:
    • If we confess our sins, Jesus is faithful & just to forgive us our sins & cleanse us from all unrighteousness (Jn 1:9).
    • If we outwardly confess Jesus as Lord with our mouth & believe in our hearts that He is risen from the dead, we will be saved (Rom 10:9).
    • In Jesus we have the promise of redemption and forgiveness (Eph 1:7, Col 1:14).
    • We have forgiveness, because Jesus grants us forgiveness…period.  That not only applies to us personally, but every other person in the world.  Their eternal forgiveness lies in the hands of God; not us.
  • So what IS Jesus saying?  He’s telling the apostles of the power of the gospel, of which they themselves are messengers.  When the apostles announce the forgiveness of someone, it’s because they have already been forgiven by God.  And the reason they could announce that forgiveness is because the person had come to faith in Jesus Christ.  Thus the apostles could confidently know when someone had been forgiven, and when someone had not.  The apostles (and the church) did not generate or originate the forgiveness; they (we) simply announced it when it was made known.

So now what?  That’s all John writes of this event.  We don’t know how long Jesus spoke with the disciples that evening, or what else He said (apart from what we can piece together from the other gospels).  He may have talked with them all night long, or He may have disappeared in the same way as He arrived.  What we do know is that whatever doubts and fears the disciples had leading up to that point had now vanished.  At least, it was that way for 10 of the 11.  There was yet one who had not yet believed…

  • The final believing disciple (24-29)

24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

  • Where Thomas had been on Resurrection Sunday is unknown.  Whatever he had been doing, he surely regretted it once he heard the report of his fellow disciples.  They reported seeing the Lord, and Thomas had missed out. (Which serves as a good reminder as to what happens when we neglect fellowship with other believers.  When we miss out on the church, we miss out on God-given opportunities!)  Of course, what exactly Thomas missed was doubtful, in his mind.  He was skeptical of the claims of his friends, and demanded physical proof of Jesus’ resurrection.  Only then would he believe.  (And thus, the disciple forever earned the title: “doubting Thomas.”)
  • On one hand, Thomas’ doubt is understandable; on the other hand, it’s downright sinful.  It’s understandable because the news of Jesus’ resurrection is truly incredible – i.e., it stretches the abilities of our minds to believe.  To truly believe that someone physically rose from the dead is difficult.  After all, it doesn’t exactly happen every day.  But it DID happen with Jesus, and that’s what makes it so amazing!  And that’s also what makes Thomas’ skepticism so sinful.  He had a choice to make: whether to believe or not.  He chose not.  Like the 10 disciples before him, who didn’t believe the testimony of Mary Magdalene & the other women, Thomas chose not to believe the testimony of anyone other than himself.  His problem wasn’t a lack of proof; it was a lack of will.  Thomas could have gone to the empty tomb just like anyone else, but didn’t.  According to Jewish culture, the testimony of 2-3 people was enough to establish fact, and there were now somewhere between 11-13 – and Thomas still stubbornly stuck to unbelief.  If things didn’t match up to his demands, he determined not to believe the resurrection.
  • That is precisely what so many people do today.  It doesn’t matter what proof exists of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, they stubbornly & sinfully choose not to believe.  The historical facts are clear: Jesus left His tomb empty, and physically appeared to many prior to His final ascension to heaven.  Over 500 people saw Him at once (1 Cor 15:6), and the proof is seen in the fact that 3000 people were saved on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41).  There is no reason that 3000 Jews in Jerusalem ought to have given their lives to Jesus Christ only 50 days after seeing Him publicly crucified, unless they knew that what Peter proclaimed to them was true.  They had seen Jesus dead; now they knew He was alive.  Proof upon proof exists of Jesus’ resurrection – whole books have been written on the evidences.  So someone’s stubborn unbelief is not due to a lack of proof.  If they don’t know the evidence, they haven’t bothered to look at it.  When a person stubbornly sticks to unbelief, they are making a choice to sinfully reject God.  They want God to bend to their will, rather than them humbling submitting their own will to Him.  This is a choice, and it needs to be acknowledged as such.
    • The good news is that the choice can be made in the opposite direction.  If it is a choice NOT to believe, it is also a choice TO believe.  All we need to do is to make it.

26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

  • An entire week has passed since Thomas settled himself into stubborn skepticism.  Can you imagine the misery Thomas had experienced all week long?  All his friends are joyful, looking forward with anticipation to the future.  They’re making preparations to go to Galilee, per Jesus’ instructions (Mt 28:10), and Thomas is stuck watching all of them follow through on the commands of a dead Man (so he thinks).  Meanwhile, Thomas is stuck in grief, and all kinds of confusion (and likely spiritual attacks) had been added to him that week.  Eight days surely seemed like an eternity!
  • Eight days” likely counted a portion of Resurrection Sunday itself, so the disciples now found themselves on the following Sunday.  Once again they are in a locked room (though no fear of the Jews is mentioned), and they are all gathered together.  What happens?  Jesus duplicates the miracle.  Everything that Thomas had missed (but had been told about) was recreated right in front of him.  The disciples that Thomas had doubted as either liars are deluded were proven true, and Thomas’ own sinfulness was exposed for what it was.
  • Graciously, Jesus doesn’t specifically point out Thomas’ sin, but He did know everything Thomas had demanded.  The disciple was no doubt surprised to hear Jesus virtually quote all of Thomas’ demands back to him – the very same things Thomas had said when Jesus was absent from the room.  Jesus didn’t need to be physically present for Him to know Thomas’ words & doubt.  And in a loving act of grace, Jesus gives Thomas all that he needed, offering His wounded hands and side as evidence.
  • Jesus also confronts Thomas on his choice.  Thomas didn’t have to be unbelieving; he could believe – and that’s exactly what Jesus called him to do.  Thomas could leave his stubbornness behind him, and enjoy the same faith and joy as his other friends and co-disciples.  Even Thomas could enjoy the assurance of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, and thus the assurance of his own salvation.  The time had come for him to make the choice to believe…and he did.
    • That same time may have come for some who are here today…

28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

  • How Thomas replies is a high point in the Gospel of John.  Here, Thomas sees the Risen Lord Jesus as He truly is: God in the flesh.  Thomas’ confession of faith is as grand here as Peter’s was months ago in Caesarea Philippi, when he said that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Mt 16:16).  This time was even better.  Earlier, Peter looked forward in faith, though his faith would later be shaken during Jesus’ arrest.  Now, Thomas proclaimed a confident faith that would never be shaken!  He had seen the Risen Savior, and he knew this Man to be none other than Almighty God Himself.
  • THIS is the proof the resurrection provides!  People often wonder what makes Christianity different from Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.  After all, it seems that every religion is supposed to teach people to be nice to each other, right?  (Actually, no – but that’s a different point altogether.)  What makes Christianity different is that Christianity is historically proven accurate, and what it proves is that God physically walked among us.  If Jesus is truly risen from the grave, then Jesus truly is God.  And if Jesus is God, it means everything He had to say was 100% true.
  • Notice something else: Jesus’ presence was all the proof that was required.  Thomas no longer needed to physically touch the wounds of Jesus.  He no longer found himself boasting of all of the various forms of evidence he demanded in order to come to faith.  Once he saw Jesus, all doubts were laid aside.  Jesus was there, and that was enough.
    • So what?  So all these demands we put upon God are really smokescreens.  All the times we say, “Unless God does XYZ, I won’t believe,” are all things that can be put to rest the moment we acknowledge the fact that Jesus is risen from the dead.  He IS alive, and that’s all the proof that is required.  What is needed is not more evidence; it’s for us to lay aside our own stubbornness.

29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

  • What Thomas received is something that few people in history ever did.  Certainly large numbers of people could provide eyewitness testimony of Jesus’ resurrection from the grave, but even 500+ people is a drop in the bucket compared to the billions of people who have lived on planet earth.  Enough people saw the Risen Jesus for His resurrection to be established as historical fact – but the reality is that most people won’t ever see the Risen Jesus for ourselves until we see Him face-to-face after death.  But the choice we make to believe is one that is “blessed.”  The faith that we have is something Jesus describes as even better than that of Thomas’.
  • That faith is something that John as an author specifically desires for his readers, which he goes on to write in what was probably his original endnote…
  • Purpose statement

30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

  • John is extraordinarily upfront as to why he wrote his book.  If it seems as if his entire gospel has had a single point of application (“believe!”), it has.  John wants us to believe in Jesus, and for good reason: Jesus is the Christ.  He proved it through abundant miracles both before His death & after His resurrection.  John makes no pretense that his book is a comprehensive biography of the life & ministry of Jesus – it isn’t.  He (through the guidance of the Holy Spirit) selected the events of which he wrote very carefully.  Other books were written that described other miracles of Jesus (i.e. the Synoptic Gospels).  What John wrote had a purpose: evangelism.  John wanted people to believe.
  • Believe what? “That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” 
    • Christ: Believe that Jesus is the King – the anointed One of God, sent by God to die in our place as a substitutional sacrifice for our sins & to one day reign in victory over all the world.
    • The Son of God: Believe that Jesus is truly God in the flesh.  He is God of true God, fully divine just as Thomas proclaimed.  Jesus is not God the Father, but He is indeed God, which is proven through His resurrection & ultimate victory over death itself.
    • Life: This is a promise available to all!  But we must believe!  Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, but that fact does you no good if you do not believe.  Only those who believe have life, and that offer is unrestricted to the world. 

So do you believe?  For over 70 weeks, we’ve studied the Gospel of John, and the author has had a singular purpose in mind for all of us: faith.  He wanted everyone who read his book to come to faith in Jesus, believing Him to be the God that John himself knew Jesus to be when he saw Jesus risen from the dead.  John personally saw the empty tomb of Christ, and he personally saw the living resurrected body of Christ.  He, like all of the disciples including Thomas, saw, heard, talked with, and ate with the resurrected Jesus.  He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is alive, and that He is God the King.

Do you?  Maybe like the disciples on Sunday evening, you’ve been caught in a trap of fear.  Maybe like Thomas during the following week, you’ve trapped yourself in your own stubbornness.  Refusal to believe is a matter of the will, and wills can be changed.  So change yours.  Whatever you’ve had as an excuse not to believe in Jesus, leave it behind.  Whatever demand you’ve held onto in order for God to bend to your will, release it.  See Jesus as He truly is: the Son of God risen from the dead, and believe.  Experience the forgiveness of sin He offers, and be brought into the peace of God.

For some of you, perhaps you believe, but you’re weak.  You know you’re saved, but it seems as if you’re always struggling.  We will continue to struggle if we never receive the power of the Holy Spirit.  Praise God that the Spirit is given to us at the moment of our salvation!  We are born again through His grace, and we have His abiding presence with us as assurance of eternity.  But we still need His power to live this life.  We need His power to be the men and women God calls us to be.  Ask!  If you’ve never been filled with the Holy Spirit, ask to be filled for the first time.  If you’ve asked in the past, ask again.  Ask & keep asking, knowing that God is always good to His word.  Be renewed by the Holy Spirit & empowered by Him today.

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