This passage is very much about the issue of faith. Do we believe? What do we believe? What do we have to know or experience in order to believe?
Christianity is an experiential relationship with Jesus Christ. But, we cannot base our walk with the Lord on experience. Our experiences with the Lord testify and verify the reality and truth of that relationship. But, a relationship with God and His Son, Jesus Christ is a relationship of faith or it is no relationship at all. That faith is based upon what we learn from the Word of God.
(Romans 1:17) “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”
Just a short word of background. In verses 19 through 23 we have the record that on the night of the resurrection the Lord Jesus appeared in the midst of the disciples. Thomas was not there at the time so does not see the resurrected Lord.
I. THOMAS REFUSES TO BELIEVE. Vss. 24-25.
Thomas was this man’s Hebrew name and Didymus is the Greek rendering. The name means twin. The obvious supposition would be that he was a twin. Most folks have heard of the label, “Doubting Thomas.” As we read here we must come to grips with the reality that Thomas was not merely doubting that Jesus was alive but refusing to believe that Jesus was alive.
A. ALL OF JESUS’ FOLLOWERS STRUGGLED WITH THE RESURRECTION.
The gospels tell us that all of the disciples struggled with believing that Jesus rose from the dead.
Earlier in the chapter, verses 2-9 we find Mary Magdalene thinking Jesus body had been stolen. In dismay, Peter and John run to the tomb and find it empty. John, it seems, begins to understand and believe. Verses 8 and 9 tell us, “Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not (didn’t understand) the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.”
It wasn’t just Thomas that was struggling with the events that had transpired over the last few days.
B. THOMAS WOULD NOT BELIEVE THE TESTIMONY OF HIS FRIENDS.
In the previous passage Jesus appears in the very midst of His followers showing them His hands and side but Thomas wasn’t there. In spite of their insistence that they had seen the Lord, Thomas would not believe.
C. THOMAS WOULD ONLY BELIEVE WHAT HE SAW WITH HIS OWN EYES. Vs. 25.
He insisted on seeing and personally experiencing the living Jesus.
“Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the
print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
The words Thomas uses are very emphatic. It was a determination of his will. He was saying unless I see and touch the wounds for myself I will absolutely not believe.
II. THE IRREFUTABLE PROOF TO BELIEVE. Vss. 26-28.
A. JESUS IN THE DISCIPLES MIDST AGAIN. Vs. 26.
Eight days pass from the night of the resurrection when Jesus first appeared to His followers. It must have been tough time for Thomas. The others would certainly have been talking about the night Jesus visited them. They surely would have been sharing about how good it was to see Him alive. How amazing it was to see Him standing there in their midst.
B. JESUS’ TENDER TREATMENT OF THOMAS. Vs. 27.
Jesus deals specifically and individually with Thomas. The verse tells us that He says directly to Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side.”
C. JESUS CHALLENGES THOMAS’ FAITHLESSNESS. “Be not faithless, but believing.”
The words “faithless” and “believing” have the same root word dealing with faith. The word “faithless” has a negative prefix. We could say the same thing a couple of ways. “Be not unbelieving but believing” or be not without faith but with faith.”
III. THOMAS’ ACCLAMATION AND REBUKE FOR NOT BELIEVING. Vss. 28, 29.
A. THOMAS’S IMMEDIATE ACCLAMATION OF JESUS. Vs. 28. “My Lord and my God.”
A greater declaration of who Jesus is has never been spoken. Too bad Thomas took so long to make it. Thomas may have been faithless but now He believes with everything he is. Thomas’ doubts are gone. His stubborn will is broken. He has seen and touched the resurrected Jesus. His Lord, His God stands alive before him.
B. THOMAS IS REBUKED BY HIS LORD. Vs. 29.
I don’t want to be too hard on Thomas. I can imagine him standing there now with his head bowed as low as it could go as the Lord chides him for his refusal to believe his brothers and sister’s testimony concerning Him. But, most of all for forgetting what He Himself said He would do.
(Matthew 16:21) “From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.”
When Jesus says his name “Thomas” as recorded in verse 29 it must have been like a dagger to him. Remember what it was like to have your mother say your name when you knew you had messed up? Imagine how Thomas must have felt here.
The Lord goes on to explain to Thomas and by default His disciples and us that blessed are those who believe not with the physical eye but with the eye of faith. That would include every person in this room who has believed in and received Jesus Christ as their Savior. Not one of us had the privilege of seeing and touching the resurrected Jesus as those first followers of Jesus did but we who follow Him today are indeed blessed to know Him as our Lord and our God.
IV. THIS WRITTEN WORD IS TO BE BELIEVED. Vss. 30,31.
John gives us a bit of commentary here on faith. The words “as it is written” are found 45 times in the Bible. Interestingly, 31 of those times are in the New Testament. I might have thought the majority would be in the Old Testament. We realize that the New Testament is the fulfilling of the Old Testament writings. Those words, “as it is written” remind us over and over that something was prophesied or mentioned by the Old Testament writers and is now fulfilled in these days. It is a great testimony to we who walk this earth today that what has been written in the word of God is absolutely reliable.
We can trust the Bible. We can believe its prophecies and promises. As its words were fulfilled in the past they will be fulfilled in the present and in the future.
A. MUCH ABOUT THE LORD JESUS CHRIST WAS NOT RECORDED. Vs. 30.
We do not have a complete record of everything Jesus said and did. John tells us here that there were many other miracles done by the Lord Jesus that we know nothing of. He mentions at the very end of his gospel that it would be impossible to record everything.
(John 21:25) “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.”
I am confident that we have recorded in our Bible everything that God wanted recorded about His Son, Jesus Christ. But, it is intriguing to contemplate all that was not recorded. What sermons were not referenced? What miracles did He do that we have no record of? There is no way to know, but one day when we arrive in glory maybe the Lord will reveal more to us.
B. WE CAN BELIEVE THE WRITTEN WORD. Vs. 31.
Hopefully we have had our trust in God’s word increased. All that has been fulfilled from the Bible verifies that we can believe this divine book is the Word of God.
Luke speaks to this at the beginning of his gospel.
(Luke 1:3, 4) “It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.”
John was convinced that if you believe God you will believe His word and if you believe God’s word you can surely be saved, be assured of your salvation and believe, place your faith in Jesus Christ.
(1 John 5:13) “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”
Paul wrote to this very same thing about saving faith, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17)
CONCLUSION: dear friend, do you believe? What do you believe? What does it take to convince you to believe? Speaking for myself, what I hear and see in this world is much harder for me to take seriously and actually believe than what I read from the Word of God.
Why? Because I trust God. As a result I trust His word. Today’s message was not a message particularly about arguments for the integrity of the Bible. The number one reason I believe what the Bible says is because I believe the Author.
His word says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”