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Unbelief Succumbs to the Truth

John 20:19–31 (CSB)

19 When it was evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were gathered together with the doors locked because they feared the Jews. Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
20 Having said this, he showed them his hands and his side. So the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” 22 After saying this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
 
24 But Thomas (called “Twin”), one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples were telling him, “We’ve seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “If I don’t see the mark of the nails in his hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were indoors again, and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and look at my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Don’t be faithless, but believe.”
28 Thomas responded to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
 
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God,, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

The Lord is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Dear fellow redeemed: I am focusing today on the portion of our Gospel lesson that includes the apostle Thomas. Matthew, Mark, and Luke report that He was an apostle and present at Christ’s ascension and awaiting the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. The Christians in India have a fairly rich folklore about his work as an apostle there, and faithful Indian Christians have for all these years called themselves the church “Mar Thoma,” The church of St. Thomas.

John is the only inspired source with information about Thomas, and he first gives us a hint of his personality in chapter eleven. Jesus had twice evaded stoning in Judea, and had left the region to avoid arrest; His time had not yet come. But now he announces that he will go back to Judea. Then after that, he said to the disciples, “Let’s go to Judea again.” “Rabbi,” the disciples told him, “just now the Jews tried to stone you, and you’re going there again?” (John 11:7–8, CSB) Jesus reiterated that it was his intent to go to Lazarus, in Bethany, just two miles from Jerusalem. To this, “Then Thomas (called “Twin”) said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go too so that we may die with him.” (John 11:16, CSB) To me, that seems like a sarcastic remark.

Of course the words for which Thomas is most famous are found in our text, 25 So the other disciples were telling him, “We’ve seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “If I don’t see the mark of the nails in his hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Thomas wasn’t the only one to forget Christ’s promise and disbelieve the witnesses. On Easter Sunday, Cleopas and one of the other disciples told Jesus on the way to Emmaus, “Moreover, some women from our group astounded us. They arrived early at the tomb, and when they didn’t find his body, they came and reported that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive.” (Luke 24:22–23, CSB) While they were telling the disciples all about it was when the whole group had the encounter with Jesus that Thomas missed out on. So, Thomas was not alone in his skepticism.

But he did persist for a week. It must have been a little lonely, clinging stubbornly to his insistence that he had to see physical proof, not testimony. But as a result, we get to see one of the great occasions where

UNBELIEF SUCCUMBS TO THE TRUTH

  1. Unbelief – Spiritual Death
  2. Faith – Spiritual Life
  1. Unbelief – Spiritual Death

The meaning of this text is clear. Thomas, barring physical evidence, would not accept the testimony of the other disciples, but when confronted by the Christ, even before he “put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into his side,” confessed, “My Lord and my God!”

Let’s apply this to our circumstances:

Unbelief is not just a different opinion, you know. That has always been part of Satan’s lies. “God said … but, you know, it’s just His opinion; go ahead and eat the fruit.” So many act today as though it is up to God to meet our personal standards of truth.

The materialists say that if God cannot show up as matter and/or energy, they will not believe.

The rationalists say that if God does not appeal to their finite reason, they will not believe.

The emotionalists say that if they cannot feel God move them, then they will not believe.

The narcissists say that if they cannot experience God, then they will not believe.

This is just a way of slicing and dicing unbelief, just different ways of looking at the fact that we are born spiritually dead. Now the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace. The mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit to God’s law. Indeed, it is unable to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:6–8, CSB)

Anybody who says that they will not believe in the risen Christ condemns herself / himself. Anyone who believes in him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God. (John 3:18, CSB)

It starts with simple morality. By any standard, I am a sinner. Anybody must say the same. It is better to be disabused of any pretense at holiness now, before standing before the Righteous Judge who will take no self-justifying nonsense from anyone.

Our conscience holds us responsible to a universal standard of right and wrong. As fashionable as it is today to be downright perverse, such perversion cannot bear the weight of reality. Throughout history, societies that have abandoned the sanctity of life, of family, of marriage, of the promise given, of property, of the honor of God have been brought low.

We have no excuse if we do not face the problem of sin, and death, and an accounting for sin hereafter, which is written on our soul. And if we seek we will find, for God has so ordered the world: From one man he has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. He did this so that they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. (Acts 17:26–27, CSB)

To put this in current terms, do you think that anybody in our country – or practically the world – shut up with social media this Easter could not have heard of the resurrection of Christ – our Savior, had they the slightest curiosity?

              2. Faith – Spiritual Life

But if spiritual death is the default, how can we find life? How can the dead make themselves alive, or the mindset of the flesh change to that of the spirit? We have the promise, Now if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through his Spirit who lives in you. (Romans 8:10–11, CSB)

Put another way, how can we have the blessing that Jesus speaks of when He says, “Don’t be faithless, but believe.”
28 Thomas responded to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.””

We who have not seen, believe because of the life-giving power of God through His word. At the end of the Gospel lesson, John says, 31 But these [things, signs] are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God,, and that by believing you may have life in his name. What he has written is that word of God called the gospel, the good news. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith. (Romans 1:16–17, CSB)

To those who acknowledge their sin, despair of their own goodness, and desire a hope that is not found in the idols of this world, this comes as good news: Christ is your righteousness. He has reconciled you to God. He gives you forgiveness, life, and salvation. He who is risen promises you a true resurrection. Awaken, faith! For Christ the Lord is risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!  AMEN