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‘THAT YOU MAY BELIEVE’ – John 20:24-31

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on April 16, 2017 under 2016 |

Preached Resurrection Sunday, April 16, 2017 from John 20:24-31

Theme: The story of Jesus’ appearance to Thomas assures us that our faith in Jesus’ resurrection is faith in a real event.

(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

This is the day that we celebrate the most important, most pivotal, most world-transforming event in all of human history—the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead in the same body in which He was crucified. It is the event that proves that He has come from God for us as the Savior of the world.

And this morning, I would like to share with you briefly about the validity of our faith in this event. It is proven to us from a story that we find in John 20.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Now; this is a story in the Bible in which we are called upon to believe something that is fantastic. But do you know that even though the Bible calls upon us to believe in fantastic things, it never calls upon us to do so irrationally? The Bible never calls upon us to believe something that is somehow ‘mythical’ or ‘magical’ or ‘irrational’ or—in some way—contrary to our normal perception of the real world in which we live.

It’s true that it calls us to believe in miraculous works done in this world by a mighty God, and to place our faith in spiritual realities for our salvation. But the Bible never asks us to do this in a way that is contrary to or inconsistent with the real time/space universe in which we ordinarily live and operate. Our God—who has created all that is, and who is above and sovereign over all His creation—has graciously revealed Himself to us through His Son Jesus Christ in the context of, and in a way that is consistent with, the created order of things of which we are a part and in which we exist.

This means that the great things that the Bible calls us to believe in for our salvation come to us through the ‘stuff’ of the real world. They were things that were capable of being verified and validated through the senses of those who were eyewitnesses of them—and in the same way that every other important event in human history could be known and confirmed by human beings.

I’m not coming up with something new here, by the way. This was something that was affirmed by the apostles—the first witnesses of the truths that the Bible proposes to us about Jesus. The apostle John once wrote;

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full (1 John 1:1-4).

That doesn’t sound like myth or magic, does it? It sounds more like common-sense realism and scientific investigation. The apostle Peter also said something very much like this. It almost sounds like he was constructing a compelling defense in a court of law when he wrote;

For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts … (2 Peter 1:16-19).

Think of it! Touching! Hearing! Seeing! Looking upon! Handling! Being eyewitnesses! The great truths of the Christian faith are presented to us in the Bible as firmly rooted in reality. And this is especially true about the greatest and most vital proposition of the Christian faith—that one proposition upon which the entire Christian faith either stands or falls; the proposition that Jesus Christ rose bodily from the dead and is alive today. Ours, then, is a faith in a fantastic message that has been declared to us from heaven; but one that has also been communicated to us through the context of real, historically verifiable events that occurred before human eyewitnesses within the normal context of the natural time/space universe in which we touch things, and hear things, and smell things, and taste thing, and see things, and live our natural lives everyday.

Now; because the truths of our faith are contained in the reports of historic events that occurred in the past, we today—of course—cannot have them repeated to our own senses; and thus experience them ourselves in the same way that the original witnesses did. It’s not possible to test the truth of historic events in the same way that we test the truth of a scientific hypothesis in a laboratory. But we can test, and confirm, and trust in the divinely-protected record of those who were the witnesses of them.

And this is particularly true of the great truth we celebrate today—the resurrection of Jesus. I believe this is shown to us, in an amazing way, in the story of John 20.

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The apostle John tells us that three days after Jesus was crucified and buried, He was raised from the dead. Mary Magdalene met Him at the tomb; and she ran out—in obedience to the Lord—and told the disciples.

And John tells us that on that same evening, as the disciples were gathered together in an upper room with the doors shut—hiding, as it were, out of fear—Jesus suddenly appeared to them. (Apparently, closed doors were not able to prevent our Lord in His physically resurrected condition from meeting with them.) He invited them to look at His hands, where the nails had been driven; and to look upon His side, where He had been pierced. They could see Him, touch Him, and hear Him. They could prove to themselves that He was not a ghost; but that He was literally standing before them alive in the very same physical body that had been crucified, that had died, and that had been buried and sealed in the tomb. The Gospel of Luke even tells us that, as they were all still standing there in unbelief, He asked them for something to eat; and that He ate a piece of fish before them. (We’re not told that this is so; but personally, I believe He even gave them the bones afterward—making these perhaps the most remarkable fish bones ever left over on any plate after any meal in all of human history!)

But there was one man among the disciples who was not present that day. In John 20:24-25, we read this:

Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 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” (John 20:24-25).

You know; this poor man has gotten a rotten named pegged on him over the years. But I don’t think it’s really very fair to call him, ‘Doubting Thomas’. Personally, I think we should call him something more like, ‘Reasonable Thomas’; or maybe ‘Thomas from Missouri’. It just didn’t seem rational to believe that a man that had been beaten by the Romans, crucified by them, and buried in a sealed tomb for three days, could be standing before them raised from the dead, in the same body—and even eating seafood with them! Thomas was really a very modern-minded man. He was a man of reason—a man who lived in the real world. He needed empirical evidence before he could believe such a fantastic thing as this.

And that’s what he was given. Thomas was given a privilege that no one else has ever been given in human history. He was given a repeat performance; so that he—this thoroughly reasonable, ‘gotta’-see-it-for-himself’ kind of guy—could personally verify what he was being asked to believe. John goes on to tell us in verses 26-27;

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!” 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” (v. 26-27).

Don’t you love that? Jesus took Thomas at his word with respect to what he said a week before; and then gave him what he needed. “Go ahead, Thomas. Reach out your finger and touch. Reach out your hand and feel. See Me. Hear Me. Verify that it’s really true—that it’s really Me—that I am really alive.

Now; Jesus told Him to not be ‘unbelieving’, but ‘believing’. And He encouraged Thomas to do so in the context of the real world—in the time/space universe we all live in. And did Thomas take Him up on this? Did he really reach out his hand and touch Jesus’ side? Did he really put his finger into Jesus’ hands and feel the print of the nails? We’re not told. But one thing we do know for sure is how Thomas reacted to it all. John tells us;

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

I’d say Thomas was convinced; wouldn’t you? And I believe that what Jesus said to him after that was meant to be overheard by all of the ‘Thomasas’ who would be born after him, and who would themselves need to have the demands of sound reason and empirical validation satisfied before belief could be credible and sincere—but who could never themselves, by the very nature of things, have the same eyewitness opportunity that Thomas was given:

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

They would not see as Thomas did. Only a relatively few people among all of humanity, in a brief moment of history, were allowed to see and hear and touch Jesus in His resurrected body. But the rest of humanity would not be asked to believe their reports of that resurrection in violation of sound reason and empirical verification. The rest of humanity would depend upon the reliability of their historic testimony—but it is a testimony that was given entirely within the context of reality; and that is utterly sufficient to save.

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; it’s on the basis of that testimony that countless millions of broken, needy, sinners like you and me have believed on a risen Savior—and have been personally transformed by His love. It’s that testimony that we are hearing and celebrating today. He is risen!

And it’s a testimony that if true (and the Bible clearly presents it to us as true in the same way that we know anything else to be true), we must respond to. We cannot ignore it. We cannot reasonably dismiss it as ‘fantasy’ or ‘mythology’; because that’s not how the Bible presents it. It must be either accepted or rejected on the basis of real, eyewitness testimony that claimed to be verifiable and capable of validation.

I believe that God the Holy Spirit led the apostle John to close this story in the very way that he did in order to call us to that kind of faith. John wrote;

And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 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 (vv. 30-31).

Those who have sincerely looked into the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection—in a fair-minded way, and in accord with the full evidence that is given, and in a way that is consistent with how any other ‘real’ event is validated—have come away as believers. So, let’s no longer be unbelieving. Let’s believe whole-heartedly and confidently in our risen Savior—and believe to the salvation of our souls!

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