John 20:19-2419 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” 24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Before we delve into John’s account of the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, something which has been well-documented by all four Gospel writers and the Apostle Paul, something that was substantiated by well over 500 people who actually saw, with their own eyes, the Resurrected Christ, something that has also been proliferated by ancient historians, even agnostics and atheists, who can’t explain it but believe it to be a true, supernatural phenomenon, before we delve into all of that…I have one question. Where in the world was Thomas when the rest of the disciples were together and were among the first to see the Resurrected Lord? Seriously?
The rest of the disciples, after they had deserted Jesus, after Jesus had been crucified, had at least found each other. They pulled together, and Jesus, the Resurrected Lord, appeared to them. We don’t know how He got into the room, whether He came through the walls or door or just how He got in, but we know one minute He wasn’t there, and the next minute, He was, and Thomas missed it.
Jesus offered them peace, something they all needed because the very reason they were holed up with the doors locked was because they were afraid. When Jesus showed up, He met their deepest need, their need for peace, and Thomas missed it.
After that, Jesus showed the disciples his hands and side. They were presented with evidence that this was, in fact, the crucified Christ, who was risen and standing before them. They went from depressed and dejected to joyful and jubilant, and Thomas missed it.
Next, everyone in that room was sent or commissioned by Jesus for the preaching of this new Gospel message. They received their post-resurrection assignment, and Thomas missed it.
Finally, Jesus breathed on the disciples in what would be a preview of the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. In that moment, they got a taste of what it was going to be like to have the power of God in them when the Spirit would come in fullness, and (say it with me) Thomas missed it.
Thomas literally missed the Resurrection. Where was he? Had he gone back to doing what he had done before he met Jesus? Had he run away to try to forget about his own lack of faithfulness to Jesus when Jesus desperately needed the support of his friends? Was he somewhere trying to drown his sorrows? Had he just run out for some fast food, or had he been gone for days? I don’t know, but as I read the Resurrection account again, my heart went out to Thomas because to miss the Resurrection is to miss the one thing that changes everything. Those disciples literally went from no longer having a purpose for living to being commissioned to change the world. Oh friends, once you experience the Resurrected Christ, you begin to discover why you are here and how God wants to use your life!
In addition to missing the moment that Christ appeared, I found it sad that he wouldn’t even believe what the other disciples had to say about their experience. He had traveled with those men for three years. They had no reason to punk him or to lie to him, and yet when they recounted to Thomas what they had seen, he wouldn’t believe them. And Thomas said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” They weren’t convincing Thomas of anything. You think he had some trust issues? He wasn’t taking anyone else’s word for it. He had to see Jesus with his own eyes to believe that the Resurrection was real.
Fortunately for Thomas, and for us, Jesus is gracious and desires for each one of us to see and know Him for ourselves, and He presented Himself to Thomas. Verse 26 begins, 26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. That’s something to note…Thomas was with them now. I’m guessing he thought, “If Jesus stops by, I’m not missing Him the second time.”
Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, (Jesus directed this opportunity right at Thomas! He had appeared for his benefit.)
“Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Jesus allowed Thomas to examine him, and upon examination, Thomas said something no other disciple had said to date: 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus wasn’t just the Messiah, the Savior, Jesus was also fully God, and more importantly, Jesus was Thomas’s personal Lord and God. People remember Thomas as a doubter. Doubting Thomas. That’s where the phrase comes from. Sadly, Thomas’s reputation is most often based on one occasion where he expressed doubt rather than the stunning moment when he declared more faith than anyone had up to that time. He isn’t Doubting Thomas at all. He is Declaring Thomas, the first person to embrace Jesus in a comprehensive and personal way. Thomas’s doubt had given way to faith.
There isn’t a lot about Thomas in the Gospels, but upon further research, we learn that Thomas not only wrestled with doubt, but he also asked questions. Let me take you there. Not long before the events of Jesus’ suffering began, Jesus spent some time comforting His disciples. He was trying to tell them ahead of time that they didn’t need to be troubled or afraid. He was preparing them for His upcoming departure, and He said to them in John 14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
It was Thomas who was vulnerable and bold enough to say, “No, we don’t.” We don’t know the way.” He said, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” And in response to that honest, yet strategic question, one of the most well-known sentences of the Christian faith was spoken. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6
Because of Thomas’s doubts, we have the first full declaration of who Jesus is and because of his question, we have the blueprint for peace with God. Jesus is the way, the only way, to God.
That ought to inspire each one of us to ask Jesus to show Himself to us and it ought to encourage us to ask those spiritual questions that lead to a greater understanding of how peace with God and power to obtain His work are received.
Each one of us comes to Jesus in our own way. For Thomas, his questions and his doubts didn’t keep him from Jesus…They led him straight to Him! Don’t give Thomas a bad rap for asking questions and expressing doubts. Applaud him that he sincerely wanted the truth! It’s not always easy to see the unseen. It isn’t always simple to understand the words of Scripture, but Thomas would tell you, I would tell you, many who are here today would tell you, it is always worth it to press to know the truth. Matthew 7:7 says, “Seek and you WILL find.” The sad reality is that many have questions or wrestle with doubt and instead of seeking, they just shift their focus to the things of this world that are discerned through the senses or that require no faith. To experience the Resurrected Christ, you have to be willing to enter into the dimension of faith.
Mary Magdalene wasn’t exactly full of faith on that first Resurrection morning. The first part of John 20 tells us when she got to the tomb and saw the stone rolled away, she jumped to conclusions. She assumed Jesus’ body had been stolen. She took off running to tell Peter and John there had been a grave robbery. Are we quick to jump to conclusions when something about Jesus doesn’t make sense? Are we seeking to make decisions about who He was and is based on our feelings or what seems reasonable to us? Mary would obviously been full of grief that morning. Her Hope, her Deliverer, Jesus, the One who had delivered her from many demons, had been killed. What would her future look like without Him? She would certainly fear the possible return of her demonic tormenters. This was not how things were supposed to be.
That morning, Mary’s feelings overshadowed her faith, and based on her feelings, she made assumptions about Jesus that weren’t true. Are we ever guilty of the same? Maybe we deal with a distressing situation, maybe things are tough at school, or we feel like we are being bullied in the workplace. Maybe it is a medical diagnosis that is crushing and overtakes our everyday life. Based on our feelings, we start questioning Gods love for us or if He has abandoned us. Maybe, in anger, we just disconnect altogether from God because after all, if He really loved us, we conclude, He wouldn’t allow so much pain into our life.
Mary not only told Peter and John that Jesus’ body had been stolen, but as she stood outside the tomb crying, some angels appeared. They were sitting where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. When the angels asked her why she was crying, she made the same claim about Jesus’ body being stolen. You would think that the presence of angels would have signaled to her that something supernatural, something special had happened in that place, but even the presence of the supernatural, the presence of angels, didn’t awaken Mary’s faith because she was still committed to her feelings.
Y’all, sometimes we can be so wound up and bound by our feelings that flow from earthly circumstances that we can’t even see the evidence for the supernatural when it is right in front of our face. And it gets even more bizarre as John 20:14 tells us that after Mary Magdalene talked to angels and testified to a grave robbery for the second time, she turned around and Jesus, the Resurrected Lord, was standing right in front of her, but she didn’t realize it was Him! He asked her why she was crying, and she accused Him of stealing Jesus! Her feelings, which led her to a wrong assumption, had taken such hold of her that she couldn’t even see Jesus when He was standing right in front of her, and she accused Jesus of stealing His own body! Talk about missing the Resurrection! I mean, Thomas wasn’t present when Jesus appeared to the others, so I can understand how he wouldn’t just want to take someone else’s word for it, but Jesus was standing right in front of her, and she missed it.
It wasn’t until Jesus spoke her name, verse 16, that she moved from the realm of feelings into the realm of faith and recognized Him. Listen, when you are in trouble, when your soul is in torment, when you wonder if anyone cares, when you are overwhelmed with pressure, when your body is in pain, when you are depressed or afraid, when your reputation is being tarnished, when you are excluded by others, when financial calamity is at your door, when people are demanding more from you than you can give and something has to give, don’t let what is happening to you tell you how to feel about Jesus or cause you to doubt how He feels about you. Rather, by faith, speak with Jesus about your feelings and circumstances and let Him tell you HOW to feel about what is happening to you. He is risen, and that means that Hope is alive. He is risen, and that means that help is here. He is risen and that means that healing is possible.
To experience the Resurrected Christ, you have to be willing to exercise faith over feelings. When you look to your feelings to make sense of life’s trials, you are putting yourself in charge. When you exercise faith in Jesus, and His Word, you are giving Him charge over your life.
Who is better equipped to lead you, Jesus or yourself? Jesus has conquered death. What have you conquered? Just sayin’.
Don’t let your doubt cause you to miss the Resurrection.
Don’t let your questions cause you to miss the Resurrection.
Don’t let your feelings cause you to miss the Resurrection.
Thomas is singled out in John 20 and 14 because he was willing to put doubt and questions into words. Mary Magdalene’s story shows us how too often we commit to our feelings instead of committing to our faith in Jesus. We are a lot like both of them at times.
If you are going to be transformed by the Resurrected Christ you are going to have to deal with doubts and questions, and you will have to choose faith over your feelings.
But if you will seek to do those things, I believe you will arrive at the same conclusions as both Thomas and Mary Magdalene. Thomas declared that Jesus was his Lord and God. Mary went to tell the others, “I have seen the Lord.” The evidence for the Resurrection is overwhelming. Examine it for yourself.
Jesus isn’t afraid of your doubt or your questions. He isn’t run off by your feelings that have caused you to put up a wall between you and Him. He welcomes the invitation to come closer and to reveal just who He really is to you. Whatever you do, don’t miss the Resurrection! If you miss the Resurrection, you miss the only event, the only Person who can change everything you face both here and now and for eternity. Encounter the Risen Christ today.