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John 20:24-25, NIV24 Now Thomas (called Didymus), 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 it." May 25, 2012Thomas wasn't there when Jesus first presented himself to the disciples on the day we now call Easter. We don't know why. Maybe he preferred to grieve alone. Or he just needed to get away for a breath of fresh air or went for something to eat. I could suggest a multitude of possible reasons. He didn't know Jesus was coming for a visit or he would have stayed.When Thomas rejoined his band of brothers, I'm sure he regretted his absence. Imagine the excitement of Peter and John as they told Thomas what he had skipped out on. Imagine the feelings of Thomas over this missed opportunity. I think Thomas' response reflects some anger. He yearned to have the same experience as the other disciples. It just wasn't fair. He wanted to touch Jesus too, and stubbornly insulted the lucky ones by refusing to believe them.Thomas demanded proof. He refused to trust the account of the other 10 disciples. Is that a form of arrogance? Something you feel when you are left out? Still, Thomas continued to meet with the disciples even though he refused to believe.
I heard a children's sermon one time wherein the presenter asked the children, "How many cookies are there in this cookie jar?" She went on to say there were three ways to answer that question. 1) They could guess the number - like it's a game. 2)They could take her word for it if she told them how many cookies she put into the jar. 3) Or they could remove the cookies from the jar and count them. Then she talked about Thomas who was the kind of person who would choose that last option.
Thomas was not about to exercise his faith. He decided to believe his doubts instead. Faith is believing what you can not see, where there is no tangible proof. When certainty is possible, faith is not necessary. Which means I can believe something without faith. But I can't believe in God without faith.Here's another thought. Thomas could have been responding to the dis-belief of the others! "You don't act like people who have seen the resurrected Lord!" Instead of shouting the news everywhere, they were still hiding behind locked doors. That's something like today. Think what the Church would look like if Christians really believed their creed, or practiced what Christ taught.
John 20:26-27, NIV26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. 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; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."
May 26, 2012Was it a long week? Or a very profitable one? John's gospel doesn't say why they were waiting, together, in a locked house. What expectations did they have? ?
Luke's gospel tells us they spent their days in the Temple praising God. Luke also refers to their study of the holy Scriptures. By the day of Pentecost, 50 days after the resurrection, he put the number of believers who met together daily at 120. They were both men and women, families and singles. I wonder if that number included Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus?
When Jesus appeared to the disciples again it sounds just like the first time. It's the same greeting, "Peace be with you." Then Jesus spoke directly to Thomas. "Don't trust your doubts. Touch me, stop your doubting and believe."The disciple Thomas believed in Jesus, he just was not sure about the resurrected Jesus, until now. Doubt is like a safety net that catches us when we falter. Or maybe doubt is a sign that faith is still alive and willing to grow.Jesus never faulted Thomas for his doubts. Neither did he ask for a confession. Did Jesus make this appearance just for this one "left out" disciple? It makes me feel good to think so. To think that Jesus is so caring and compassionate that he would trouble himself for the sake of one sulking loner. And without any words of condemnation. How wonderful is that!Easter began with Jesus sealed up in a tomb which could not keep him in! The day ended with the disciples locked up in a house which could not keep Jesus out! What was it like for Jesus, after enduring the cross, to have this new resurrected body? Now he could drop in on his friends and surprise them, whether they were wandering through a garden, hiding behind locked doors, walking the Emmaus road, or working the sea in their fishing boats. He could just appear and disappear at will.
John 20:28-29, NIV28 Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" 29 Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
May 27, 2012Thomas has now had the experience he wanted. All week long he had listened to the other disciples talk about seeing the resurrected Jesus. Now it had happened to him.How did he respond to this wonder-filled event? Awed by the presence of Jesus, Thomas didn't just believe, he made the strongest proclamation of anyone when he said, "My Lord and my God!" This doubting disciple got it right before any of the others did. He finally understood who Jesus was. No one else in the gospels is recorded as making such a bold statement. The closest to this was Peter in his great declaration when he said "You are the Christ the son of the living God."Seeing the wounds of Jesus was all the evidence Thomas needed to know this was the Master whose disciple he had been for the past three years. All doubts about that were gone. But when he exclaimed, "My Lord and my God!" - that was faith talking. Faith sees beyond what we can touch physically with our hands. The gospel writer's conclusion is not about Thomas, it about us - you and me. Yes, Thomas saw and believed. But those who are truly blessed are those who have not seen yet still believe in the risen Jesus. Believing by faith is more wonderful, more amazing than what the disciples possessed that first Easter! Although John doesn't say it, I'll bet heaven rejoices whenever we experience God's presence by faith.Peace came to Thomas as it does to us. There is peace in believing as opposed to living with doubts. There were lots of things the disciples did not know nor understand at the moment. Yet Jesus asked them to continue on with him and for him, even in his seeming absence. Faith picks up where certainty leaves off. When we walk in faith, peace and joy accompany us.
John 20:30-31, NIV30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
May 28, 2012Jesus Christ, Son of God. A perfect son, a perfect reflection of his Father in heaven. So perfect that Thomas could proclaim, "My Lord and my God!"There was much more John and others could have written about Jesus. As in all of life, there is much more we could have recorded for future generations. There are many more letters we could have written, many more experiences we could have described, more knowledge and helpful information we could pass on to others. But it doesn't get written. So it was with those who witnessed Jesus in the flesh. It never got put onto parchment. What is the function of a witness? To persuade with facts? To simply tell what they have seen? To put in a good word for someone whose character is being questioned? To show with our living that what we say is truly what we believe? It wasn't enough for Mary to inform the disciples that she had "seen the Lord", or for the disciples to tell Thomas the same. Each still needed a personal encounter. In the gospels, people literally interacted with Jesus. When I stop to think about it, it's an amazing thing that 2,000 years later we who "have not seen" still experience the personal encounter and believe. How does that happen? It must be the work of the Holy Spirit. All the people mentioned in John 20 were at different points in their faith journey. For Peter and John, seeing the linens in the tomb was significant. Mary Magdalene had to hear Jesus call her name. The disciples had to see Jesus face to face. And Thomas was not about to believe what someone else told him; he had to put his hand into Jesus' wounds. Each situation had its own unique qualities, but these differences didn't matter. None of them abandoned the others. All of them kept hope alive. They continued to watch for Jesus. And Jesus didn't give up on them, he just kept coming again and again. Which is good news to me because I have lots of questions that can only be answered by faith.John's gospel is about eternal life. Life that begins now and continues on into eternity. It is John's desire that all who read his words will believe and find life through his witness.Life in Jesus' name. No longer is faith based on physical contact with Jesus. Now we pray, we believe, we witness, we live in Jesus' name.
The concluding verses of this chapter sound like an appropriate ending for John's gospel. But turning the page, we discover there is one more incident, one more resurrection story to be told.