John’s Gospel – Chapter 20
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!” 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.” (John 20:26-27 NIV)
Despite all the evidence, Jesus’ own disciples had difficulty BELIEVING in His resurrection. On that Sunday morning, everything about Jesus – His mission in the world, His ministry and His message – was forever validated. Still they struggled to BELIEVE! Mary was blinded by grief. Peter and John still did not recognize that Scripture was fulfilled right before their eyes. And Thomas simply refused to believe it until He could see and touch Jesus for himself.
Now, when it comes to FAITH, i.e. BELIEVING GOD, the Scripture is clear: Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Jesus had finished everything He came into the world to do. The proof was literally right in front of them, but they had to choose between doubting and believing. It is the same for every one of us. When the case has been presented and the evidence for Jesus laid before us, the time comes when we must choose to “stop doubting and believe.” The consequences of our choice are both life-changing and everlasting.
Seeing IS NOT always believing!
Jesus’ disciples saw many evidences to His resurrection within hours of the event; but they all struggled to believe.
- Mary Magdalene saw the stone rolled away, two angels and was the first to see the risen Jesus. Still, she did not recognize Him until He called her name (vv.1-2; 10-16).
- Peter and John were first to enter the empty tomb. They saw the burial cloths minus Jesus’ body. John saw and believed, but neither of them understood that Bible prophecy and Jesus’ own prediction had just been fulfilled (vv.3-9):
- For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave. (Psalm 16:10 NLT)
- “On the third day he will be raised to life!” (Matthew 20:19 NIV)
- The other disciples heard the reports of Peter, John and Mary Magdalene, but they did not believe and rejoice until Jesus himself appeared to them that evening behind their locked doors (vv.19-20).
- Thomas heard all the others’ testimonies but vowed not to believe until He saw and touched Jesus himself. Jesus obliged him (vv.24-28).
Jesus’ final words to Thomas teach us that BELIEVING is MORE THAN SEEING! – “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29 NIV)
What causes doubt?
With so much EVIDENCE for believing in Jesus, His resurrection and everything about Him – why did His disciples struggle so with doubt? What causes doubt?
- The first doubt and innumerable doubts ever since are caused by SATAN (Genesis 3:4). He specializes in planting doubt into the human spirit. Jesus called him the father of lies (John 8:44). He even tempted Jesus to doubt himself and God the Father (Matthew 4:1-11).
- Our own EXPECTATIONS lead us to doubt. Mary expected to find things just as they were when she saw Jesus buried two days prior. Peter and John did not expect to find Jesus missing from the tomb. What they all found instead was just hard to believe.
- EMOTIONS can confuse and cause doubt. Mary’s grief and anxiety blinded her recognition of Jesus.
- DEMANDING MORE from God than He requires of us is doubting, not believing. Therefore, Thomas is commonly called Doubting Thomas. Jesus said that faith as small as a mustard seed can move a mountain (Matthew 17:20). It doesn’t take much to please God! Thomas demanded more evidence than was already given before he would believe Jesus was alive. Jesus described the generation of His day as “wicked” because they demanded a miraculous sign. He also said the only sign they would be given was “the sign of Jonah” – a reference to His resurrection (Luke 11:29).
- BIBLICAL IGNORANCE causes doubt. Though confirmation of multiple Old Testament prophets and Jesus’ own prophesies was starring them in the face, Peter and John still did not understand the meaning of all this (v.9). Paul writing to the Romans said, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom 10:17 NKJV). Reading, hearing, learning the Scriptures not only increases our knowledge and understanding – it BUILDS OUR FAITH!
Two things to REMEMBER:
- The things we cannot see (the spiritual) are just as real and even more significant than what we can see (the physical) – 2 Corinthians 4:13-18.
- The spiritual/supernatural world explains/interprets the physical/natural world; not the other way around. Jesus himself is evidence of that. The Son of God (spiritual) became the Son of Man (physical) in order to reveal heavenly/spiritual things to us: But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven. And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. (John 3:12-15 NLT)
Doubting is more than not believing.
We all struggle to believe at times, i.e. when going through new experiences, coping with suffering and loss, challenges that exceed our own capabilities, etc. James, the head of the Jerusalem church and brother to Jesus, described doubting as an uncertainty of mind that leads to an unstable life (James 1:8). Think of a boat at sea without anchor or rudder. There is nothing to hold it steady or direct its course. So, it drifts aimlessly and helplessly toward an uncertain end. Today’s society has become more and more a culture of doubt rather than belief. Postmodern philosophy which rejects advocates skepticism, rejects reason, and deplores traditional ideologies, has come to dominate younger generations and increasingly directs, or misdirects, older groups as well. If America seems generally to have become untethered, drifting and aimless – it is. Without guidance from God law and order disappear, but God blesses everyone who obeys his Law. (Proverbs 29:18 CEV)
Believing in Jesus is more than a statement.
Paul said to the Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31). But there’s a lot of meaning in so brief a statement:
- Believing in Jesus is “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Jesus’ himself is the SUBSTANCE (the content, solidity, body) of everything we hope for (believe in) as Christians; and His resurrection is the key EVIDENCE (proof, confirmation, substantiation) that what we believe in is true/valid – 1 Corinthians 15:17-23.
- Believing in Jesus is the only way to really live (John 14:6). We are what we believe (Proverbs 23:7). We walk (are guided in our everyday living) by our faith and not by our sight (Galatians 2:20). Jesus is the ONLY WAY to know God and live in His light (truth) not darkness (deception). There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. (Proverbs 14:12 NIV).
- Believing in Jesus is knowing and applying His words (the Scriptures) to our lives: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matt 7:24-25 NIV). Also see Luke 24:45-47.
- Believing in Jesus is LIVING in the BLESSINGS of God – Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3 NIV).
Living the life of faith in Jesus Christ is CHALLENGING but also very REWARDING for both individual believers and whole societies. There are many causes to doubt, but more reasons to BELIEVE! The evidence for Jesus’ resurrection is there for any and all to examine. JESUS IS the substance of everything we believe, and His resurrection is the evidence that what we believe is true. Believing in Jesus entitles us to enjoy the blessings of God here and now and the blessings of life in Heaven with Him forever. As Jesus said to Thomas, “Stop doubting and believe.”