- Sermon Notes
Thomas the Believer
As we pick up our story in John chapter 20, it’s the first day of the week and Mary Magdalena has come early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb. She ran and came to Simon Peter and John and said, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”
Peter and John ran to the tomb and looking in they saw the linen wrappings, but Jesus they did not see, but John tells us that he saw the empty tomb and believed. Something is happening, faith is arising. They had not yet understood the scriptures that He must rise again from the dead, but faith is now arising.
Mary is standing outside the tomb weeping, but she looks into the tomb and sees two angels sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Then she turned and saw Jesus, not knowing it was him. Jesus then said, “Woman, why are you weeping, whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” That’s when Jesus called her name, “Mary!” She then turned and said in Hebrew, “Rabboni!”
That evening, on that first day of the week, many of the disciples were gathered together and Jesus Himself came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” But Thomas was not there. When he arrived later the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But Thomas would not believe.
Let’s do a bit of word association. I’ll give you the name of a disciple and you think of a word that describes him. Peter – impetuous, spontaneous, denying, foot-shaped mouth?
John – beloved, son of thunder. Judas – betrayer; everyone knows that one. Here’s another easy one; Thomas – doubter. We even have an expression, “Don’t be a doubting Thomas.” It’s been, what, almost 2,000 years and the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Thomas is the word doubter. When you meet him in heaven, however, I’m sure he won’t be known as “doubting Thomas.”
That really brings us to the point of these verses; faith is the foundation of how we live. Some have little faith and some have more faith, but we all need to have growing faith. I think we can all relate to the father who brought his son to Jesus, saying, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us!”
Jesus responded, “If you can? All things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”
I. God Blesses Those who Walk by Faith
- This theme runs through the scriptures; that God wants us to believe what Jesus said.
- There were many times when the Lord admonished the disciples for having little faith, “O ye of little faith, why did you doubt?”
A. Life comes from believing
- Why is faith so important? Because it is through believing -that Jesus is the Son of God- that we have life in His name. -Verse 21-
John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly.”
- John tells us that life comes from believing that Jesus is the Son of God. Why is that? Because God sent His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.
- God didn’t send anyone else; not Buddha, not Joseph Smith, not Mohammed. God sent His Son with the message of life, eternal life.
- But then God demonstrates that promise by raising His Son from the dead.
1 Corinthians 15:17, 20, 23, If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins… But Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep… Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His appearing.
John 11:25-26, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”
B. Begin with a willing heart
- This is not the first time we’ve met Thomas and when you look back, you see a man with a willing heart.
- In John 11, in the story of when Lazarus died, Jesus is first told that Lazarus is sick. When He heard this, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was. He then said, “Let’s go.”
- At first, several of the disciples resist the idea of going to Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him. But Thomas was the one who was willing to go.
John 11:16, Therefore Thomas, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.”
- Here’s an example of where we might call him, “Thomas the willing.” There are other examples in scripture that speak to heart that God wants us to have…
Illus – When the blind man, Bartimaeus, heard that Jesus was passing by he called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” When Jesus heard the man calling Him the Son of David, He said, “Call him here.” They brought him to Jesus and He asked the blind man, “What do you want Me to do for you?”
- It begins with that willing heart; that bit of faith. “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”
C. “Be not unbelieving, but believing”
- When Jesus appeared again, He invited Thomas to touch His hands and His side and then said to him… “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” (verse 29)
- God knows that many have little faith, but His heart is to strengthen, to increase our faith. We need it, we need to grow and increase in faith.
- Where does faith come from? Paul wrote, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.”
- When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, this was a demonstration that He is the resurrection and the life, but first they heard His words.
John 11:39-40, Jesus said, “Remove the stone.” Martha said, “Lord, he stinketh, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
- Thomas is struggling to believe because it’s one thing for Jesus to raise someone else, but now He Himself is dead. He needs greater faith.
II. Faith will Change Your Life
- Thomas is certainly changed as soon as he comes into greater faith.
- He moves from ‘doubting Thomas,’ to ‘worshiping Thomas.’ Thomas declared, “My Lord and my God!” A dramatic change.
A. We need faith that doesn’t see
- Jesus said, “Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”
- Is Jesus asking for faith that has no evidence behind it? Not at all. There was plenty of evidence. Mary Magdalena had not only seen Him, but held onto Him.
- Peter and John had seen the empty tomb and they believed. The other disciples in the room when Jesus appeared all saw Him.
1 Corinthians 15:1-9 The witnesses to the resurrection
Hebrews 11:1, 3, 6, Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.… By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible… Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
2 Corinthians 5:7, for we walk by faith, not by sight
Galatians 3:11, That no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for “The righteous man shall live by faith.”
- What does it mean to live by faith?
Illus - A college class on management once had the students learn a lesson by having one of them be blindfolded and the other direct their steps by speaking to them.
Isaiah 30:21, Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.
- What is it we believe by faith? We believe that God created the heavens and earth, that He has a Son and that He sent that Son to reveal His love and show us the way to live; the way of greatest blessing of God’s favor poured out on our lives.
B. We need bold faith
- When there is an assurance of faith, there comes with it a boldness in living.
- We all understand weakness and fear, it’s part of the human condition in which we were born.
2 Timothy 1:7, God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.
2 Corinthians 3:12,17 Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in her speech… Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
Illus - Peter himself is an example. He made bold claims about his willingness to stand with the Lord, even to die with Him, but that very night he denied the Lord three times. Later, after the resurrection, after being filled by the Holy Spirit, he declares his faith openly to thousands of people.
- One of the things we love about David is the boldness of his faith.
Illus - David’s answer to Goliath has become a great declaration of bold faith, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and the javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands… That all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear, for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands.”
- Some of our favorite Psalms declare the confidence of that faith.
- But how does faith become bold faith? Answer; by taking the measure of faith you have and acting on it, by walking in it.
Matthew 28:16-17, 19, The eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated, when they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. Jesus said to them, “Go and make disciples of all the nations…”
- Notice something important; Jesus doesn’t divide out the doubters, saying, “I want all the doubters to take a class on deeper faith. You can’t do any ministry while you doubt.” No, he sends them out. Walk in the faith that you have.
John 20:19-31 NASB
19 So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." 20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you." 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained."