Easter Through Thomas' eyes
April 4, 2010 Series: Easter
Topic: Stand Alone Passage: John 20:28–20:28
April 4, 2010
Good Morning Damascus Road, “Happy Resurrection”. If this is your first time, only time, one of your twice-a year times, or for sure your last, welcome. Like feeding a small squirrel, I’ll try not to make any big sudden movements so as not to scare you away. At the same time, I hope you didn’t come expecting a big show or some sort of resurrection reenactment. We’re not church experts. I mean, we’re not real gifted at attracting people into our church—our name sounds cultish, black appears to be our favorite color, and the only ads we put for today’s service didn’t even have our address on them. If you read my blog, you’d see that some churches this year are giving away houses, cars, and one over a million dollars worth of prizes to those who come in our door. Sorry, all we have is free bibles, some free coffee, a little free conviction, and a lot of free salvation from Jesus. We’re not about “Christian living” because we stink at it. BUT EVEN IF we could actually LIVE like we’re supposed to, we wouldn’t need to celebrate days like today. At Damascus Roadwe love Jesus, serve Jesus, preach Jesus, and we worship Jesus…and not just on Easter.
Over the last week, we’ve meditated on how just under 2,000 years ago, (after three years of healing the sick and feeding the poor) the greatest man that ever lived, Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalemon a donkey. Some would call him a good teacher, but ignore all his claims to be God. Some would call him anti-religious, but ignore his promise to fulfill all the religious laws. Some would call him an example of tolerance to follow, and ignore his stated mission kill all sin, disobedience, and rebellion. Regardless, his words and actions were so captivating, that they wanted to make him King on that Sunday. By Thursday, the mob’s opinion shifted, betrayed by one of his best friends, he was arrested, falsely accused, illegally tried, and on Friday brutally murdered on the cross. There is no doubt that a man named Jesus lived and died. The doubts come in afterwards…the resurrection. Without the resurrection, the Christian faith is meaningless. But sadly, , a recent (Barna) survey of 1,000 adults in February found just 42% tied the meaning of Easter to Jesus' resurrection and only 2% called this day "the most important faith holiday”
Expectations and Rejection
Believer or not, many people here today have doubts about God, the Bible, Church, and definitely the resurrection of Jesus. The beginning of our three-part Easter series was about the expectations that we have about God. Most of our doubts about God are rooted in expectations that were not met at some point in your life. We expect God to affirm everything that I feel, think, or do. We want God to act like THIS and we never expect him to act LIKE THAT. But then, when find yourself on that road you NEVER thought you’d travel--- you don’t even think about rejecting your expectations as wrong—you reject Him as weak, unloving, or non-existent. When Jesus didn’t meet the expectations of the religious fundamentalists AND the liberals, they rejected and murdered Him. When Jesus didn’t meet the expectations of his own disciples, his best friends, they too rejected and ran from him. One group sat in PRIDE believing they were justified in their rejection because of WHAT JESUS DID. The other group sat in DESPAIR believing they were justified in their rejection because of WHAT JESUS DIDN’T DO.
You’ve rejected Jesus too…at some point, all of us are or have because we love something more than Him. You probably came here with expectations about the “Easter Sermon”—7 evidences for the Resurrection; or the 7 reasons why the Easter Bunny is the Anti-Christ. Those are all fine sermons but seeing as I have you as a captive audience, for at least the next 12 minutes, I thought I’d hit something a bit more saucy—so that by the time you leave, you’ll either reject your expectations of Jesus or reject Jesus himself. We’ll talk about disciple Thomas.
Thomas was Loyal
Thomas is always listed as one of the 12 disciples. In the four different accounts of Jesus life, the account of the John tell us more about Thomas than any other. Thomas was one of the 12 disciples who were with Jesus since the beginning of his ministry. He was one of the few who had left his life as a Fisherman, to follow Jesus across the countryside. And, after three years, as Jesus drew closer to Jerusalemand his eventual death, Thomas was there. In John 11, a woman named Mary reports that her brother Lazarus was ill. Jesus responds in verse 4 saying, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” A few verses later, however, Jesus says that Lazarus has fallen asleep and he goes to wake him up, leaving the disciples a bit confused about why Jesus would want to wake up a sick guy from his nap. Jesus says, Lazarus has died, and I’m glad he did that you’ll all believe now. Thomas responds, let’s all go so “ that we may die with him.” Thomas realizes that something in him either needs to die OR something in him has to be woken up by Jesus, or both.
Thomas the Questioner
A few chapters later, it becomes clear that Thomas is taking Jesus words through his own EXPECTATION FILTER 3000 and not understanding. Right after Jesus tells his right hand man PETER that he is going to reject him three times before morning, the disciples are understandably a bit disturbed. JESUS attempts to comfort the disciples by telling him that he is on his way to heaven, and they know the way too. Of course, Thomas proves himself to be a thinker, a man of logic, someone who ask questions so that he can get a CLEAR step by step understanding. 5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” If you tell me the way to God, I will decide if it works for me. Because if the way doesn’t walk the path I want, maybe I can choose a different path, you know, make my own way. So Jesus, gives him a nice and specific answer: 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. Thomas goes with it for now….
Friday, the Death & Resurrection of Jesus
Within hours, Thomas’ and the rest of the disciples’ world falls apart. Within hours, he sees his Master betrayed by a friend, arrested, and falsely accused. In only a few more hours, Jesus is brought before religious and political leaders, tried illegally, and sentenced to die. Then, he is stripped of his clothing, he is mocked, spit on, and beaten, only to have to carry a heavy cross to where they will hang him on it. Finally, Thomas watches as they spike his friend on that cross atop a hill called Golgotha. He watches in horror as Jesus life drains away, all while Roman soldiers play games for his clothes.
A Long Saturday
Saturday finally came. All of the disciples flee in fear and hide while some other men buried the body of the man they followed for three years. On the cross, their expectations were destroyed and any hope they had died. Perhaps they got together on Saturday, maybe the sat alone. I imagine they cried in despair, shook their fists in anger, but most of time silently stared in shock. WHAT HAPPENED? How could they had been so wrong? Had the last three years of their life been a waste?
Then Sunday came.
The sun finally went down on what must have been the longest Saturday ever. Then, early Sunday morning, a young lady whom Jesus had cast demons out of named Mary Magdalene came to the tomb while it was still dark. The stone had been rolled away. She didn’t bother to look inside, she knew what had happened. Someone took the body. She ran to tell the other disciples, who returned only to have their fears confirmed: 8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes. (John 20.8-10) But Mary didn’t leave. She stayed at the tomb and wept. And a resurrected Jesus appeared to her. He told her to run and tell her brothers—but they did not believe her.
Thomas & the 10
But later that evening, the disciples were all locked up together, most likely in the upper room where Jesus had held his final Passover meal. Perhaps they listened to some more “crazy talk” from the women, most likely they ignored it. BUT, it was there, that a resurrected Jesus appeared to his 12 disciples minus two. Judas was dead and Thomas was strangely absent. John 20.19-29 19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending 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, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” 24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.
Thomas is absent for Jesus appearance to the disciples. The Bible doesn’t say why, so it is left to our imaginations. His brothers, his community, were gathered and he was not. This often happens when God doesn’t meet our expectations. Though our community is supposed to be a place to cry, to weep, to be angry, to question, to find encouragement and strength—our disillusionment and pain often lead us to isolate away from a community, the very thing they need. It is hard to walk alone, especially when it is dark. It is difficult and it is not safe to be alone when your world feels destroyed.
Monday morning, some zealous disciples go looking for Thomas and tell him what has happened in his absence. Can you imagine their joy and excitement? They find him, and you can imagine disciples pleading with him, “We have seen the Lord” Peter, the one who had rejected Jesus like no other, "Thomas, I saw him myself, I tell you, and he was as real as you are!" But, THOMAS IS COLD. His response is from one who could care less about what “they experienced”—he didn’t. Jesus is dead, maybe not to, but he is to me. God didn’t come through for me, it’s over. I gave three years to him, and he didn’t do what I wanted. I’m so glad Jesus showed up for you—he didn’t for me? If you had this experience, why didn’t he hang around a little longer? Why didn’t he come and find me? Why isn’t he showing up right now? You have your experience, but I have mine…AND “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
Notice that Thomas says more than just SEE Jesus like they reported, he has to place his finger in the holes of his hands AND the side where he was pierced with a Roman spear—the marks. Thomas is obsessed with the fact that Jesus died. Thomas isn’t giving an ultimatum for belief, he is declaring his UNBELIEF in the Resurrection. He doesn’t asking believing Jesus will, but already KNOWING that he won’t. He asks for what he views as the IMPOSSIBLE. Why? He was with Jesus for all his miracles, all his healings, even when he raising up Lazarus. Why won’t he believe? BECAUSE He trusts what he saw, what he feels, what he knows—things did not go as Thomas planned, JESUS DIED, brutally. No one raises himself from the , especially after that. When someone is beaten, broken, and murdered, the man is dead. We had a good run guys, he was a great man, he “helped” out a lot, but it’s done. Unless Jesus does the IMPOSSIBLE, something that no man has EVER DONE...I will NEVER believe.
Jesus Appears again
And Jesus lets Thomas sit in his unbelief—he hears him, but he doesn’t respond for another week. I wonder what that week was like for Thomas. He probably returned to fishing, to keep his mind off of things. I expect his despair brewed, possibly bitterness toward the last three years grew, maybe he became antagonistic toward his newly charismatic brothers who kept talking about Jesus. But, Thomas somehow agreed to meet with the 10 at the same room. John 20. 26ff 26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although 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, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Do not disbelieve, but believe
Jesus appears, in the same way he did before. Here I am Thomas. I Heard You. Stop Disbelieving. Believe. And when Thomas finally sees Jesus face to face, he doesn’t ask any questions, but every nerve of his body feeling, thinking and wanting to say that is impossible for someone to do, he cries out “MY LORD and MY GOD”. The resurrection is the cornerstone of our faith, but it proves that JESUS is God.
(Adapted from Tim Keller, Gospel Christianity)
1) Accepting Jesus is God, always takes us past admiration and respect to worship.
2) Accepting Jesus is God, means you can’t just be ok with Jesus my friend—he is to be absolutely obeyed and given the central priority of our lives.
3) Accepting Jesus is God, means accepting God’s blood was shed, and no sin is too great to be forgiven; no corruption is too great to be healed.
4) Accepting Jesus is God, means there is endless hope for the world and for you. Whatever problem we face, whatever unexpected Friday we find ourselves in, whatever dark Saturday we’re living in, we know that God’s power will eventually triumph over it.
Today you will leave here a worshipper. You will either reject your desires and worship Jesus as God, or reject Jesus and worship your desires as God. And if, as he told Thomas, the way to the Father in Heaven is through Jesus—the only way---then it goes through the cross, and you will have to die with Jesus SO THAT you can be raised with Him. My job is to introduce you to Jesus—Happy Easter. Jesus job is to kill you. Jesus will take everything’s everything that is broken in you, all of your sins, all of your shame, all of your past, present, and future mistakes, all of your weaknesses, and he NAILS them to the cross, and BURIES them forever. Then he gives you new heart with His desires.
Blessed are those who believe
Jesus last words are “blessed are those who believe without seeing”. At the moment Thomas saw the RESURRECTED JESUS, the old Thomas died, and a new Thomas was born. Jesus says we are blessed, not because see the Resurrected Jesus face to face, but because we believe the written accounts of those who did…those who went from fearful men locked behind a door, to bold preachers of “THE RESURRECTION of JESUS” who ALL DIED for their witness. Baptisms…
More in Easter
March 28, 2010Palm Sunday: Expectations
April 12, 2009Easter: Road to Resurrection
April 5, 2009Road to Jerusalem: Why did Jesus' have to be rejected?