Reframing Doubt | John 20:24-31
August 18, 2019 Speaker: Christopher Rich Series: REFRAMING JESUS | Portraits of Glory from John's Gospel
Topic: New Testament Passage: John 20:24–20:31
Christopher Rich – August 18, 2019
REFRAMING JESUS | Week 38
Reframing Doubt | John 20:24-31
Introduction | We doubt, why?
Good Morning Welcome to Damascus Road where we are Saved by Jesus Work, Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus’s Mission. Today we are continuing our series REFRAMING JESUS: Portraits of Glory from John’s Gospel. In Reframing Jesus, our desire isn’t to reinvent Jesus into someone He is not or make Jesus into an image we are more comfortable with. Instead, we seek to have our portrait of Jesus reframed by John’s Gospel to see Him as accurately and glorious as possible.
What is doubt? How are we certain? I’m not trying to unnecessary cause doubt in you, but do you ever ask yourself why and how you know what you know? We have an idea what we believe and know that is usually based on a few different inputs or factors that are both internal and external. We don’t like doubt, we like certainty because one gives us a sense of security and stability while the other can be unsettling. In our pursuit of certainty, we want to arrive at a firm understanding so we don’t have to reevaluate. We lean in to a few different areas to process what we know, or what we think we know starting with ourselves:
Our rational understanding - This the “does this make sense to me” filter. Can I understand what I’ve heard or does this fit into the other areas of certainty. Is this logical, based on what I think is a logical outcome?
Our investigation of what is true – Ok, I don’t have all the information I need to “land” on what I think or know to be true so I’ll start to seek out evidence as a lead investigator to come to my conclusion.
Our experiences – This is very common, what did I experience? That must be what is true, if I didn’t see it, hear, touch it, than it isn’t real. IF I did experience something I am absolutely sure what it was and meant.
Others witness/belief/experience – We do this so much more than we know. “I heard x” “I read y” A trusted source of information and perspective told me….Our world is big we can’t see and experience everything so we’ll rely on the reports and understanding of others and then own those understandings. Each of these can be helpful but cannot be seen as perfectly reliable because each is driven by people who are infallible. As humans our perspectives and understanding are limited by our very nature. Especially as the questions we are considering become bigger than what we’re able to easily rationalize, explain, or experience. We need more.
What are the ways we doubt and why do we doubt? Specifically about Doubt about God can range from wondering if there is a God, to what is God like, to who is Jesus, what is wrong with the world, us, what is God’s answer for suffering and sin? But maybe you feel like you have that, you know that at the head level. There is a God. Jesus is God, God is powerful and good. But then you have trials, a tragedy strikes. You go from being feeling secure, settled, to fearful and unsettled. We doubt most when we’re unsettled, when we’re under distress. We start to question what is real, wonder if what we’ve placed our faith and trust in is trust worthy. Today we’re going explore why and how we wrestle with belief, how God answers our desire for certainty, and the ultimate purpose of faith with Jesus as we are Reframing Doubt.
PART I | Doubt to Disbelief |John 20:1-10
John 20:24-25 | 24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “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.
We doubt when we miss out. The first Easter Sunday, the tomb is empty. Peter and John see it, but not Jesus, and return the to the other disciples. Jesus, resurrected, meets with Mary at the tomb. She goes back and tells the disciples about meeting Jesus, but they still have some fear and doubt. So much so they huddle together and lock the world out. But then Jesus shows up, meeting their fear with His presence to bring them peace. They have their faith strengthened by the Holy Spirit but not everyone was there. Where is Thomas?
We doubt the account, testimony, faith of others. Thomas has heard news of Jesus being alive from others but wants proof. You know he had to be skeptical… listen to the account he would have heard from the previous verses….. He’s been a follower of Jesus, he’s seen him heal, provide, teach, and forgive. He’s on the team! When we’ve been greatly unsettled we’re not easily satisfied. The encouragement, faith, testimony, of others can be incredibly faith building and affirming, but we still need our own faith. It’s not enough to be drafting on or simply trusting the faith of others. Your faith and belief Jesus is lived out corporately around and with others, but it needs to be personal and specific to you! You need faith!
Let’s not be too tough on Thomas. He’s been faithful follower of Jesus and has brought his doubts and questions to Jesus. His doubt is understandable and not unique to him, the other disciples likely has similar doubts after Mary came to them, that’s why they were locked up in the upper room. What is he really asking for? The same experience the other disciples had. This is what we want too. We see others with a great or transformative faith. Others who are settled and certain in even in the midst of trial and difficulty and we naturally want what they have. Why do you think he wants it? In the Resurrected Jesus’ first encounter with the gathered disciples He came wishing them and bring them great peace and assurance of who He is and commissioned them for mission to be sent into the world to point people to the peace of Jesus. Thomas missed out. Had he been at the gathering he would have shared in their experience with Jesus. He’s gone through the same trials and difficulty they all had but they’ve been met by Jesus and he hasn’t. They experienced Joy. He’s still in sorrow. Rather than gathered he’s been isolated. He needs peace of and with Jesus. He needs to have his mourning turned to Joy. He’s been given the truth of Jesus being alive but cannot (or will not) believe it is in a way that will bring him great assurance in the resurrection.
Where you are doubting God and Jesus in your life? I don’t mean theologically (what’s true about Jesus) but where you wrestling with God’s character, nature, and disposition towards you? What situation or season are you in where you don’t believe God is active, engaged, or can/will even show up in?
We doubt when we set the terms for belief. How are you processing these doubts? Thomas has been around a community of people who have seen and engaged with Jesus but will only believe on his terms. How have you given God an ultimatum? God I’ll trust you’re working in this if you respond in this certain way. God I’ll be satisfied in you when you meet my demands. We want our doubts met with certainty. We don’t like being told to believe or have faith. We get stuck on “seeing is believing.” We live in a time with more access to information than any other so we think we should know every detail about everything. It leads us away from faithfulness to idealizing skepticism and glorifying cynicism. Where are you going for answers?
Doubt can easily lead to disbelief. It’s popular to idealize and idolize doubt, especially as a reaction to negative experiences. Thomas is at a turning point He says “unless I…. I’ll never” it’s never gonna happen unless Jesus actually shows up physically. It’s more than just seeing is believing, it’s all the way to “I want to touch the holes and his pierced side” So I can say He’s real, and really alive. Not some ghost or mass hysteria. That is my terms. I want radical certainty that is beyond what is reasonable. What he’s really saying is I’m not going to be moved from my disbelief and doubt without something extraordinary, and it does…
PART II | Jesus Answers | John 20:26-29
John 20:26-29 |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.”
Jesus answers our doubts on His timing not ours. Jesus could have shown up as the disciples were telling Thomas about seeing him. He could have simply working in his heart to immediately change his disposition from disbelief to acceptance. But he let’s Thomas process and wrestle. We want answers and assurance now, but God sometimes says “I am going to show up later” We’ll see it’s for a purpose to produce faith.
Jesus meets our Doubts as we’re Gathered. Thomas joins the disciples the next Sunday for their gathering. He responds to his doubts not by rejecting or forsaking the gathering of God’s people but by continuing to process in the context of a community of people who know and love Jesus. He presses into where people have been met by Jesus and where He’s worked in their lives. The doors are locked…again! I am so encouraged by this! Why? We saw they were locked last week out of fear and Jesus showed up and gave peace. It’s a week later and they’re gathered together (without Jesus physically present) and they’re not trying to conjure up Jesus like a Ouija board, they’re still a bit fearful. They’re still growing and processing in their faith and trust of Jesus. Jesus work in the same way again bringing comfort by imparting peace.
Jesus answer to our doubts is the certainty that He is alive and well. He is so gracious to give Thomas something he’s not owed or deserved. Jesus is gracious to Thomas in His entitlement. Jesus doesn’t owe Thomas anything. Jesus could have lit up the other disciples with “I sent you last week and ya’ll locked the door again!” Or “Thomas you didn’t believe your brothers! What are you doing?” Jesus is so gracious to meet us in our places of doubts and distress with His presence and peace. He invites Thomas to actually follow through with his expressed desire. We don’t actually know if he did what he said he was going to do. Jesus has given him the opportunity to know Him in the way he desired but maybe Thomas in meeting with the risen Jesus realized how absurd his demands was. It says “He answered” and Jesus “because you’ve seen?”
Jesus gives Thomas what he asks for but also what he needs. Jesus can answer us in our places of doubt with the response we need, because he both knows us and knows what we need. We need the peace, we need our worries turned to worship. Jesus is gracious to meet us in our doubts but he also calls us to move from a place of doubt to trust. Literally Jesus is saying “Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” It’s about an identity and disposition. We can doubt but we be cannot be “doubters” as our core identity. If we stay in doubt it can solidify to disbelief… Joshua Harris. Our response to the doubts and disbelief of others should be pray for people that Jesus would show up in a mighty way and call them to turn from unbelief to belief.
Thomas responds with worship. This is what having our doubts answered by Jesus looks like. It’s not a dispassionate response of “ok, thank you for answering my questions.” THE response to God answering us, at all, about anything should be one of reverence and worship. Thomas gives the clearest statements on Jesus identity… My Lord and my God, “Yahweh, Jesus is the OT God!” This is the last of several confessions we find in John declaring Jesus identity as God. It’s also the clearest. Jesus answers our doubts with clarity about His identity. He is GOD, and he’s not just THE God, but he’s Thomas’s God He’s my God, and your God. Jesus initiates, pursues, and answers Thomas in his state doubt to move him from disbelief to worship.
We are blessed to know the truth of Jesus without the physical presence of Jesus. I’ll be clear, I think I’m like Thomas. I trust Jesus, but it’s conditional. I’ll trust more when I see Jesus show up. I’ve been told, I’ve read, I’ve experienced, I’ve known Jesus is who He says he is. But doubt and despair can come easily. Even for some of these disciples they meet Jesus on a mountain in Mathew for the “great commission” and it says “but some doubted.” Some who had seen Jesus show up before. I want what I can see as tangible, because that’s easier to respond to than being faithful to walk in belief even when I can’t see. I think being Thomas would be better, but Jesus says it’s better for us that we are MORE blessed walking by faith not by sight.
Blessed by Belief - Blessed is usually thought about from what we experience as happiness or good feelings. But Biblically, blessed has so much less to do with our feelings and everything to do with God’s disposition towards us. Blessed is a condition of God’s favor granted to us. It is God’s favor to us when our belief is not based on what we see (or cannot yet see) but rather faith and trust in God’s nature, character, and promise to us. Blessed is to be accepted by God. There simply times when it doesn’t seem like God is active and present in our lives but that doesn’t mean He isn’t. We walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7) This means we have to listen to God’s word and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. What we’re really saying when we say “I’ll believe it when I see it” is that we don’t believe, trust, but rather doubt what we hear or what God’s word says. We’re living in a place of lack of trust when we’ve been called to faith.
Faith is greater than sight. Because we’re trusting God’s character rather than “trust but verify” we have great confidence in God when we trust Him even when we’re not able to easily see Him working. He still is.
PART III | Answer for a Purpose |John 20:30-31
John 20:30-31 |30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Now Jesus, is more like “therefore” Since it’s more blessed to have faith and yet not seen here are some of the signs that have been done among the disciples: Turning water to wine, raising people from the dead, healing the lame, sight to the blind, feeding thousands, walking on water, each of these was part of a curated a mixed tap playlist of Jesus might works and signs all to move people from a place of disbelief to belief. He’s the God who brings joy, who brings life where there is death, illumination where there is darkness, fullness in famine, who is over the storm, who has more power over life than death. Jesus is and will do more than we can see or know we’re not given every detail. We could be given more, but we’re given all we need. These portraits of glory from John’s Gospel are so you would believe Jesus is the Christ that disbelief and our doubts and discouragement will turn to faith, belie,f and determination to endure.
1 Peter 1:8-9 | 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Faith isn’t for faith sake, this belief is more that good doctrine and head knowledge it’s for the purpose of life… with freedom, joy, through belief in Jesus the Christ who came to give life and life to the full. Where do you need to trust God more? Where do you need to let go of your ultimatums and surrender to God? Wrestle with doubt, engage with doubt, Jesus can handle it. Jesus is gracious to meet us in our places of doubt, even our certain disbelief, and provides the powerful clear and certain truth of who He is and what he’s done to bring us to faith in Him so we can have eternal life now and forever when we Trust Jesus.