Title: Miracle on 34th St.
Text: John 20.24-31
CIT: You can find faith.
CIS: You can find faith.
Introduction: Note: There’s no mention of Christmas in the title. What about: Christmas Miracle on 34th St. It was released in May 1947, because the powers that be thought movies goers would come out in droves through the summer. In this movie, we meet four principle characters:
- Brian, a successful lawyer in NY
- Ms. Doris Walker who works for Macy’s Dept. Store; in charge of Macy’s T-Day Parade
- Her daughter Susan (played by an adorable Natalie Wood)
- An elderly man named Kris Kringle who plays the part of Santa Claus in the Christmas parade and ultimately as Macy’s main Santa, who thinks he really is Santa Claus.
The Plot: Kris Kringle finds a drunk Santa at the parade and Ms. Walker is forced to replace him quickly. Kringle agrees to help, but with some reluctance. Doris has a little girl who she has raised to not believe in Fairy tales. She is a somewhat discouraged and cynical, single mother, who through much heartache, has misplaced or even lost her ability to believe. She will only accept what she can see and know for sure. There is a wonderful exchange during the movie with Kris Kringle who explains that faith isn’t something you can see or hear. It’s what you believe in spite of the absence.
Here is a question for consideration: What is the miracle on 34th Street?
During the movie, Kringle keeps asking Susan to give him a chance to prove he’s the real Santa. So, she asks for a home. She has a magazine cut out. Of course, at the end of the movie, She gets that house! But is this the miracle on 34th St.? No. There is a moment when Brian and Doris are hugging in their soon to be Living Room and Susan has run out back to look at her swing. There in the corner is Kris Kringle’s walking cane. The miracle is found in the fact that former unbelievers become believers and we see an incredible change in their attitude and actions. In fact, this may be the greatest miracle of all, belief!
Transition: For me, the transformation of a person who did not, could not, and would not believe into a person of belief was AND is the miracle. Today, Let’s look at another person who had a hard time believing: Thomas. John 20.19-31; What we find in John is Jesus at work.
I’ve outline this message into 3 parts:
- Jesus Commissions the Disciples in v 19-25
- Jesus Cautions Thomas against Unbelief in v 26-28
- Jesus Challenges us to Believe in v 29-31
Transition: Let’s begin with some background information to Thomas’ unbelief by looking at where
1. Jesus Commissions the Disciples (20.19-25)
exp.: Why did Thomas not believe? Rd v 25b; He misses out on so much the week before, 1st, he missed
- Gathering with the brothers and sisters; rd 19; specifically, Sunday night church! 2ndly,
- Witnessing the Lord, the Resurrected Jesus; rd 19b-20; he showed them; 3rd, he missed
- Instruction from the Word of the Lord; rd v 21-23; Look at the nature of the new life in Christ
- They’re to be commissioned – sent with a mission
- They’re not to be sent out alone, but are promised the Holy Spirit
- They’re reminded of their relationships and the importance of forgiveness.
But, there is a 4th item he misses and this is most important: He misses
- The Witness of the Disciples; rd v 24-25a; It’s understandable that he would miss out on the above three, but to not believe the very men he’s spent the last few years with… that’s a big thing to miss out on.
app.: so naturally, his response was (rd v 25b) 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. He probably feels this way because he has missed out on so much.
But, let me ask you, is he really so different from all of them?
- They don’t believe Mary when she tells them (Luke 24.11)
- They don’t believe the disciples who encounter Christ on the road to Emmaus.
Transition: Thomas’ unbelief was really not much different from theirs, except he said, 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. So, now we see Jesus…
2. Jesus Cautions Thomas Against Unbelief (20.26-28)
exp.: rd v 26-27; do not disbelieve, but believe; we live in a world of skepticism and disbelief; many reject God’s Word without even knowing that’s what it is;
ill.: I’ve watched with interest the continuing saga of Duck Dynasty. It appears to me that what Phil Robertson did that upset so many was to paraphrase a passage of Scripture. What is it about God’s Word that is so offensive? Really? Well, I think it is simply that God’s Word shines its bright light on our sin. And that’s what hurts. If we’re not confronted in our sin, we’re able to keep moving forward in our sin. However, when confronted with our sin, we have but two options – believe or disbelieve. If we disbelieve, then we can continue moving forward, happy in our sin, until someone, once again shines God’s light on our grossness.
ill.: Some years back, we were traveling at night in South TX. It was summer time and through the day we had accumulated more than our fair share of dead bugs on the windshield. I could actually drive just fine out in the darkness with just my headlights. That it, until we came to a 4-way stop sign out in the middle of no where. There were these streetlights that revealed just how bad the windshield was. I think Christopher was the one who spoke up about it. He noted how well he could see until the light shone in, revealing all of the filth, dirt and dead bugs.
app.: that’s what God’s Word does to our hearts, it reveals our sin. And when that happens, only one of two ways to respond: Believe it or don’t believe it.
Transition: And how does Thomas respond?
exp.: rd v 28; My Lord and my God! For me, this is simply beautiful. Great Confessions:
- The Birth Narrative: the shepherds, the wise men, Simeon –
- Martha in John 11: I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.
- Peter in Mt 16: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.
- Romans 10.9-10: if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
app.: That’s still our confession today. I asked this of Sarah and Amy and Zoe when I baptized them recently.
Transition: I ask this of all our members. And for those who are not? I challenge them to believe, to call upon the one who can save sins and confess Him as Lord. That’s what Jesus does here…
3. Jesus Challenges us to believe (20.29-31)
- Hear the blessing: Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.
- Heed the call: 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.
exp.: these signs; John has 7 signs; signs were what the people kept asking for throughout the book of John; Jesus did many other signs, but these signs of life and death and resurrection are written that you might find faith, without seeing with your eyes.
Transition: That’s the miracle for today… moving from unbelief to belief.
Observations & Implications:
- Resist the cynicism and skepticism of doubt and despair that characterize our world.
- Replace it with a deep, abiding faith in Christ.
- Connect belief and behavior. There is a correspondence between the internal and the external.
Invitation: Won’t you come to Christ today?