John 20.24-31

Title: Unbelievable!

Text: John 20.24-31

CIT: Mary and the disciples are commissioned to go and tell. This involves sharing with other disciples. Thomas, however, refuses to believe without seeing and touching Jesus. Jesus meets him at his need.

CIS: We’ve been commissioned and tasked with going and telling, too.

Introduction: Last week I ended the message and presented my conclusion. My son, Stephen, who was down here visiting for Mother’s Day, asked why I didn’t address the last verse. I thought I did, so I asked Lisa and she confirmed Stephen’s thinking. You see, the last verse is a tough verse to understand. To recap: last week we looked at verses 19-23; and in that passage, Jesus confirms who he is by displaying his wounds. Then, he commissions them to go. That really was the whole message. What I wanted to do, but apparently failed to do was to show that Jesus was now through. His job done, he would soon return to the father. He told them this from the beginning. He would return to the Father and he would send the Holy Spirit to continue the work. With Jesus now leaving, he commissions his disciples to take this message of hope to the lost world. They would do the communicating, but the Holy Spirit would do the convicting.

I think we sometimes forget that and try to do the convicting part ourselves. But that’s the Holy Spirit’s job. Let me pull this all together. It’s the evening of resurrection day. Jesus does something that we see is a reference to what he’s been teaching them. Not just in John 7, but continually – they would one day receive the Holy Spirit. He’s saying that a transition is occurring – things are changing. All that Christ has been trying to teach them is now coming to pass. Shortly they’ll receive the power of the Holy Spirit and they will be his witnesses throughout the world. We see him issuing this commission: he says, this commissioning is based on His authority in the following statement; rd v 23;

This isn’t sacerdotalism (big word!). That’s the power of the priest. But we have a message of forgiveness. That’s it! Jesus is sending these disciples and he sends us, too with a message of forgiveness. People will accept this message and people will reject this message. You offer forgiveness to those who receive it and you withhold forgiveness from those who reject it. An unrepentant person doesn’t have the forgiveness extended to them. That’s what that means. Don’t read attitude into it. Oh, yeah! You reject Christ! Well, He rejects you! NO, NO, NO. Remember – you communicate the gospel. The Holy Spirit does the convicting.

Transition: Interestingly enough, we meet someone who does just that. His name is Thomas and he refuses to believe. Disbelief is what this next passage is all about. I’ve divided the passage into three parts:

  • The Reality of Disbelief
  • The Remedy for Disbelief
  • The Reaction against Disbelief

Let’s begin with the 1st section: The Reality of Disbelief. Look at v 24;

1.     The Reality of Disbelief (24-25)

exp.: rd v 24; He was out, he wasn’t even there; Lots of people have reasons for missing out. When I was a young man, I hated missing church. It seemed every Sunday, something wonderful happened. I hated hearing about it – I always wanted to be there to experience it first hand.

Who knows why Thomas was out? Some have reasoned that he was afraid, but I don’t think so. John is the only writter who records any of Thomas’ words. He speaks in John 11 and says: 16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” That’s pretty bold – on the same level as Peter, who pulled his sword to defend the Lord. Whatever the reason for his absence doesn’t matter. The disciples who did see Jesus share with him; rd v 25; The Greek uses a double negative; οὐ μὴ πιστεύσω; But he doesn’t believe it – and with good reason; rd 26a; 8 days later; I wonder how many times the disciples tried to explain what happened to Thomas? Rd 26b; Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas (was) with them. Same situation, only this time Thomas is in the room. Rd 26c; Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” He’s just there and says: Hey! Then something really cool happens: he addresses Thomas; rd 27;

ill.: You know what? Sometimes, people who desire an intellectual leaning, struggle with the supernatural. As a matter of fact, you present the facts of the resurrection and they come up with another theory. As a young man I loved The Resurrection Factor, because the book takes you on a journey of intellectual discovery. Josh McDowell does a great job of presenting the various theories raised as alternatives to the resurrection and then ripping them apart.

But you know what? It’s ok that people struggle with the resurrection. That’s ok. Jesus knows and he’ll meet them where they are. He’ll give them just what they need.

app.: Here’s what I want you to take away from this:

  • You have no power or control over anyone else. Your job isn’t to make people believe.
  • You have the power and control over praying and presenting the truth. That’s it. You present the truth with your words and the actions to affirm your words. Your job is to simply tell them. The decision is theirs!
  • They’re not rejecting you, but rather the Gospel.

Transition: You just keep praying and presenting the truth. That’s what Jesus does here – he presents himself (The Truth) to Thomas; He’s the remedy for disbelief;

2.     The Remedy for Disbelief (27-29)

exp.: Look back at v 26c; He’s just there and says: Hey! Then something really cool happens: he addresses Thomas; rd 27-29; I think it’s interesting that Thomas doesn’t have to touch the wounds of Jesus. It seems he feels foolish, but makes an astounding claim: my Lord and my God. Thomas becomes part of a select group of people: Mary, Peter, the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, The disciples who had gathered in the room. Paul says to the Corinthians, and to over 500 people, many of whom were still alive when he wrote that letter. But I’m most impressed with John, who was the 1st to believe without having seen the risen Lord.

Today, we’re more like John. We’ve not been granted this privilege of seeing him face to face – at least not yet. Today, we journey by faith, not by sight or smell, not by hearing or touching. We’re presented the evidence and called to believe, to trust, to faith.

Many years have passed between Thomas’ moment of clarity and John’s spilling of ink. John first witnessed it as a young man – probably, somewhere in his late teens. Born sometime early in that 1st century, he’s living in the last part of that century. There have been other records of Christ’s life, but John feels the need to accurately journal his own, personal experience of Christ’s life. And, he tells us why in the next couple of verses…

Transition: I wonder what it is like for John in this moment. I imagine he puts down his quill and covers his ink. He has had a long life, filled with ministry to others. His nickname has changed with the passing of time: John, the beloved; John, the apostle; John, the elder. Soon after he passes, he will be called John, the revelator. All of his friends are now long gone. Each has suffered a martyr’s death, because they believed this very message. Indeed, John is exiled to Patmos for his crime related to this message. I guess he’s just too old to put to death. I wonder what thoughts cross his mind as he listens to the sounds of the sea and the wind. Going is no longer an option as a prisoner. So, like Paul, he picks up his quill to write again.

In this passage we have The Reality of Disbelief: an example in Thomas, The Remedy for Disbelief: an encounter with the risen Christ, and finally…

3.     The Reaction against Disbelief (17.1c)

exp.: rd v 30; If you recall, there were seven (7) signs John recorded over the past 20 chapters. He makes it clear that he only mentions these few. Down in the next chapter he’ll write: Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Now look at v 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. The purpose wasn’t to record everything Jesus ever said or did – the purpose is for you and me to believe Jesus is the Christ, and that by believing, you and I might have eternal life.

app.: Concerning the reaction against disbelief, there is an interesting connection between this great commission and this gospel message – the actual going and extending forgiveness. These are two components of your life. You have this Gospel message, but it means nothing if it’s not shared. It’s like love – love isn’t really love until it’s given away. On the one hand, you have been sent – commissioned, but going means nothing if you go and withhold this vital information. Sure, you can go and serve: feed the hungry, house the homeless, care for the sick and the dying. These are all noble and worthy causes for your time. But if you say nothing, what eternal good have you done?

On the other hand, the message alone can be invalidated when presented without love. I wonder if the world sometimes responds to our message as: Oh, and I can see it’s done so much for you! It’s amazing to me to think that most instances in my life, where people have surrendered their lives to Christ – those instances have been born out of turmoil, struggle and loss. It’s within these instances, circumstances and situations of need that people are drawn to Christ. How can we present a message of compassion without compassion? How can we present a message of love, without love? How can we present a message of hope, without any hope? How can we present a message of forgiveness, without forgiveness? We must be more than salesman, ladies and gentlemen – we must be satisfied customers, too.

Transition: Have you ever wondered why Jesus only appeared after his resurrection to the disciples? Wouldn’t it have been pretty effective to appear to Annas and Caiaphas? Or maybe Pilate and Herod? My guess is that they still would not have believed – as in keeping with their actions, they would have explained it all away – just like they did with the empty tomb. Abraham and Lazarus; No, Jesus chose instead to appear to those who loved him – to entrust to them this message of forgiveness and hope.

 

Take-a-ways:

  1. Think through your presentation of the gospel.
    1. With whom now are you sharing? Pray for that person or those people by name.
    2. Is your message coupled with your service to them?
    3. Is your service coupled with your message of hope and forgiveness?
  2. Thing now about success: how do you measure that?
    1. Remember: you cannot control others; you can only can control you! \
    2. Success is sharing. Are you doing that regularly?
  3. Invitation
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