April 8, 2018
Last week it was Easter Sunday. Many came to enjoy the wonderful Easter breakfast and stayed for the worship service. We had a great time together. But as wonderful as the breakfast meal was last week, this week we are sharing in an even more wonderful and important meal. Obviously I’m referring to the Lord’s Supper.
This morning we continue in John 20, looking at two post resurrection appearances of Jesus. Both of these appearances speak to issue of faith in Christ. You see, it is through faith in Jesus Christ that we have life in his name.
I. SEEING IS BELIEVING! Jn.20:19-28
On that first Easter Sunday, Mary came to the tomb first. Seeing the stone removed she immediately concluded that someone had taken the body of Jesus. Without looking into the tomb she ran to tell Peter and John. Peter and John ran to the tomb and went inside. When John saw the grave cloths it says, “…he saw and believed.” Peter did not seem to believe as John did.
Then Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene and told Mary to go and tell the disciples that she had seen the Lord. We assume she did that but when we come to v.19, we find the disciples huddled together in a room behind locked doors. It tells us that the doors were locked for fear of the Jewish religious leaders. Did they believe what Mary told them? According to Lk.24:11, the words of Mary and the other women, “seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” After all, women get a little emotional and you just don’t know what to think. You can’t always take what they say as “gospel.” At least that was how men thought about women back then.
But again in v.19 we see that suddenly Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Now I’m thinking that is probably the best thing Jesus could have said, because if someone who was dead for three days suddenly materialized in a room where I was sitting I might be just a little startled! I might have been looking around at the others out of the corners of my eyes because, actually, I’m a little frightened!
Notice what Jesus did next. It says in v.20, “When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.” Jesus made sure they knew he wasn’t a ghost or any other kind of apparition. They saw the wounds in his hands, feet, and side that was pierced. After seeing these marks of crucifixion, they believed it truly was Jesus. They were seeing the real presence of Jesus. And again, Jesus said, “Peace be with you.” In the immediate context it would seem that Jesus is referring to peace from fear. “Don’t be afraid of the Jewish authorities. Be at peace. I am here.”
In v.21 Jesus commissions his disciples. This is similar to the other gospels in which Jesus commissions his disciples to go into all the world making disciples. Here in John, Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." Why did the Father send the Son into the world? In Jn.3:16-17 we read, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” And then in Jn.6:56-58, Jesus is giving a teaching about how he is the true bread from heaven who gives life to the world. He says, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever." Jesus was sent by the Father to give his life for us and to give his resurrection life to us. Followers of Jesus are also sent to seek to bring the good news of salvation to the lost by sharing the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In v.22 we read that Jesus, breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld." Now you may be wondering to yourself about this. After all we know that the Holy Spirit was not given until the day of Pentecost, which occurred some 50 days after Easter. So what was Jesus doing here in John? Many think Jesus was symbolically acting out what was to come on the Day of Pentecost by using a picture. You remember when Mary anointed Jesus with the costly perfume and Jesus said, she did this for his burial which would soon take place. Likewise when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet he explained, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand." Here, it is thought by many that Jesus was acting out a kind of parable of what would occur on the Day of Pentecost. The mission to go out and preach the gospel would require the power of the Holy Spirit. And then it seems that Jesus gives the disciples the authority to forgive sins. But again, we know that only God can forgive sins. Many take this to mean that in the proclamation of the gospel we are announcing the forgiveness of sins for all who embrace Christ.
But I want to move into v.24-28. It’s as if the disciples have their first opportunity to announce the good news. Thomas had not been with them on Easter Sunday. So when they see Thomas they announce to him that they had seen the Lord. You would think Thomas would say, “O Wow! That’s great. I can’t wait to see him.” But Thomas’ response was one of disbelief. “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.” Thomas was not going to be duped. Dead people do not rise from the dead.
On the Sunday after Easter, again, they were all in the room together. The doors were locked and Thomas was there. Suddenly Jesus appeared again. He invited Thomas to put his finger in the nail prints and his hand into Jesus’ side. It’s as if Jesus knew what Thomas had said to the other disciples. Clearly Jesus did know what Thomas had said. That’s powerful.
Men and women, If Jesus knew the heart of Thomas, if Jesus knew what Thomas needed to believe, then he surely knows what you need to come to faith.
Thomas didn’t blink an eye. He immediately said, “My Lord and my God! The honor that Thomas had given to the Father, he now freely gave to the Son. Thomas came to full faith in Jesus Christ.
Seeing is believing. This is how we live life. The disciples were no different. We prefer to be able to verify in a physical way, by personal experience what we believe to be true. Our confidence in things is bolstered by sight and experience. But that is not the whole of the story.
II. BELIEVING IS SEEING! Jn.20:29-31
In v.29 we read, “Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” What we believe in, what we place our confidence in is clearly not only based upon what we can actually see and experience.
There are some very significant things that I believe but have never personally seen or experienced. For example. I have never met any of my great grandmothers and only knew one of my great grandfathers. I do have a few pictures of these people, but if I saw those pictures randomly I wouldn’t be able to tell you who the people in those pictures are. I only know these pictures represent my dead relatives because my mom told me so. And except for an odd story here and there, I don’t even know much of anything about those people. Yet, I believe in their existence and in their relationship to me based upon what my parents have told me. If I said to you, “Unless I see the actual corpse and the death certificates I will not believe those people are my relatives,” you would think that I was a little over the top. Really?
Thomas had spent about three years with those other disciples. He knew them well. How is it that he could not believe their testimony? We accept the testimonies of people that we trust. When Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed,” What did he mean? Is Jesus suggesting that he expects people to believe in him without any evidence at all? Is Jesus promoting a leap of faith, a leap into the darkness? I don’t think so. I think Jesus is promoting the idea that credible testimony, eyewitness accounts are sufficient to call out from within a person, faith and confidence in him. John says as much in v.30-31. “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 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.”
But there is a component of personal experience involved when it comes to faith in Jesus. I believe my dead relatives lived at one time and then died. I believe in their existence, but I do not know them. However, with Jesus the situation is a little different. The eyewitness accounts tell us that Jesus is alive. He is not just alive; he is alive and is able to know things and come and go at will unhindered by physical realities. He just materialized in a locked room. He knew what Thomas had said.
The promise of Jesus is that all who receive him, who entrust their life to him in faith receive his eternal living, his resurrection life. We enter into an ongoing, ever present relationship with God through Jesus.
In Jn.14:19-23 Jesus is teaching and he says, “Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him." Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, "Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?" Jesus answered him, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
“Make our home with him!” That is an amazing promise. In the words of Peter in 1Pt.1:8 “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, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
When John ran to the tomb on Easter Sunday morning, he went in and saw the grave cloths and the folded head cloth lying there. It says he saw and believed. He had not seen Jesus. This is why I am saying, “Believing is seeing.” Throughout the many years since the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, countless numbers of men, women, and children have entered into a life-giving relationship with Jesus by faith.
And here we are at the Lord’s Table. And he is present here. You say, “I don’t see him.” That is true. But open your eyes. See and eat the bread. It speaks of his body broken for us. See and drink the cup. It speaks of his blood that was poured out for us. Eat and drink for in eating and drinking we acknowledge Jesus Christ who lived, died, rose from the dead, ascended to the Father, and now through the Holy Spirit, lives and abides in us. The real presence of Christ is not in the cracker or the juice. It is in us and at his table. By faith we see him through the physical elements. By faith we are strengthened in and through his real presence here in and among us. Let us come to the table of the Lord. Amen.