John 20:19-31 The Uncertainty of Faith
Let me meet you on the mountain, Lord, Just once. You wouldn’t have to burn a whole bush. Just a few smoking branches And I would surely be …your Moses.
Let me meet you on the water, Lord, Just once. It wouldn’t have to be on the calm tides of Geographe Bay Just on a puddle on a gravel road And I would surely be…your Peter.
Let me meet you on the road, Lord, Just once. You wouldn’t have to blind me on Mitchell Freeway. Just a few bright lights on the way to chapel And I would surely be…your Paul.
Let me meet you, Lord, Just once. Anywhere. Anytime. Just meeting you in the Word is so hard sometimes Must I always be…your Thomas? Norman Shirk, April 10, 1981, KQ (Dallas Seminary) ________________________________________
Do you often feel as though you just need a sign from God to really put your trust in him? Do you ever feel that if you just had a visible sign from Jesus, you would be a much stronger, faith-filled, bold person?
Do you ever find yourself feeling a little frustrated with this whole Christianity thing because it so unseen and intangible? If only there was proof. If only I had a direct line to Jesus. If only we had a sign for all to see that we really are on the right horse and that the future will really be okay……
Can we admit to each other this morning that we feel all these things from time-to-time. That last verse of that little poem might speak to us and relate to how we sometimes feel about faith.
Let me meet you, Lord, Just once. Anywhere. Anytime. Just meeting you in the Word is so hard sometimes Must I always be…your Thomas?
It is hard to meet Jesus up close and personal in the Word sometimes and it is pretty common for even the most faithful disciple of Jesus to be very much like Thomas.
Thomas needed proof. He needed a sure sign. He wanted a measurable experience, an unequivocal moment upon which to base his trust before he committed for life.
Thomas had seen it all and known the man, Jesus, very well. But he had seen the death of the man and heard the rumours of the resurrection, but he needed something to help him get from doubt to belief.
In the tender patience and grace of Jesus, he allows Thomas this sign, this moment, this experience. Jesus did not have to allow for Thomas’ doubt. The church would have continued on without Thomas. The other 10 were ready to go out with the world-changing news of God’s new reality in the risen Christ. But Jesus slows things down, stops the program, and pauses the flow of things to minister to this man in need of something visible for faith to flourish.
Jesus says, “Reach out Thomas. Place your finger in my hands. Reach out and hold my hands. Place you needs and fears and hopes in my hands, Thomas. Stop doubting and believe”.
Thomas was blessed because he could physically reach out and see, feel, and touch Jesus. He reached out. He touched. He then shifted in mind and soul. “My Lord and my God!” he declared in relief and joy.
The great expression of the fullest faith in Jesus in the whole gospel of John is given by the one who doubted the most and the longest! There’s some comfort for the doubters among us!
This happens a whole week after the resurrection. This is the highest confession of faith in John’s gospel by anyone. It is the conclusive announcement of the whole witness of John. All that has been recorded has led to this moment and of all people, a doubter declares it.
What a miracle of God’s grace: A person who in pain and sorrow and disappointment has gone underground and cut himself off from the church and anything to do with Jesus turns out to be the one who gives the final word of Jesus of Nazareth for all the ages to come. Jesus is “THE LORD. Jesus is the God of the Old Testament, the Creator of the universe, the Saviour of the world, the Hope and life for everyone!
But Thomas could reach out and get that sign he needed. He could place his hands in the wounded hands of Christ and touch his pan and joy! We can’t, can we?.
John knows this is how it will be for those who would come after those gathered in that room to witness this sign in person. John records this event to whisper in our doubting ears that moving on from unbelief is still possible for us who cannot actually see Jesus.
It’s clear that John is telling his hearers (including us) that faith is possible and doubt can be overcome – but how and where and by whom?
John immediately points us to the very words he is writing on the page. He has us who would come after him at the front of his mind.
He wants us to know that we will never be able to claim faith is too hard or out of reach because we were not there and we did not see with our own eyes. He want us to know that faith will be possible for those who cannot prove Jesus lives or say that they have seen him with their own eyes. He is saying that there is no need for us to give up or feel second class because we could not be there with Thomas and the others.
John says he has written these things down for us. He says these words are enough for us to stop doubting and believe. Our faith is dependent on and flows from this witness of John and the others. Our faith is dependent on and is created by the witness of all the gospel writers, all the apostles, all the writers of the Bible. They were “sent ones” of Christ who brought the good news of Easter into the world. The faith we share with them comes from their witness and their witness is recorded for us and used by the Spirit of the living Christ to create faith in our hearts.
The writer to the Hebrews can say that the Word of the apostles is God’s word. It is living and active. It actually achieves what it is sent to do. It has spiritual power and it cuts to the core of all things and weds out truth from error. It does what it says.
So, what does this mean for us who doubt?
The direction Jesus gives Thomas to overcome his doubt and unbelief is our direction too. We must follow the lead of the resurrected Jesus. We must follow Thomas. We must reach out. We must place our hand in his hands and place ourselves in his hands to stop doubting and believe. But unlike Thomas, who was asked to place his hands in Jesus hands and his wounds, we are asked to place our hands in this witness of the apostles – the Word of God. We place our hands in the word of God. We speak the word of God. We see the word of God and we hear it and we sing it and we pray it, we actually physically consume him in bread and wine at the table of grace, and it becomes us and we find our own story in it.
If you’re doubting that Jesus of Nazareth has anything to do with you – then place your finger in his living and active word as you hear it preached, sung, prayed; as you read it for yourself and see it carried out right in front of you worship. If you’re in need of a physical proof to help you move into a deeper faith, then place your hands out and receive the body and blood of this resurrected Jesus and receive him in simple faith and love. There you will find that his wounds are your healing.
If you are struggling to live with any certainty about Christianity and your place in the church, follow Thomas. Place your mind and soul in Christ and find that by his word you are enlightened and doubt dissipates.
If you are consider yourself a hard nut to crack and have often thought that you would like to believe but just cannot, there is only one way to find faith, and that is to put it somewhere – to put faith in this Word and absorb it and find that in a moment or in many a month you can say “My Lord and my God!” with Thomas.
And why keep struggling to believe? Why keep on persisting, reaching out for God, turning up in Church, telling your kids bible stories, opening up the bible for yourself? Why? Because that is where life is. John says that he writes of what he has seen and heard so that we may believe that Jesus Christ is God and that believing this we will receive life and life to the full. Jesus himself says that he has come to give life – full life to those who are dead.
He was dead. Now he lives. Now his life comes through faith and only faith. Faith is the receiver. Faith is what tunes in to God’s message of hope. Faith is the gift he creates to handle his Word.
Yes, friends, stop doubting and believe. In this there is real life and hope. Place your hand in his hand which he extends to you in his living Word.
Jesus, come and stand among us and show yourself to us again. We will speak what you tell us we will go where you send. He is risen! He is risen!