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HONEST DOUBT

Date: 
April 8, 2018
Speaker: 
Rev. Terry Martinson
Reading: 
John 20: 19-31

THEME: Faith often blossoms from the seeds of doubt…

INTRODUCTION

A.  We know the Easter story… but do we know the rest of the story???

B.  On Easter night – the evening of the day of resurrection – ten very frightened disciples huddled

    together in the very same room where they had shared the Last Supper with Jesus…

  • The disciples were bewildered and demoralized by all that had happened – the arrest of their Master, the much too hasty trials, the crucifixion, the burial in a borrowed tomb…
  • The great joy of Easter had not yet encompassed them… the truth of the resurrection had not yet settled in…
  • The disciples were sure that the Roman Soldiers would soon be coming for them as they had come for Jesus – they thought their lives were endangered because they had been followers of Jesus…
  • The doors and windows of the upper room where they were hiding were closed tightly and barred to keep others out…

C.  Suddenly, despite the locked doors, Jesus came and stood among them…

  • He showed them his hands and his side…
  • Immediately their fear gave way to astonishment followed by incredible joy…
  • Standing with them was the risen Christ – very much alive! – blessing them with the power and peace of the Holy Spirit…
  • Standing with them was the living Christ, charging them to continue his ministry and his mission…

D.  Judas, the disciple who had betrayed Jesus, was among the missing that night… he disappeared

     immediately after betraying Jesus with a kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane…

E.  Thomas was also among the missing on that Easter night… his whereabouts were unknown, but

     he was not with the others in the upper room…

  • A guess might be that Thomas needed to be alone with his grief…
  • At a time of loss, some people find comfort in being surrounded by family and friends, but others, perhaps like Thomas, choose to be alone with their grief…
  • Thomas needed “alone time” to sort things out and to try to make sense of it all…

F.  Later in the week when the other disciples found Thomas, they shared their good news with him,

    “We have seen the Lord!”  <John 20:25>

G.  Thomas said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the holes in

     his hands and my hand in the wound in his side, I will not believe!”  <John 20:25>

  • Thomas knew that Jesus had been crucified, and for Thomas, that’s where the story ended…
  • He couldn’t make sense of the wild stories that Peter and Andrew and the others were telling…
  • “We have seen the Lord!” – that made no sense at all… who in their right mind could believe that?
  • Their news seemed far too good to be true and Thomas, for one, was not about to believe it! He wanted to believe it, but not without proof first…

H.  Eight days later the disciples were still together, but this time Thomas was with them…

  • The doors of the room were still tightly shut, but again Jesus came and stood among them…
  • Jesus looked at Thomas and said, “Thomas, put your finger here – right here in the palm of my hand… Reach out your hand and put it in my side… do not doubt, but believe.”
  • Thomas answered, “My Lord and my God!”  <John 20:28>

 

I – THOMAS

A.  Thomas was a very interesting disciple…

  • Thomas was always faithful in his walk with Christ… he responded without hesitation to Jesus’ call to discipleship and Thomas followed him faithfully…
  • Thomas truly loved Jesus, enough to even die with him…

B.  In the eleventh chapter of John’s Gospel there is a marvelous story that gives us insight into

     Thomas’ character…

  • Jesus had learned of the death of his beloved friend, Lazarus…
  • Jesus said to the twelve, “Let us go to Judea again.”
  • The disciples were afraid to go because there was danger in Judea… “Rabbi,” they said, “the Jews were just trying to stone you to death in Judea, and are you going there again?”
  • The disciples did not want to place Jesus’ life or their own lives in harm’s way…
  • But Thomas said to them all, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”  <John 11:16>
  • Thomas had enough insight to see the probable fate of the Master, but he also had the courage, the devotion, and the love to stay by Jesus’ side…

C.  One of the other things we know from reading scripture is that Thomas was never afraid to ask

     the tough question…

  • In John 14 Jesus is preparing his disciples for his death and departure…
  • “In my Father’s house,” Jesus said to them, “there are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.”
  • We’re familiar with Jesus’ promise, but we may not have a clue to what Jesus really means, but we’re surely not going to be the one to stand up in church and say, “Jesus, I don’t understand.”
  • Thank heavens for Thomas… Thomas pipes up, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. And if we don’t know where you are going, how can we know the way? <John 14:5>
  • I can picture the other disciples at the back of the room, “Whew! I’m glad he asked – I surely didn’t know what Jesus was talking about!”

D.  Thomas was not a stupid man, but his feet were planted firmly on the ground…

  • Thomas was not about to pretend that he understood what he really didn’t understand… no easy answers would satisfy Thomas… Thomas would never pretend to believe when he really didn’t believe…
  • Thomas needed to ask questions and Thomas needed to have proof – maybe he was born in Missouri, the “show me” state…
  • Thomas was probably more honest than many of the folks who are part of the church today…

E.  Jesus welcomed Thomas’ questions… Jesus welcomed Thomas’ doubt… Doubt is not the opposite

    of faith… fear is the opposite of faith… and doubt is often a stopping place on the faith journey…

F.  When Thomas said, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” –

     Jesus took the time to explain more about his departure and his destination…

G.  When Thomas said to the others, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my

     finger in the mark of the nails and my hands in his side, I will not believe.” – Jesus responded to

     his doubt by coming to him and leading him into belief…

  • Jesus was not angry with Thomas’ unbelief…
  • Jesus said, “Thomas, you are one of those who need the eyes of sight to make you believe, but the days will come when men will see with the eye of faith, and will believe.”

H.  There are two other things that are important to note about Thomas…

  • First, even though Thomas had doubts – even though he wouldn’t believe until he actually touched the risen Lord, Thomas stayed with the community…
  • Second, when Thomas came to believe, he believed fully… his commitment to the risen Lord was complete…

I.  There is something very admirable about Thomas… faith was never an easy thing for Thomas… he

    was the man who had to know things for certain, but once he was certain, Thomas was the one

    who went to the ultimate limit of faith and obedience…

 

II – HONEST DOUBT

A.  Sometimes we, like Thomas, have questions and sometimes we, like Thomas, wrestle with

     doubts…

  • But we’re not sure that the church is the right place to ask our questions and we’re not sure if the church is the right place to express our doubts…
  • We may mumble through the creeds without fully understanding their meaning…
  • We may race through the Lord’s Prayer without thinking too much about the words…
  • We may listen to the scriptures and sometimes we’re not too sure what God is saying to us or how the words might apply to our lives…
  • We may come to the Communion Table to share the bread and the cup, though we don’t really know for sure how the Pepperidge Farm bread and the Welch’s grape juice become the body and blood of Christ… they’re symbols, but what does that really mean?
  • We may come to church in record numbers on Easter Sunday though we can’t explain the resurrection and, like Thomas, we’re not too sure if the good news isn’t just a little too good to be true…

B.  Friends, the church is the place to wrestle with your doubts and the church is the place to ask

     your questions… there’s no one among us today who is here because he/she has all the answers

     or because his/her faith never falters…

  • Questions and doubts are not hostile to faith…
  • Through questions comes learning…
  • Through wrestling comes strength…
  • Faith often blossoms from the seeds of doubt…

C.  Someone once said, “I can’t believe all that theology in the Christian creeds and I can’t

     understand everything the Bible says, but I do believe in God, and I do believe that Jesus Christ is

     the best person that ever lived. And I do believe that he’s given us the finest teachings the

     human race ever received.”

  • Friends, if you believe just that much, follow him!
  • Make Jesus Christ the focus of your life.
  • If you do, you will come to a time when, like Thomas, you discover the Lord coming to you to lead you to a new dimension of life.  <Sueltz – Deeper Into John’s Gospel – p. 148>

D.  What God did for Thomas, God wants to do for you… God wants to lead you to a new dimension

     of life…

E.  May we all have the strength, the wisdom, the love and the confidence to ask God the right

     questions and the courage to wrestle honestly with our doubts…

 

Note:  Recreated from April 23, 1995 from a sermon titled I’ll Believe It When I See It! – T.O.M.

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