IS IT REALLY TRUE?
John 20: 19-31
As we are cloistered in our homes during this Pandemic we are in need of some good news. The Resurrection of Christ has great news for us who know Him.
Strange as it may seem, Easter is not good news for everyone. For the brilliant French writer, Voltaire, it was not, because he rejected the Christian idea of God and ridiculed the idea of the resurrection and life after death.
However, as Voltaire came to the end of his life, he began to doubt his doubts. “Suppose there is a heaven and a hell after all,” he thought. If these are realities, he knew where he deserved to spend eternity. One of the last things that Voltaire said was, “I am abandoned by God and man! I shall go to hell! Oh Christ! Oh, Jesus Christ!” All of his life he had ridiculed the goodness of God and he died in terror.
It is true today. Easter is not good news to those who live as if God does not exist. But if the resurrection is true, the question is not “Is there life after death?” The question is “Where will I spend eternity?”
It is interesting what Americans believe about these matters. A national magazine, TIME, several years ago carried a national poll on the subject, “DOES HEAVEN EXIST?” The results were as follows: Do you believe in the existence of heaven, where people live forever with God after they die? (Yes, 81%. No, 13%.) Do you believe in hell where people are punished for ever after they do? (Yes, 63%. No, 30%.) Do good people get into heaven based mostly on the good things they do or on their faith in God? (The good things they do, 6%. Faith in God, 34%.) (Both, 57%.) Do you think of heaven as something that is “up there”? (Yes, 67%. No, 29%.) Immediately after death which of the following do you think will happen to you? (Go directly to heaven, 61%. Go to purgatory, 15%. Go to hell, 1%. Be reincarnated, 5%. End of existence, 4%.)
You can see that for most Americans, Easter is good news. But even in those who believe, there is still a lot of unbelief. That was the problem that Thomas had. He was a devoted disciple of Jesus, but he had not entered into the whole truth. The purpose of this sermon is to help us all enter into the whole truth of the resurrection of Jesus. The question then arises, “Why have we not entered into the whole truth?”
PERHAPS YOU MISSED SOMETHING IN YOUR FAITH FORMATION. (20:24)
“Now Thomas, one of the twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.”
You see, their faith formation was far ahead of his because he missed a life transforming experience. Do you remember that when you were in school and you missed an important lesson that you were behind the class in understanding and achievement?
Faith formation is a delicate process, and if we missed something in the training that we received in our homes or at church, our faith does not form properly. It either does not form enough or it forms in the wrong way. That is why parents need to give the most sincere attention to the way their children’s faith is forming. It is a daily process. It is “… line on line, precept on precept, here a little, there a little.” If a child is not receiving daily training at home and weekly training at church, and if the broad spectrum of the faith is not dealt with, there will be gaps that will have to be filled in later.
We are offered no explanation as to why Thomas was not present on that first Easter evening with the 10 disciples in the upper room. But for some reason he was not there. And when the disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord,” he could not believe it. He missed seeing the risen Lord and hearing him speak of peace. Thomas did not have the peace of assurance that they had. For him at that moment all was lost when Jesus was crucified. When the disciples continued to tell him of the wonderful experience of being with the resurrected Jesus, he protested that he could not believe it.
Is there something about the resurrection and life after death that you cannot believe? Can you believe that God loves you? This is a hard one, for some people have difficulty accepting love.
Can you believe that Jesus is God incarnate? This is a difficult one for some people who believe in God but cannot accept the fact that he became a man in the person of Jesus the Christ.
Can you believe that Jesus’ death on the cross met the righteous requirements of God for your sin? Some people just cannot grasp this and want to pay the debt of their sin themselves by trying to earn their way to God.
Can you believe that Jesus is alive today and that he wants to be involved in your life? It is easy for some to believe that God is there but is removed from personal daily life.
Can you believe that because of the resurrection of Jesus you can be given eternal life? It is difficult for some people to connect what Jesus did to their eternal destiny.
Can you believe that acceptance of Christ as your personal Lord and Savior requires that he be Lord of your life? Many people want to believe the wonderful things of the gospel but do not allow it to have control over their lifestyle.
Dr. Halford Luccock was approached by a young student who had been reared in a conservative Christian home who went away to college and began to question things that he had been taught in the Bible. He said to Dr. Luccock, “One thing holds me steady as I question what I believe about the Bible – that is the resurrection. Dr. Luccock said to him, “You remind me of the young man who looked down into the Grand Canyon for the first time and said, ‘Something must’ve happened here.’”
If you can’t come to full belief in the gospel, it may be that
ll. YOUR INTELLECTUAL REQUIREMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN MET. (20:25)
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”
Thomas had definite things that had to happen before he would believe. Just to hear about the resurrection of Jesus, even from those who had both seen and heard him was not enough for Thomas. He wanted to see for himself. He wanted to feel for himself. He wanted to touch the nail prints and see the wound of the spear in the side of the one who had been crucified. If the mysterious person whom Thomas had heard about could meet these demands, then he would believe, but not until then.
Christianity has fallen prey to “Easy Believe-ism.” What we say is true – that all you have to do is believe that God loves you, that Jesus died on the cross for you, and if you will receive him into your heart you will be saved. Now, that is true. But when it is said, it is intended that a person will examine every aspect of it for himself or herself. Someone else’s faith cannot be yours. Jesus cautioned that a person must count the cost of becoming a disciple and not just enter into the faith for what one could get out of it, but must consider the cost of the change in lifestyle that is required and the duties of being a disciple.
Some people accept the offer that Christianity makes but never look at the responsibility that is required. A seeking person must never be afraid to examine what the gospel says with the closest scrutiny. Look at how Jesus met the demands of Thomas.
It was now a week later, and Thomas was with the disciples in the upper room. All week long they had talked about Jesus being alive. He appears to them again and Thomas is there. He specifically addresses the intellectual struggle of Thomas.”
“Put your finger here.” “See my hands.” “Reach out your hand and put it into my side.” “Stop doubting and believe.”
It was the exact thing that Thomas had been struggling with all week. Even though Jesus was not visible to him throughout that week of struggle following the resurrection, Jesus saw him and knew what he was dealing with. He also sees you. He knows your intellectual and spiritual struggles. And he will meet you at that very point in your life.
If you are having trouble believing, it may be that…
YOU NEED TO COME INTO HIS PRESENCE. (20:28)
“Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
The presence of Jesus made all the difference. Did Thomas actually touch him? We are not told, but we do know that Jesus touched Thomas – right in his heart. When Thomas saw the nail prints and the living Jesus, he fell to his knees and exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!”
This is the first time that a believer ever called Jesus “God.” So Thomas took a great leap of faith all the way from being an unbeliever in the resurrection to seeing the resurrected Lord as “God.” John would later write, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God.” Thomas was the first to see him in his deity.
You see, as you come into his presence the doubts melt away and the questions that once seemed to be so important are of little consequence. That is all that doubters need today. If they could sense themselves in his presence, they would call him Lord and God.
Jesus said something directly to you and me who cannot see him with our eyes. He said to Thomas, “Because you have seen me you have believed.” He says to us, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
You cannot see him with your eyes. You cannot touch him with your hand. But if you will come into his presence in faith, he will touch you – right in the heart.
Tim Keller tells the following story about the power of Christ's resurrection:
“A minister was in Italy, and there he saw the grave of a man who had died centuries before who was an unbeliever and completely against Christianity, but a little afraid of it too. So the man had a huge stone slab put over his grave so he would not have to be raised from the dead in case there is a resurrection from the dead. He had insignias put all over the slab saying, "I do not want to be raised from the dead. I don't believe in it." Evidently, when he was buried, an acorn must have fallen into the grave. So a hundred years later the acorn had grown up through the grave and split that slab. It was now a tall towering oak tree. The minister looked at it and asked, "If an acorn, which has power of biological life in it, can split a slab of that magnitude, what can the acorn of God's resurrection power do in a person's life?"
The minute you decide to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord, the power of the Holy Spirit comes into your life. It's the power of the resurrection—the same thing that raised Jesus from the dead …. Think of the things you see as immovable slabs in your life—your bitterness, your insecurity, your fears, your self-doubts. Those things can be split and rolled off. The more you know him, the more you grow into the power of the resurrection.”
On one occasion Michelangelo turned to his fellow artists and said with frustration in his voice, "Why do you keep filling gallery after gallery with endless pictures on the one theme of Christ in weakness, Christ on the cross, and most of all, Christ hanging dead?" he asked. "Why do you concentrate on the passing episode as if it were the last work, as if the curtain dropped down there on disaster and defeat? That dreadful scene lasted only a few hours. But to the unending eternity Christ is alive; Christ rules and reigns and triumphs!"
Michelangelo was right. Even though the cross is vitally important because of the redemption Jesus accomplished for us there, we must not emphasize His death to the exclusion of His resurrection victory. We should think of Him now in His glorified state in heaven.
PRAISE BE TO HIS NAME!