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Apr 18 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 16, 2017 – John 20:19-31

Reaching For Proof

So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained. John 20:19-23

Intro: The painting you see is Hyatt Moore’s “Easter Night”

The scene depicted is the climax of John’s story
– namely, the experience of the living Jesus after his resurrection
• John wrote this book after years of reflection
◦ in fact, the other three gospels were already in circulation
• why did John add these particular events to the record?
◦ why did he feel compelled to tell the “Jesus story” his way?
– we do not have to guess, because he explains it to us
• we will come to that shortly

John sets the scene with “when” and “when”

When: evening of the day Jesus rose from the dead
When: the doors were bolted, because the disciples were afraid

Earlier that day, Mary Madalene had visited them twice
– the first, she brought the message that Jesus’ body was missing
• there is something lovely in the way she personalized her concern to the angels

To the disciples: “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him” (v. 2)
To the angels: “. . . they have taken away my Lord, and do not know where they have laid Him” (v. 13)

• in her mind, Jesus belonged to her
◦ she believed that his body was her responsibility
– in her second visit, she delivered the message Jesus had given her

Then that evening, Jesus himself came to them
– first word he spoke was Peace, and he spoke it into them (cf. Jn. 14:27; 16:33)
• then he held out his hands and pulled back his cloak
◦ to let them see his, still fresh, wounds
• that was their moment of recognition
– this was important to John; that they were able to ID Jesus
• in verse 14, when Mary first saw Jesus, she did not know it was Jesus
◦ when the disciples on the lake saw Jesus on the shore, they did not know it was Jesus (21:4)
• recognition came when he spoke
◦ when he said or did something characteristic of him (cf. Lk. 24:30-31)
◦ when Mary recognized him, she cried, “Teacher!” and on the lake, John said, “It is the Lord”

With recognition, came joy (which is no doubt an understatement)
– so Jesus again said, Peace be with you, perhaps this time to calm their excitement
• then he assigned them their mission:
◦ as he had been sent by the Father, they are now being sent by them
– this meeting was a stage in their final preparation
• he imparted his Spirit to them (cf. Jn. 14:17)
• he also indicated the gravity of their responsibility
◦ illustrated in proclaiming the forgiveness or retention of sin

But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” John 20:24-25

I’m thinking Thomas was upset because he missed out

The others excitedly told him they had seen Jesus
– Thomas, however, refused to believe them–playing the hard-headed skeptic
• if he did not see Jesus for himself, he would not believe
◦ in fact, even seeing would not be good enough
◦ perhaps they had hallucinated a vision of Jesus
• Thomas would have to conduct a thorough examination
◦ touch the wounds to verify it was their crucified Lord
◦ otherwise, he could not convince himself their message was true
– Thomas is like a prototype of many Christians
• they find that trust feels uncomfortable
◦ without hard facts to prove the Scriptures, they hesitate
• that is why so many are not all-in
◦ and, instead, they follow Jesus halfheartedly

John did not include this drama so we could gang-up on Thomas
– rather, he is helping his readers get past their own unbelief
• he shows them how unbelief slows them down, gets in way

After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here with your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed. John 20:26-29

A full week later, Jesus appeared again to his disciples

He greeted them again with peace and then went straight for Thomas
“Conduct your examination. Convince yourself. Stop this unbelieving. Start believing”
– it doesn’t seem that Thomas needed to touch him
• he could see it was really Jesus
◦ but he was even more than the Jesus he had known
◦ resurrected – glorified, Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!”
– then Jesus says something, to which John had been building all along

Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.

• this blessing is counterintuitive, like the beatitudes
◦ it is exactly opposite to what Thomas thought

John knew how important it was for his readers to see, hear and touch
– with this in mind, he began his first letter to believers

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life–and the life was manifested . . . to us–what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ (1 Jn. 1:1-3)

– this brings us to the reason John wrote his book

Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book, but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. John 20:30-31

John wrote his story for those who have not seen

John weaves four braids from the beginning to the end of this book
– it is easy to pick up on them once you know they are here

  1. Jesus performed “signs” – acts of wonder
    • specific ones are mentioned and his signs in general are discussed
  2. The signs reveal who he is–the Christ (Messiah), the Son of God
  3. The signs are reported to show us we can believe
    • provide us with reason to trust him
  4. Believing in Jesus brings the life of God to us 
    • this is eternal life, abundant life

– with this in mind, I want to turn back to beginning of John

Among Jesus’ first followers there was a man named Nathanael

Neither Nathanael or Thomas stand out in the other gospels

– Nathanael’s first conversation with Jesus parallels Thomas’ last conversation with him
• the topic of both conversations is, “seeing is believing”
– both Nathanael and Thomas:

  • are given speaking parts in John’s gospel
  • were doubters–e.g., Nathanael asked, Can any good thing come from Nazareth? 
  • were won over to Jesus by seeing something
    ◦ the miracle of Jesus himself
  • made radical statements in response to their discoveries
    ◦ Nathanael, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel 
    ◦ Thomas, My Lord and my God

After Nathanael’s confession, Jesus’ response implies a  tone of surprise

Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe?

– it took so little to bring Nathanael to faith
• Jesus promised him that he would see greater things
– what made Nathanael a good prospect to make this jump to faith?
• first, his biblical understanding regarding the Messiah (cf. Jn. 7:52)
◦ through the Scriptures he was looking for the Messiah
• Jesus’ compliment about him being a true Israelite without deceit 
◦ he was prepared to receive whatever would come from God

In God, seeing is not believing, rather believing is seeing

Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God? (Jn. 11:40)

I came across something in Mary Funk’s book, Lectio Matters 
– at first, I didn’t like what I read
• but I knew it was true
◦ and what John hoped to accomplish with his gospel

Mary M. Funk, “The mystical level rises from time to time, but I am content to walk in faith.”

• I have experienced the way a specific act of trust can dissolve anxiety
◦ perhaps similar to the way the disciples passed rapidly from fear to peace, to joy
– the goal of Easter is not that we believe, but that through faith we have a new life
• the gift of Easter is not a new religion,
◦ but a new self, a new person, a new creation
• believing is our way into becoming and being

Conc: In the 1980’s a book was made into a movie: The Neverending Story

A boy begins reading a book and suddenly finds himself in it
– though he finds it impossible to accept, he nevertheless lives the story
– John does this to us
• he tells the story of Jesus and then says that he recorded these things

. . . so that you may believe . . . and that believing you may have life in His name

When earlier in John, Jesus told Martha that her dead brother would rise again,
– her response was as if she said,

“Yeah, I know, I know. We’re all going to rise again in the resurrection on the last day. But that doesn’t do me a whole lot of good right now.”

But then Jesus said,

I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this? (Jn. 11:25-26)

Pay close attention
– Jesus says, “whoever believes in Me” and “everyone who lives and believes in Me”
• then he asks Mary, “Do you believe?”

That is the question John leaves us to answer,
this Easter Sunday morning

One Comment

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  1. ingrid starrs / Apr 28 2017

    The kiss of the spirit. Jesus is the breath of life. He breathes on me. I inhale and breathe on you and you inhale and breathe on another.

    “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” -John 14:20

    Supernatural concepts are difficult to convey but Jesus is the Master of intimate imagery.

    I would to summarize the message of the Holy Spirit as this, “I belong to no religion. I believe in love and every beating heart is my temple.”

    Great teaching Chuck. Thank you for the delicious food for thought.

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