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Study in John’s Gospel

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  1. Study in John’s Gospel Presentation 99

  2. Thomas Revisited Chap 20v24-31 Presentation 99

  3. Introduction A number of years ago a book was published entitled ‘This Believing World’. It said that everywhere and under all sorts of conditions men and women are naturally believers and are addicted to proclaiming their convictions. The reader soon discovers that what the author meant by faith and how the Bible defines faith are in fact poles apart. Christianity involves faith in God as he is revealed in Jesus Christ. This means acceptance of our own deep spiritual need and the recognition that our need can only be met, and salvation secured, through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Presentation 99

  4. Introduction Is the world “a believing world” in this sense? Not at all! In fact, the opposite is the case. The world is totally disbelieving, and it remains so unless God himself brings faith out of non-faith. And, of course, that is precisely what God does. He not only creates and loves and dies for those whom he has made, he also leads them to faith, thereby producing in them that which they could never produce in themselves. This is the meaning of the moving story that forms a true climax in John's Gospel. Presentation 99

  5. Doubting Thomas The story concerns the meeting of Jesus and Thomas a whole week after the Resurrection. Thomas had not been with the others when Jesus had first appeared in the Upper Room. He had missed seeing Jesus and, when told of the appearances of the Lord, replied, “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.”v25. Now Jesus appears to Thomas to lead him to faith, and Thomas concludes the story with the highest profession of faith in Jesus recorded in the Gospels. He worships him, saying, “My Lord and my God” v 28. Presentation 99

  6. Doubting Thomas This story has given the English language the phrase, “a doubting Thomas.” But we have to be careful how we use it. We must not use it to disparage Thomas as if he was the only person ever to doubt the resurrection. None of the others believed without special revelation and neither do people today naturally believe. That is why we speak of “irresistible grace.” If we do believe, it is only because God is there beforehand leading us to do so. Presentation 99

  7. Doubting Thomas Again, we must not use the phrase “a doubting Thomas” to suggest that it is simply natural for some people to disbelieve and that they are therefore less guilty as a result. Yes, Jesus comes down to the level of Thomas, his doubting disciple to lead him to faith but he does not suggest that his unbelief is excusable. Thomas was indeed a doubter. He was not lacking in courage, loyalty, or devotion to Jesus, but he did have a gloomy disposition. He looked on the darker side of life. We see this characteristic in Thomas throughout the gospel. Presentation 99

  8. Doubting Thomas Jesus and his disciples had gone into a remote area of the wilderness because the Jerusalem authorities were seeking to arrest Jesus but his time had not yet come 10:39. Word came to Jesus that his friend Lazarus, who lived very near Jerusalem, was sick. When he announced his intention to return his disciples said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” 11v8. Then Thomas spoke up saying, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” v16. The words were honest, loyal, and courageous, but they were not cheerful – the dour pessimism of the man comes through. Presentation 99

  9. Doubting Thomas The second time Thomas is brought to our notice is in John 14. Jesus had given them encouraging instruction with regard to the future, “I go and prepare a place for you… v.2-4. This was a great promise. But Thomas was unwilling to let the matter drop and didn’t really know what Jesus was talking about. His gloomy reply was, “Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” v5. Thomas reminds us very much of some of John Bunyan's characters in Pilgrims’ Progress: 'Fearing,' 'Despondency,' and 'Much Afraid,' Presentation 99

  10. The Other Disciples Now there is another very important point we need to grasp. Even before the Lord came to Thomas, the other disciples had told him that Jesus had risen. Now it was undoubtedly because of their witness, even though it was not believed, that Thomas was with the others when Jesus appeared on that second Sunday. Presentation 99

  11. The Other Disciples Today when people do not believe or put themselves in places where the gospel is preached and Christ is likely to make himself known, we tend to give up. We say, “There is nothing we can do now. It is up to God.” Well, in one sense it is up to God; it is always up to God. But the fact that people are cocooned in unbelief that only God can unwrap is no excuse for us to do nothing. On the contrary, we must do as these early disciples did. Seek out the missing and share the good news with them. “Come with us and believe on Jesus.” Presentation 99

  12. The Other Disciples We can be sure the disciples didn’t say, “Thomas, you should have been with us on Sunday evening. The Lord appeared (and he is probably not going to appear again), but we wanted to tell you this since it is our duty as one Christian to another. Mend your ways." Instead, they were so filled with joy in the knowledge that Jesus was alive that they went to tell everyone, especially those who had been with Jesus during his earthly ministry. They sought out Thomas and made sure that he was with them when they gathered together to worship on the second Sunday. Presentation 99

  13. The Other Disciples There are many Christians who have a naturally gloomy temperament. These tend to go off by themselves; this is a characteristic of that temperament. Yet these are the ones who can least afford to be alone. Gloom and despair prey upon them, and such people will become more gloomy and less believing if left alone. Go to them. Find them. Bring them back into that fellowship you enjoy. Presentation 99

  14. Behold My Hands Of course in spite of their concern for Thomas, the disciples could not change his mind. Nor can we change the minds of other people or convert them. God must do that. And so what we read next is that Jesus appeared in order to lead this doubting apostle to faith. Jesus did it by inviting Thomas to perform his empirical test. Jesus came down to his level and engaged him in a way that would best lead him from unbelief to commitment Presentation 99

  15. Behold My Hands Thomas had asked for something he had no right to ask for. He had said, “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” v25. Even as he said it Thomas implied that the test was impossible; he had no intention of believing. Thomas was definitely out of line, faithless. Yet Jesus came down to his level, as he always does. He appeared to Thomas and said, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” v27. Presentation 99

  16. Behold My Hands How gracious God is! We have no right to demand anything of him. Yet he stoops down to provide what we need. Do we need evidence? If we do and if we will approach the matter honestly, we will find the proof of his deity, death for sinners, resurrection, overwhelming. Do you say, “But I don't see it”? Then ask for the evidence. You will find that God, who is far more anxious to reveal himself to you than you are to find him, will provide the revelation. Presentation 99

  17. Behold My Hands It is striking, however, that in this case the thing that actually convinced Thomas was not the empirical test he demanded - putting his finger into the holes made by the nails in Christ's hands... for when Jesus presented himself Thomas declined the test. He was convinced without these assurances and fell at Christ's feet exclaiming, “My Lord and my God.” What convinced Thomas? What finally got through to him was the presence of Christ, identified by the wounds in his hands, feet, and side. It was the Christ of the cross who reached Thomas. This is the greatest proof of all: the love of Christ revealed in his wounds. Presentation 99

  18. Behold My Hands Spurgeon writes: “In these times, when the foundations of our faith are constantly being under-mined, one is sometimes driven to say to himself, 'Suppose it is not true.' As I stood, the other night, beneath the sky, and watched the stars, I felt my heart going up to the great Maker with all the love that I was capable of. I said to myself, 'What made me love God as I know I do? What made me feel an anxiety to be like him in purity? Whatever made me long to obey my God cannot be a lie.' I know that it was the love of Jesus for me that changed my heart, and made me, though once careless and indifferent to him, now to pant with strong desires to honour him. What has done this? ... those dear wounds continually prove the truth of the gospel and the truth of our salvation by it. The wounds are the infallible witness of the gospel of Christ.” Presentation 99

  19. Behold My Hands Do not misunderstand me here. If you have honest intellectual questions about Christianity, God will provide intellectual answers for them. He gave you a mind as well as a heart. He will provide what you need. But the thing that will ultimately win you is not so much the reasoned arguments, though they are often important stepping stones, but the love of Christ who died for you. Presentation 99

  20. My Lord and My God We have been discussing Thomas, the most doubting of all Christ's apostles. But notice that when the Lord revealed himself to Thomas, Thomas moved from doubt to the greatest testimony of faith in Christ recorded in any Gospel. He said, “My Lord and my God.” It represents a great insight of faith. Now the inclusion of the personal pronoun, is important, “My Lord and my God.” It was not enough that Jesus be both God and sovereign. He was now to be that for Thomas personally. Presentation 99

  21. My Lord and My God This is the high point of the Gospel. It is the climax. John shows here how one who began as a great doubter came by the grace of Christ to that confession with which the Gospel began: “And the Word was God” John 1v1. No case is hopeless. Your case is not hopeless. God re-orientates people’s lives. He can do that for you. Allow Him to do it. Believe on Christ. Rather than being faithless, may you be one who, like Thomas, was found “faith-full.” Presentation 99