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May 2, 2019, 8:00 PM

The Resurrection - He Is Alive!

        Jesus Christ is alive. Praise God! He defeated death. He overcame the world. He rose from the grave and is alive today. Praise God! Friday night we mourned His death and burial, leaving each one of us here in the same place His followers were when He was taken from them. We remembered the events that led up to His death and how the people had turned against Him with shouts of crucify Him.


            Nailed to a wooden cross. Pierced by a sword. Uttering His final words, it is finished. Laid to rest in a cold, dark tomb. A stone too heavy for a single man to move, rolled into place, sealed from any easy entrance or exit for that matter. But none of that could withstand the power and the plan of almighty God.


            Those that were there to witness the coming events were overwhelmed with what unfolded. Today, we are blessed with the luxury of hindsight and the ability to understand Truth from the distance of time and revelation, but for those that were there – at that moment in history – to witness THE greatest miracle of all time. Shaking their heads like they’d come out of a bad dream, his followers saw death resurrected into life. Complete loss transformed into hope. Disappointment into comfort. Tears of grief turned to happiness. Pain to overwhelming joy. Just like He’d promised.


          All the emotion of the Cross suddenly transforming into a new reality that death was no longer final. Jesus had overcome it, just like He had prophesied. But still, how hard would it be to grasp something this marvelous. He’d raised others from the dead, but how could He raise himself? That’s…. impossible…. Isn’t it? But there He was. Standing right in front of them. Nail holes exposed.

          But they would grow to understand just like we do today, that they were dealing with the infinite nature of the God of the universe who is in complete control. He’s not defined by the laws of the tiny world we all live in. He sets the rules and He calls us to live by them.


          Our omnipotent God had laid out a plan to show Himself through His incarnate Son and then to show how much He loves us through His sacrifice on the Cross. But the greatest revelation came through Jesus’s prophesy that not only would He be betrayed, then murdered at the hands of those He came to save, but in three days He would be raised from the dead. And He did just that! Praise God!


          And when He rose from the grave it affirmed everything that He had taught His disciples and everything we know today from Scripture. Without His resurrection He would be known historically a good man, with a good message… a martyr. But no different than other men and in reality His prophesy would have been false. But it wasn’t. He rose just like He said He would and in His resurrection we are assured of eternal life with Him. All our hope is in Jesus.


            We’ve talked before about how the four gospels do not conflict with each other; they complement. It’s all about perspective and remembrances; what one saw versus what another saw; how events were perceived and then in the case of Luke’s Gospel how all the various stories and sources were pulled together to attempt to build a complete picture of the most amazingly supernatural event in the history of mankind.



            Do you think with all the emotion that was running through the hearts and minds of His followers in those days that what each one saw and heard and experienced might be just a little different. Yet all of them would affirm the same miraculous series of events through their own story. I just find it incredible and overwhelming even today.


        We’re going to the Gospel of John today for our Scripture, ch 20 vs 24-31 – Jesus appears to Thomas. So many stories to pull from the resurrection, so many teaching points. Why did Jesus appear first to Mary Magdalene? Why not the disciples? What happened on the road to Emmaus? Why didn’t the disciples recognize Him as long as they were together and all they talked about?  And what DID they talk about on the Road to Emmaus? And in 20:22 it says, “And with that He breathed on them and they received the Holy Spirit.”  What happened then? We know the Holy Spirit was sent to them on Pentecost. We’ll get to all of this…. Someday.


          Scripture is so rich here following Jesus’s resurrection. I mean when we talk about supernatural events, this is definitely at the top of the list. The excitement of the time, the drama, the miraculous, the incredible. So why Thomas? Why draw on his story today? Because I think he’s a lot like all of us. I’m not going to go there just yet, but take yourselves back in time. Wouldn’t you want to see Jesus’s return first hand? Not just hear about it second hand from your brothers? It’s easy to get ahead of myself here, so let’s get to our Scripture, John 20:24-31.

                        Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.”

                But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

                Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”

                Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”   

                Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

                        Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.


            Just a little bit here about the man Thomas, what we know. Both Jesus and Thomas were from Galilee. The apostle Thomas, also known as Didymus (the twin), was a fisherman, but Scripture does not reveal who his twin was.  After the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, Thomas went to Babylon and established the first Christian Church in that country.  Thomas went on to preach the Gospel in Persia, China, and India, and was evangelizing in India where he died a martyr. He was killed with a spear and was buried in Mylapore, India, a suburb of present-day Madras.


            Now, Scripture tells us in the gospels of John and Luke both that Jesus appeared to the disciples without Thomas present, supernaturally in a room that was locked and bolted to protect against Jewish leaders who might come after them. He spoke to them and said, “peace be with you.” Then He showed them His hands and feet to confirm that He was the risen Christ. But more than just that an act of affirmation, Jesus took that moment to introduce them to their mission. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you (John 20:21).”


            We are not told where Thomas was when Jesus appeared to the other disciples that first time or WHY He was away. Maybe he hadn’t returned yet after he had fled the scene of Jesus’s crucifixion. Jesus made several appearances during the forty days after His resurrection, but Scripture doesn’t tells us where He stayed or what He did outside those appearances.

            Things happen in Scripture and certain details are omitted that arouse our curiosity, but they just aren’t relevant to the story. And we can’t get hung up on speculation, because all that does is distract us from Truth! Just like John tells us at the end of our Scripture, these things are written so we will believe. He’s not creating some dramatic effect. He gives us Truth - enough for us to understand and set the foundation for our faith.


            In our Scripture the other disciples had related all that they had seen and heard to Thomas in that first meeting with the risen Christ. Now I can’t imagine that Thomas doubted their excitement and enthusiasm about what had occurred. And I don’t believe Thomas doubted the sincerity and passion of their words; that they had seen something, but He just couldn’t grasp the full reality of their experience and he wanted more.


            But just like I said to you earlier… put yourself in his shoes. Maybe there was a sense of why you guys, why not me? Maybe he felt slighted by the event. Maybe some disappointment. Maybe he even felt left out. I mean Christ basically commissioned the group in that room, that day.


            Thinking about my own insecurities, maybe he felt a little the same. If Christ was going to appear and give His followers that kind of a commission, why was he left out, why didn’t he didn’t He wait and do it when we were all there? Maybe just a little of the poor me attitude.



            Or maybe it’s like my attitude with Amazon or Ebay or other online sales venues. Before I buy something I like to see it physically, touch it, hold it or try it on. How can I trust the shirt’s going to fit without trying it on?!  Or a pair of pants? Or shoes? Now I admit, I buy most of my books online, because I don’t think you can go wrong there, plus they’re cheaper. But then that just contributes to the demise of the community bookstore. Look at lifeway. But can you maybe connect with Thomas just a little better now?


            Well, finally eight days after Jesus’s first appearance, Thomas and the disciples were together, once again in a locked room and Jesus appears to them. So the sense of the supernatural still prevails. And again Jesus says, "Peace be with you." Thomas, like all the others, had once vowed that he would die with the Lord, and like all the others except the beloved John, he had failed to stand by his Lord during those final hours.


            With those four words, peace be with you, Jesus was saying, I forgive you. He forgave all of them for their weakness in the moment of His crucifixion; just like He forgives each one of us for our weakness and our submission to the desires of the flesh and worldliness.


            After Jesus’s resurrection Thomas had returned and there was Christ to meet him. There is little doubt that this second appearance was for the benefit of Thomas, and I’d say it was for us today too. Jesus basically says that in so many words later. But first Jesus tells him, “put your finger here, see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop doubting and believe!”  

            How dramatic was that! Jesus very well could have left Thomas in his unbelief. Thomas had spent three years intimately acquainted with Jesus,  witnessing all His miracles and hearing His prophecies about His coming death and resurrection. That, and the testimony Thomas received from the other 10 disciples about Jesus’ return, should have been enough, but still he doubted. Jesus knew Thomas’s weakness, just like he knows ours.

            And in His great love for that one man Thomas, and for all of humanity, He shows his nail pierced body and says, "Stop doubting and believe." Those words are for all of us. Christ has nothing to hide, nothing to cover up, no issues to evade, nothing to avoid. He is completely transparent. His invitation to Thomas is the same to all of us who wobble in our faith. Look for yourself! The evidence is right in front of you and it is clear! Where is your faith? Believe!!!


            The doubt Thomas experienced in the face of the heartbreaking loss of the One he loved is not so different than ours when we face a significant loss: despair, heartbreak, and sorrow, all of which Christ sympathizes with. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Heb 4:15).”


            But, although Thomas doubted that first appearance and the testimony by his comrades, once he saw the risen Christ, he proclaimed in faith, “My Lord and my God.” 


            Jesus then commended him for his faith, even though that faith was based on sight. One of the most convicting lines in Scripture, pointing directly to us today follows with Christ saying, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Jesus was thinking of those who would later base their faith solely on the message of His disciples. That’s us. He meant that once He ascended to heaven, He would send the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who would live within believers from then on, enabling us to believe in what we can’t see with our eyes.


            This same thought is expressed by Peter, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Ptr 1:8-9).”
            Although we have the Spirit within us, we can still experience doubt. But this doesn’t have to affect our eternal relationship with God. True saving faith always perseveres to the end, just like Thomas’s did. Once he saw the living Lord for himself in the flesh he believed and was renewed. Just like Peter did after he had that monumental moment of weakness, denying the very Lord he loved and believed in.


            So how do we keep from doubting like Thomas? First, we have to turn to God in prayer whenever we even begin to experience that feeling of doubt. Satan tries so hard to creep in and create that doubt; cause us to second guess our faith. But we also know God will TEST our faith. He won’t tempt us, but He will test us and that may very well be the reason God allows us to doubt—so that we will learn to rely on Him; to turn to Him in our weakness; find Him through prayer and fall to our knees in total dependence.

            Second, we have to understand that we fight a spiritual battle every moment of every day. We have to be armed with the Word of God to fight these battles. Doubt is one of them. Doubt weakens our armor and makes us question Truth. We get pinged from all angles by media, politics, and false teachers. We have to put on the armor of God, so we aren’t “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes (Eph 4:14).” When we’re fully armed with Scripture those times of doubt will become fewer and farther between.


            As we said before we are blessed today with two things Thomas didn’t have. One is hindsight. He was in the moment and had just experienced enormous loss and was saddled with the guilt of his own denial. He had run away out of fear when his Lord needed him. Second hand information simply wasn’t enough for him. He had denied Jesus in the first person and he needed to hear from his Lord personally that their relationship was intact just like the others had.


            And today the Gospel has been fully revealed to us. We aren’t at the point in biblical history where we’re trying to sort through what has just happened and what we’re supposed to do with it. That’s exactly where the disciples were. They still didn’t fully understand their mission. They were yet to experience the full power of the Holy Spirit, because Christ still hadn’t ascended to heaven so the Spirit could be sent to them. Today we live in the Spirit. All of us who are believers are indwelt and are blessed with His presence in our lives.


            We know today that our relationship is intact as long as we place Christ as Lord of our life. We don’t need to see His nail-pierced hands and feet. We don’t need to touch His side, because we know His presence…here.  “For we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 4:7).” We know that when we are angry with Him, He doesn’t reject us.  When we turn our backs on Him, He still loves us. And when we turn back to Him, we can be assured that through His death on the Cross and His victory over the grave, we are forgiven.

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