2 Easter Proper B2
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
John 20:19-31 Sermon
April 19, 2009
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
103 "Now Let The Vault Of Heaven Resound"
109 "Good Christian Men, Rejoice And Sing"
326 "I Love To Tell The Story"
166 "Blessing And Honor And Glory And Power"
GOD HAS THE CURE FOR DOUBT
TEXT (vs. 24-31): 24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said to him, "We have seen the Lord." So he said to them, "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe." 26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, "Peace to you!" 27 Then He said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing." 28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" 29 Jesus said to him, "Thomas,[b] because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." 30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
The pastor's wife told her son to wash his hands before he ate because there were all kinds of germs on them. The little boy complained, "Germs and Jesus, germs and Jesus, that's all I ever hear around this house and I've never seen either one."
Would you agree with me that more people in this world believe in germs than those who believe in Jesus - yet both are real and are supported by hard, factual evidence.
This morning we focus on a man renowned for his trait of doubting. A man named Thomas. Even though Thomas was a disciple of Jesus who followed him and learned from him and observed him perform miracles for three years - Thomas was skeptical about Jesus' resurrection.
If even Thomas was overcome by doubt and uncertainty, how easy it is for you and me to be filled with doubt and uncertainty as well.
I think that if we're honest with ourselves, we would have to admit that we've all had our moments of doubt when it comes to God, and the Bible, and Christianity in general. Therefore, I think it is appropriate that we should take a close look at Doubting Thomas and see him as an example for us in dealing with doubt - an example both of what not to do, and also what to do when doubt attacks us.
We could make this very simple by just saying, "Don't ever doubt," and let it be at that. But we all know that doubt isn't cured that easy. So let's admit that we are all tempted and lured by the devil to doubt to some degree, and let's learn a lesson from Thomas about "The do's and don'ts of dealing with doubt." In doing so, let's look at various doubts that relate directly to our faith and Christianity; however at the same time we will see that the method of dealing with such doubts can also have a much broader application to other doubts that crop up our lives.
When you find that you are doubtful about God or how he deals with people, about the Bible, about Christianity or even about the church, you are better off not doing two things.
First of all, we must not detach ourselves from those who can help. We are told about Thomas that he "was not with the disciples when Jesus came." Whether Thomas deliberately avoided the disciples or had other things to do we don't know for sure, but we do know that Thomas was not with the other disciples when Jesus made his first appearance to them after his resurrection.
Support and assurance from his fellow disciples of Christ were what Thomas needed the most at this point in time, but he didn't seek it. Isolation is not a good way to deal with doubt. Doubt needs to be addressed, and the stress that doubt causes can be relieved by seeking counsel and advice from people who can help.
Secondly, we should not demand exceptional evidence to help us overcome our doubt. Thomas was finally receiving encouragement from his fellow disciples, and they kept telling him, "We have seen the Lord," but what did he do? He demanded exceptional evidence, placing his faith not on the promises of Jesus or the testimony of eyewitnesses, but on his own experience. "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe." That was Thomas's rebuttal.
If we find ourselves waiting for exceptional evidence to remove our doubts, we are replacing faith with personal experience. How do you know you are saved? That's a question that people have been asking for ages. A person who has doubts about that question should not wait to be overwhelmed with some religious feeling or outward sign or some sort of enthusiastic commitment. If we do that, then we're placing our faith in something as flimsy as our personal experience.
A person who has doubts about being saved needs only to look at the Bible and what God is telling us there. The Bible directs our attention to the cross where Jesus paid the price for every one of our sins. And then, we are directed to the empty tomb where Jesus destroyed the power of death and bridged the separation between God and all of humanity because sin itself was destroyed. That is the greatest evidence we need.
As I was working on this text, I couldn't help but think of Susan Boyle. She's been a news item lately; so if you haven't heard of her, you probably will.
Susan Boyle is a 47 year old woman from the United Kingdom who performed on the English television show, "Britain's Got Talent." When she walked out on the stage, her appearance was, as some would put it, rather "frumpy." She was about as ordinary as any person you'd run into at the supermarket, and not give a second thought about it.
The audience and the judges chuckled at her; and when she told them she wanted to be a singer, they openly laughed at her. But she kept her composure as she told them that she would be performing the song "I Dreamed A Dream" from "Les Miserables." Everybody thought it would be a complete flop--that is, until she opened her mouth and emitted the first few notes of the song.
It turns out that she has an absolutely gorgeous singing voice. You could literally see the judges' jaws collectively drop, and the audience was in complete shock. But that didn't last very long as they began to applaud her. By the time she had finished her song, everybody in the audience was on their feet clapping and cheering. And of course the judges gave her three resounding "yes" votes.
Everybody doubted her; but thankfully she knew what she was doing. We can clearly see how people will doubt things they shouldn't, based upon some rather flimsy evidence. People could have even been praising her before she sang, telling others what an incredible voice this woman had. But when the people saw her, they said "yeah, right" in their minds, as the old seeds of doubt kept growing and growing.
Thomas had doubts, even though there had been some pretty convincing evidence otherwise. He knew that the disciples and the women weren't liars who went around spreading rumors and half-truths. And yet, he doubted what they told him.
Now, before we start getting the idea that Thomas is a lousy doubter who deserves to be thrown to the lions, let's examine some exemplary ways he dealt with his doubt. If we find ourselves plagued with doubts, then we can look to Thomas as an example. We need to pray to God himself to dismiss our doubts. Thomas could have easily said, "Unless I talk to the guards who were at the tomb, I won't believe," or "Unless I see the rock rolled away from the tomb, I won't believe," but instead he asked God himself to dismiss his doubt. He wanted to see Jesus, God's only begotten Son.
How many times have we had misgivings about God's will or God's dealing with people? Haven't we failed to ask God himself to overcome our doubt, as we try to solve it oursleves in many other ways?
Even Jesus himself expressed some doubts about going to the cross, didn't he? Yet he went to his Father in prayer and asked him to give guidance. King David, as a little shepherd boy, seemed so bold and brave as he went out to battle the giant Goliath, only because any doubts he had about going up against such a warrior he took to God.
That's the lesson here for us. We always need to look to God and the promises he makes in his Word to bring to rest any of our doubts and fears.
Then, like Thomas, we need to depend on the evidence that God gives to us. Thomas wasn't satisfied with anything but Jesus himself putting away his doubts. Shouldn't we also look to God, rather than ourselves, to provide evidence that puts away all our doubts and fears? What greater evidence has he provided than what is written in the Bible? The very fact that we believe it is God's inspired and inerrant word is one of the most important parts of alleviating our doubt. The very reason the Bible was written was not to be used as a story book, or to provide a basis for entertainment or to see the neat miracles.
To better understand this, let's look at the last verse in our Gospel lesson for today, which tell us the primary reason of the Scriptures, "...these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name." So if we want to deal with our doubts and put them behind us, we need to look for the answer in God's Word.
Finally, we need to demonstrate our faith when God turns our doubts into trust and confidence. "My Lord and my God." That was the way Thomas replied in response to the evidence Jesus provided.
Tradition has it that Thomas later went to India with the gospel of Jesus. Would he have gone there if Jesus hadn't relieved him of his doubts? Would he have been as joyful in sharing the message of the Gospel if Jesus hadn't provided the proof of his resurrection?
God has indeed done some wonderful things in our lives--things worth sharing, and things worth believing. God has turned our night of doubt and sorrow into the sunshine of faith. God has worked the miracle of faith in our lives. Isn't that something worth sharing?
The message of Easter is one that gives new hope to souls that are distressed. We don't need to doubt what will happen to us when we die, or whether or not there is a heaven, or if Jesus will take us there. God has given us a written guarantee in his Word, which is a guarantee we can bank on.
We also never need to doubt if we've been "too bad" to get into heaven, because all it takes is faith in Jesus our Saviour. God isn't going to keep a tally sheet of all our sins, because we have Christ's righteousness.
Therefore as we go forth into the world, not doubting but firmly believing Christ's promise, may we always express the faith God has put into our hearts, as we put into practice the words of the old hymn: "I love to tell the story, 'tis pleasant to repeat; what seems each time I tell it, more wonderfully sweet. I love to tell the story, for some have never heard, the message of salvation, from God's own Holy Word. I love to tell the story, 'twill be my theme in glory, to tell the old, old story, of Jesus and his love."