Second Sunday of Easter
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
John 20:19-31 Sermon
April 3, 2005
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
90 "The Strife Is O'er, The Battle Done"
294 "Jesus Christ My Sure Defence"
95 "At The Lamb's High Feast We Sing"
91 "Christ The Lord Is Risen Today"
"SEEING IS BELIEVING"
Text: (vs. 29) Jesus said to [Thomas], “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
“Time for dinner,” mom says; “go and wash your hands.” As a boy, I remember my mother saying that all in one sentence, never even pausing for a breath. It seemed like “time for dinner” and “go and wash your hands” were two phrases that could never be separated. How did mom know my hands needed washing? How did she know I hadn’t already washed them before?
Anyway, she was right; every time she told me to wash up, I needed it. So I’d go and wash my hands, and come out of the bathroom with what I thought were hands so clean, I could do surgery.
“My hands are clean, mom” I said. And without looking up, she’d ask, “did you use soap?” “Oh yes,” I’d say. Then she’d say, “Let’s have a look.” And then it was inspection time.
More often than I’d like, mom would find something wrong. Sometimes the palms were clean, but the backs of my hands were dirty. Sometimes I had two clean hands attached to two very dirty arms. And many times, the hands and the front side of the arms were clean until she lifted up my arms to find that the underside of my arms would be streaked with dirt. And of course I would be sent off to the bathroom again to do the job properly.
In our text for today, Jesus says, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." So many people today are like my mother when I told her my hands were clean. They are skeptics. Of course my mother had good reason to be skeptical, and I don’t fault her for it.
On a larger scale however, being a skeptic can be a miserable existence. So many have no peace in their personal and family lives. So many are depressed with the facts of modern life. So many go through life as a skeptic. However as we read this one very short verse, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe,” this verse fairly jumps out of the Bible and offers confidence and peace for your life.
Let's briefly review the story that leads up to Jesus' words. On Good Friday, Jesus was executed. He was put to death on the cross. When evening came, His followers took His body down and put it in a tomb. "Jesus is dead and gone," they thought. "He had said many wonderful things. He had aroused hope. He had given our lives direction and purpose. Ah, but now He's dead and He's gone." The next day, Saturday, came and went. Jesus still dead and gone in the minds of His followers. But Sunday, yes that first Easter Sunday turned out to be quite a day.
A few of Jesus' followers went to the tomb, but they couldn't find His body. They found their friends and reported that they had seen an angel who said Jesus was alive. Even more amazing, some of Jesus' followers were telling their friends that they had actually seen Jesus alive. By Sunday night, many of them didn't know what to believe. The news reports were conflicting. Life wasn't making sense. Their lives had no peace, no purpose.
One of Jesus' disciples was named John. The Holy Spirit used him to record for us what happened that Sunday night. Verses 19 and 20 of our text say: "That Sunday evening the doors were locked where the disciples were, because they were afraid of the Jews. Then Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you!' When He said this, He showed them His hands and His side. So the disciples were delighted to see the Lord." They saw and they believed. The pieces of the puzzle were all suddenly fitting together.
But there was one exception. A man named Thomas wasn't there that night. He didn't see. So, he refused to believe. John also recorded Thomas' experience in verses 24 and 25: "But Thomas, one of the Twelve...was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, 'We saw the Lord.'" (Thomas) told them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails and put my hand in His side, I will never believe."
Now I tell you, there's a real skeptic! He was much worse than my mother asking about my clean hands. Now Thomas didn't claim to know everything, but he knew what he had seen--or hadn't seen--and that was the basis for his opinions.
A week later, Jesus' disciples were again in the house, and (this time) Thomas was with them. The doors were locked, but Jesus came and stood among them. Verses 26-28 of our text says, "Peace be with you!" He said. Then He told Thomas, "Put your finger here, and look at My hands--and take your hand and put it in My side. And do not go on doubting but believe." Thomas answered Him, "My Lord and my God!" Then Jesus said the words that are so important for us. These are the words that leap off the page and come straight through the centuries to us right now. Verse 29 says, "Do you believe because you have seen Me?," He asked (Thomas). "Blessed are those who have not seen and still have believed."
That's just one short precious verse. Of course, all of the Bible is precious. The entire book was written to help us in our lives. However, there are some Bible passages that really hit home sometimes. This is one of them. It seems to leap right off the page and grab our attention. "You," Jesus says. "Who me?" "Yes, you" Jesus says. "I'm talking to you. Thomas believed in Me because He saw Me. He saw My body. He saw the wounds from the cross. But you, you haven't seen Me in that way. Although you haven't seen Me with your eyes, how blessed are you if you believe in Me."
There's more to seeing than just seeing. I heard about a teacher one time who taught a student who was blind. He was a very intelligent student. He once asked the teacher a question about the topic of that day. The teacher answered the question. And then the student replied, "I see." The man who was completely blind responded, “I see.” This goes to prove one very important fact. True seeing is more than the physical eyes pick up. To truly see is to understand.
That's a simple fact, but Thomas forgot it. And, that's where Thomas went wrong. Thomas tried to find meaning only from what he had seen. During that first week, the week when the reports of the resurrection were flying, but Thomas had not seen Jesus, Thomas relied totally and wrongly only on what he himself had seen. "If I see it, it must be true," he reasoned. "If I don't see it, then it just can't be."
When that week was over, Jesus appeared to Thomas and revealed something Thomas had never seen before: A dead man who is alive and who also brings absolute peace and certainty to people. Jesus didn't put Thomas down because Thomas had relied upon his sight. What Jesus did was reveal to Thomas that the meaning of life is more than just one person's opinion about what he or she has seen. The meaning of life is the man who said He is the eternal God and who died on the cross so that God and humanity might be reconciled. That God-man who died is now alive. And this God-man, Jesus Christ, shows Himself alive to Thomas and He says, "Peace be unto you.... Do not go on doubting, but believe." Thomas saw that and his eyes were opened. He truly saw. He did believe.
"Peace be unto you.... Do not go on doubting, but believe." Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, who was executed for sinners is still alive now, and right now He says the same thing to you and me. "Who me?" Yes, you. Peace to you from Jesus Christ who died for your sins and rose again. Don't go on doubting, but believe! In Jesus Christ your life has meaning, a meaning that can satisfy you and a meaning that is true and valid before God. Believing in Jesus Christ, you truly see things the way they are.
God created us as people who rely upon our physical senses. He knows also that we are a people who need purpose and peace in our lives and that we rely on our senses to help find that meaning. So, look what God has done. He showed Himself to Thomas and that seeing resulted in believing. Jesus also showed Himself to many other people during the forty days between His resurrection and His ascension into heaven. God the Holy Spirit used some of these eyewitnesses to write down what they saw in the Bible. They wrote their eyewitness accounts down so that people like you and me can see and understand those ancient events through their words. What John and other eyewitnesses wrote in the Bible are there so that we might believe in Jesus our Saviour, and that by believing, we may have life in his name.
Too many people think that the Bible is simply memoirs about God's work in Jesus, and other early religious myths and tales. Nothing could be further from the truth. These eyewitness accounts were written so that God can show you through the words of the Bible that His Son is alive and brings you peace. If the books of the Bible were intended simply to be histories and other pious writings, they would fail. They don't tell what Jesus looked like. They don't probe His psychological makeup. They don't tell about His formative years.
These eyewitness accounts of Jesus are not merely histories. What they are, are words by which God the Holy Spirit reveals to us the meaning of our lives. The words say that the purpose and peace of our life is Jesus Christ. Remember those important words recorded by John: "These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:31).
So true seeing means actually believing the words of Jesus Christ, and knowing him as your Saviour. Paul says, "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." (Romans 10:17).
None of this is dusty and irrelevant Bible history. In fact, I can’t think of any Bible stories that wouldn’t be relevant today. Of special application is our text for this morning. Thomas had formed his opinions on the basis of what he had seen or not seen. The result was that for one week, he had it wrong. You and I are living in a culture that puts the emphasis upon sight, not upon faith. We tend to think, "If I don't see it on TV, it mustn't be... or at least it mustn't be important."
TV is a wonderful invention. I enjoy watching TV. But TV does have some serious limitations. One limitation of TV is this: It does not give meaning. TV does provide information. It does a fantastic job of that. Facts and events can be broadcast almost instantly into every home. But what does all that information mean? Does it mean what the commentator says it does? Does it mean what the guests on the talk shows say it means? Does it mean anything at all? Giving peace and purpose to one’s life is something that TV in and of itself doesn't do.
To truly see our lives in a good, positive, purposeful way is something that God reveals. So many people are living meaningless lives. So many people have no purpose, no peace, because the facts make no satisfying sense. We won't understand life simply from the sights of TV. That comes alone from seeing Jesus with the eyes of faith.
You're going to have a bad week if you try to understand your life in any other way. Try to live your life this week simply on the basis of how you interpret the secular programming you see on TV, and you'll go wrong, just as Thomas went wrong that week when he formed his judgments on the basis of what he physically saw.
Just as Jesus didn't humiliate Thomas because Thomas used his sight, Jesus doesn't put down the fact that we get a lot of information from TV. But Jesus does say this, "Blessed are those who have not seen and still have believed." Blessed are you whose physical senses are not your final source of truth. Blessed are you who form your opinions on the basis of something more that you see on TV. Blessed are you who live your life through the eyes of faith. Blessed are you who are glued to the Bible more than to the tube. Blessed are you who find the true meaning and peace in the words of Jesus Christ who died for your sins and who now lives and says, "Peace be unto you."
Not all people are so blessed. But if we live our lives on the basis of the Word of Jesus Christ, we are blessed. Jesus once contrasted the people of faith to people who have wrong faith. He said in Matthew 13, "They see and yet do not see, hear and yet do not hear or understand. In them Isaiah's prophecy is being fulfilled: 'You will hear clearly but never understand; you will see clearly but never comprehend, because these people have become dull at heart and hard of hearing and have shut their eyes so that their eyes never see, their ears never hear, their hearts never understand, and they never turn to Me for healing.' Blessed are your eyes because they see and your ears because they hear" (Matthew 13:14-16).
And so we come to Jesus our Saviour in faith, knowing without a doubt that he died for our sins, that he paid the price for our sins, and that he rose again from the dead, so that we too shall conquer death, and live with him for eternity.