Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
July 29, 2001
All people are that way to some degree for all of have ignorance of things we have never studied or experienced. The variance is just in the particular things that may be out of our frame of reference. The broader our range of knowledge, the larger our frame of reference, but even then, there are some things we might be told that we will not believe because they do not match our own experiences or the frame of reference of our own study. We accept new things only as we become educated about them and adapt our frame of reference to fit them in. If our frame of reference remains fixed, then we will not accept new things presented to us.
For example, when Buck Rogers was being shown for the first time in the movie theaters, very few would have believed then that man would ever travel in space and walk on the moon. Yet, from 1957 through 1969 our frame of reference continually changed so that when Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon we found it believable. However, it should be noted that there are still some who do not believe it and insist it was all a hoax by our government. The idea of it is still outside their frame of reference and the evidence has not convinced them to alter their basic beliefs.
This morning we are going to look at John 20 and see the disciples and their reaction to the news that Jesus was no longer dead, but had come out of the tomb. This was outside their understanding, but we will see how God revealed Himself to them so that they would believe. We will also find out what God has done so that those who live today might also believe.
Jesus’ First Appearance to His Disciples (19-23)
Before we look at John 20:19f, let remind you of what I said about the gospel of John last week. The Apostle John writes his account of Jesus’ life 30-40 years after Matthew, Mark and Luke. He expects that his readers will be familiar with those accounts of Jesus life including the details they give concerning Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances. As we go through John’s account, I will weave in some of these details from Matthew 28, Mark 16 and Luke 24.
Last week we examined Jesus’ resurrection and his first appearance to Mary Magdalene and then to the other women including Salome, Joanna and Mary, the mother of James. Luke and Mark both report that these women reported what they had experienced to the apostles, but their words appeared to the apostles “as nonsense, and they would not believe them” (Lk. 24:10,11). The first reaction by Jesus’ disciples to the eyewitness report by these women that Jesus was alive again was disbelief. The idea of Jesus being raised from the dead was outside their frame of reference even though Jesus had previously taught them that He was going to be raised from the dead and they had seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead. It was still not something that they could understand. According to Mark 16:10 they were at that time mourning and weeping. Their own emotional state did not help in the matter. They simply discounted what the women reported as being nonsense or empty talk. They dismissed it as foolish chatter by these women.
Men, a side note here for you. Yes, your wife may be more emotional than you, but don’t discount what she says. Women may talk about things you are not interested in and it just sounds like chatter to you – blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah – (of course, what your interested in may sound the same way to them), but you had better be careful about dismissing it as just empty talk. First, God has commanded you husbands to live with your wives “in an understanding way” (1 Pet. 3:7). You have a God given responsibility to pay attention to her so that you might understand her and by that be a godly husband to her. Second, she might be telling you what you need to hear. I find it fascinating that Jesus first revealed Himself to the women who had come to the tomb that morning to care for His body. These are the same women who had been at the cross with Him. The disciples, except for John, had run away to hide during that time.
All of us are like the disciples at times. We have enough information and experience to understand the step of faith God wants us to take next, but we let our emotions block us. We decided our actions based on how we feel instead of on what God has already revealed to us about Himself and His desires for our life. God wants us to walk with Him by faith. That means we step forward to do His will by trusting His promises and character regardless of our emotions. But take courage, God did not let the disciples remain in unbelief, and He will not allow you to remain stuck anywhere along the path of faith. He has many ways of moving you forward to the next level of trusting Him and living according to His will.
Revealing Himself to the Disciples (19-20)
Turn now to John 20:19. Here we find that Jesus reveals Himself to the disciples.
When therefore 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.” 20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples therefore rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus therefore said to them again,
It was now evening of the first day of the week and most of the disciples and several others have gathered together. We are not told exactly where they are except somewhere in Jerusalem. Some think it may have been in the Upper Room where they had held the Passover meal with Jesus since they are found there together again in Acts 1:13. The text here is very clear that they have shut the door because they were afraid of the Jews. Their fear of the Jews was very understandable. They had killed Jesus. What was to stop them from now killing Jesus’ followers?
In piecing together the narratives from the other gospel accounts, we find that Jesus had appeared to two disciples that had been on their way to Emmaus and had also appeared to Peter at some point that day (Luke 24:13-36). Peter must have just told the other disciples about seeing Jesus when the two arrived back from Emmaus to report about their seeing Jesus. It is while these two are telling their story that Jesus suddenly appears in the midst of them (Lk 24:36). His sudden appearance startled and frightened them and they thought they were seeing a spirit (Lk. 24:37). John records here that Jesus sought to calm them by saying “Peace be with you.” Luke 24 records that Jesus then said to them, at this time, 38 “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
As John points out, Jesus then showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples rejoiced at this, but they were in a state of joyous shock. Luke 24:41states that “they still could not believe [it] for joy and were marveling.” I think we can understand the nature of what they were feeling if we think of some joyous time in our own lives that was so good it seemed like a dream. It was like that for me when I married Diane. All the events were real, but it was such a happy time that it seemed like I was dreaming it and I didn’t want anyone to wake me up – perhaps I am still asleep, but if so, let me keep dreaming.
While they were still in this state, Luke points out that Jesus asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; 43 and He took it and ate [it] before them.”
We learn quite a bit about Jesus’ resurrection body from what He did in appearing to the disciples. This is important for us, because someday all those who have been saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ will also have a resurrection body. We do not know all of what it shall be like, but we know that we shall be like Jesus (1 John 4:2 – Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him , because we shall see Him just as He is.)
1) The resurrection body is not limited by physical barriers. Jesus came into the room while the doors were shut. The word here can also mean “locked.” He just suddenly appeared in their midst.
2) The resurrection body is not just spirit, but has physical substance. Jesus specifically states in Luke 24:39 that He has flesh and bones and invites them to touch Him.
3) The resurrection body is able to consume food. Jesus asked for something to eat and then ate the fish they gave Him.
4) Jesus’ resurrection body has the scars from His crucifixion as evidence that it was really Him and not an imposter.
Now that their unbelief has been removed and they are rejoicing in the truth that Jesus was alive and with them again, He goes on to explain what they were to do and to equip them for the task.
Giving the Holy Spirit (21-22)
21 Jesus therefore said to them again, “Peace [be] with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and ^said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus again calms them with a pronouncement of peace upon them and then tells them of what they would be doing in the future. God the Father had sent God the Son, and now God the Son was sending His disciples. They were being sent in the same manner with the same message. The Son had declared the Father to the world. The disciples would now be the ones to declare God’s revelation of Himself.
They were also being sent with the same power Jesus had. They would not have this in themselves, but from the Holy Spirit who was now given to them. This is the same way that Jesus operated. He yielded Himself completely to God and spoke only what the Father wanted Him to speak (John 8:26-29). The disciples would be able to do the same through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in them. Remember that Jesus has told them in John 16:13 that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth and reveal the Father’s will to them. (“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 “He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose [it] to you.”)
In like manner of when God breathed on Adam and he became a living soul (Gen. 2:7), Jesus breathes on these disciples and gives them the Holy Spirit. They are now equipped to be sent out as apostles. The word “apostle” means “one sent with authority.” They would have the authority to speak for God because they would be controlled by the Holy Spirit. This is emphasized in verse 23.
Forgiving and Retaining Sins (23)
“If you forgive the sins of any, [their sins] have been forgiven them; if you retain the [sins] of any, they have been retained.”
This authority to either forgive or retain sins is not an arbitrary power that Jesus gives them. They do not have the freedom to make up their own lists of sins or strike down God’s lists of sins. This authority is directly tied into their receiving the Holy Spirit who would guide them into all truth so that they could truthfully declare whether a person’s sins have been forgiven by God or not. This is not the ability to grant absolution of sin that the Roman Catholic church claims for its priests, for their declarations are not based on anything God has said, but upon their own ecclesiastical rules. This is really the same thing as the “binding and losing” authority that Jesus gave them in Matthew 18. It is still active today in cases of church discipline that are carried out in harmony with the Scriptures. A person that repents from sin and strives to follow after God through faith in Jesus Christ can be forgiven their sins. A person that will not turn from their sin to the savior will bear their sins themselves.
The Skeptic (24-25)
Not all the disciples were present when Jesus appeared to them the first time. In verse 24 we find that Thomas was absent. Thomas is a skeptic. There are always those around who are skeptical. The Lord’s dealing with Him gives us some idea of how He still deals with skeptics today.
24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I shall 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.”
Thomas was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. He was called “Didymus,” which means “twin,” as a nickname to distinguish him from other people named Thomas. He is often referred to as “doubting Thomas,” but if you think about it, he was not really any more doubting than the other disciples had been when they first heard the report by the women of Jesus’ resurrection. Thomas was a very devoted disciple of Jesus, but he was also given to despondency (Jn. 11:16). The crucifixion of Jesus would have crushed him. He does not believe the other disciples. He then sets up the criteria which would need to be met for him to believe. He would have to see and touch the scars Jesus received when He was crucified.
That is the typical reaction of a skeptic. It is not necessarily bad to be skeptical, for one should be careful about believing what other people tell you. Even a normally credible witness can be deceived. However, the problem with the skeptic is that they end up basing truth in themselves. They disregard the judgement of everyone else. The proof must meet their personal standards. In this case, it was the ability to physically judge for himself.
I have to admit that when I deal with a skeptic my tendency is to either continue to argue with them in order to convince them that my witness is credible and they are wrong, or to give up on them and let them remain in their ignorance. If it is the direction of arguing, there could also be some anger involved because of the personal affront of that comes when someone disregards your witness. Perhaps you are the same way. God is not. He is very gracious and knows just what needs to be done. In the case of Thomas, it was a direct confrontation.
Removing Doubts (26-29)
Jesus Appears (26)
“And after eight days again His disciples were inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus ^came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst, and said, “Peace [be] with you.”
If the time measure used here is inclusive, this would be the next Sunday. The time of day and the place are not mentioned, but it could be the same place they had been the previous Sunday. Again we find the doors are shut and possibly locked. Again we find that Jesus just suddenly appears in their midst. Again he calms them with His pronouncement of peace upon them. The only real difference this time is that Thomas is present, and Thomas is the one Jesus singles out.
Confronting With the Truth (27)
Then He ^said to Thomas, “Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.”
Jesus uses the command voice three times. He does not just present Himself for Thomas’ examination, He commands Thomas to examine Him. Each command is directly related to what Thomas demanded would have to happen for him to believe.
and see My hands
and put my finger into the place of the nails,
Reach here your finger
and put my hand into His side,
and reach here your hand, and put it into My side;
I will not believe.
and be not unbelieving, but believing. Thomas’ Confession (28)
The evidence is overwhelming, and so verse 28 states, Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
It is interesting that John does not tell us whether Thomas actually did put his fingers into the place where the nails had gone through Jesus’ hands or put his hand into the place where the spear had punctured Jesus’ side. Thomas just proclaims, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus response to Thomas’ proclamation in verse 29 should be carefully noted. Jesus ^said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” Jesus accepts what Thomas proclaims about Him. There is no rebuke of any kind. Instead, there is rhetorical question giving affirmation that Thomas finally believes and that those who believe without seeing Him are blessed. If Jesus was not exactly who Thomas was now proclaiming Him to be, then it would be blasphemy. But Jesus is the Lord. Jesus is God. Those who deny Jesus’ deity must come to grip with this fact that Jesus accepts the worship of people, and that only belongs to God. If a person is going to deny Jesus’ deity, then to be consistent, they must also proclaim Him a delusional blasphemer, and a delusional blasphemer is not someone you should seek to emulate. But such people are not consistent for they want to believe what makes them comfortable and not the truth.
Jesus is God and man. He fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies. He kept His promises. He will keep His promises in the future. That is a blessing to those who believe, and a terror to those that do not.
The nature of belief (29)
What Jesus says here in verse 29 gives us some insights into the skeptic.
The Skeptic’s Belief, as pointed out earlier, is based in himself. He or she becomes the final judge of everything according to their own narrow frame of reference. There is some truth to this in that all of us are responsible for and will bear the consequences of the decisions that we make. We cannot blame someone else. The truth is out there. If we remain ignorant of it, then it really is our own fault for not seeking the truth with enough diligence. There is a proper and healthy amount of skepticism that should be in all of us. The problem with the skeptic is that they are cynical of the judgements, conclusions and even the eye-witness accounts of other people. They judge based on their own experiences and assumptions. Such was the case with Thomas when told about Jesus’ resurrection.
Skeptics can be brought to the knowledge of the truth when they are overwhelmed with the evidence. That is what Jesus graciously did to Thomas. God still does that for the skeptic that is genuinely searching for the truth. There are many testimonies of scientists, like Dr. Roy Spencer, a senior scientist at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL who was trained as a modern scientist to assume that everything came into existence by chance. Eventually that assumption was challenged. As he studied the actual evidence he was forced to abandon that assumption because, as he states, “the theory of creation had a better scientific basis than the theory of evolution.”
Another way in which skeptics are brought to the truth is when they are forced into a position where they realize their assumptions have been wrong. That happened to Dr. David Chadwick, a research chemist, who had also been trained that there was not a God who is good and able to overcome evil. He found himself in a desperate situation in which he says that suddenly, “I found myself praying to this Person I did not know, crying out to Him to save and help me!” In the years that followed, God brought Dr. Chadwick to a point of conviction of his sinfulness, and then to an understanding of what Jesus Christ has done for him so that he could be forgiven those sins and live in righteousness.
You don’t have to fight with a skeptic. Simply present the truth and let our Lord work. God is gracious and merciful to the skeptic that is truly searching for the truth. He may overwhelm them with evidence they cannot deny as was the case with Dr. Spencer. He might intervene in ways that destroy the previous held assumptions of the skeptic as in the case of Dr. Chadwick.
The Believer’s Faith
Thomas had to see to believe. Jesus said, Blessed [are] they who did not see, and [yet] believed.” Life is a lot easier, and spiritual growth is a lot quicker, for those that will accept the testimony of credible witnesses. Thomas should have believed when the other disciples told him they had seen Jesus alive. The other disciples should have believed with the women told them they had seen Jesus alive. We should believe because the Bible is the record of God’s revelation of Himself and His work through credible witnesses. Jesus Christ is alive. He is the Lord. He is God.
The Purpose of John (30-31)
The whole reason that John wrote this account of the gospel is so that you would believe. He states in verses 30-31, “Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”
Jesus’ Signs (30)
The “signs” mentioned here are the miracles Jesus performed that testified to the fact that He is the Christ, the promised Messiah, the Son of God, who would redeem them from their sins. An examination of Matthew, Mark and Luke will reveal quite a few of these miracles that John did not record (healing the demoniac in Capernaum – Mk. 1; Healing Peter’s mother-in-law – Mt. 8; Cleansing the leper in Galilee – Lk 5; Healing the paralytic – Mk. 2; Healing the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath – Mt. 12; Raising the widow’s son from the dead at Nain – Lk 7; Healing the Gerasene demoniac – Mk 5; Raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead – Mt. 9; etc. etc.). John did not purpose to write out all that Jesus had done and taught. What he did record does tells us of some things the other gospel accounts had left out, but that was not his purpose.
That You May Believe (31)
John’s purpose was so that you might believe that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”
That now puts the question before you. What do you believe about Jesus. John has presented the evidence. His witness is true (21:24). Do you believe it? There is a great blessing in believing the witness given for you will have life in Jesus Christ. But if you are a skeptic and still are hesitant to believe, then I pray that you are an honest skeptic who is truly seeking the truth, for if you are, then I know that God will continue to work in your life to bring you to faith in Him. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life. If you are really seeking the truth, your search can only lead you to Him.
If you are a skeptic who is not really seeking the truth, then you are heading for eternal disaster. You might eventually find something that makes you comfortable and be satisfied with that, but there will come a day when you will have to stand before God and give an account of yourself. There will be no excuse for your disbelief then. The truth that God has revealed to us and that has been presented to you will be the evidence that condemns you. God is merciful and gracious as is proven in the forgiveness of your sins that is offered through faith in Jesus Christ, but God is also holy and just, and there will be no escaping His wrath on those disobey Him.
One final point. This “life in His name” that John speaks of here is not just eternal life in heaven. Certainly that is the future promise of this life, but it is also life in the here and now. It is a quality of life, not just a quantity. It is a life in the present in which the power of sin is broken and you become increasingly conformed the image of Jesus (Rom. 8:29). Your life becomes more practically righteous, more fulfilling, more joyful, more peaceful. Jesus Christ is God. He left the glories of heaven and took on human flesh. He lived a sinless life, and then willingly gave His life as the sacrifice for our sin that we might be forgiven our sin and be made righteous in Him. He rose from the dead proving His claims about Himself and that His promises are true. Jesus Christ is alive today – and that changes everything. If you are a Christian, do not let the things of this world pull you down or lead you astray. Live in the daily reality that Jesus is alive and with you. You can trust His promises, because you can trust Him.
What do you believe about Jesus Christ?
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times the word “belief” is mentioned 2) Talk with your parents about what you believe about Jesus.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What events had already taken place on that day before Jesus appeared to His disciples (Jn. 20:19)? Why did the disciples have the door shut? Did the disciples believe Jesus had been raised from the dead prior to His appearance to them? How did Jesus get into the room with the disciples? What does this tell us about the resurrection body? How did Jesus prove to the disciples that He was really there? What was the response of the disciples? What is the significance of Jesus breathing on the disciples? What does it mean that the disciples can forgive and retain sins? What application does this have today? Where was Thomas? What does “Didymus” mean? What was Thomas’ response to the disciples report about seeing Jesus? How was Thomas’ response the same as the disciples when they first heard of Jesus’ resurrection? How was it different? How did Jesus get into the room the second time? What does Jesus ask Thomas to do? What does this tell us about the resurrection body? What was Thomas’ response? Did Thomas touch Jesus? What does Thomas’ confession and Jesus’ response to it tell us about Jesus’ deity? What is the blessing of believing without seeing? What are some of the evidences that can be used to convince sincere skeptics of the truth? What are some of the other signs that Jesus did that John did not write about? What do you believe about Jesus? Why do you believe it? Could your mind be changed? Why or why not?
Revealing Himself to the Disciples (19-21)
Jesus’ resurrection body was not limited by ___________________. It had ______________substance. He was able to eat. His body has the scars from His crucifixion
Giving the Holy Spirit (22)
Forgiving and Retaining Sins (23)
This authority is directly tied into their receiving the Holy Spirit who would guide them into all truth so that they could truthfully declare whether a person’s sins have been forgiven by God or not. This is always in harmony with the Scriptures. This is not the ability to grant absolution of sin based in ecclesiastical rules as in the Roman Catholic Church.
The Skeptic (24-25)
The problem with the skeptic is that they end up basing truth in ________________________.
Removing Doubts (26-29)
Jesus Appears (26)
Confronting With the Truth (27) Thomas’ Demands Jesus’ Commands
Unless I see His hands . . . See My hands
& put my finger into . . . . Reach here your finger
& put my hand into His side Reach here your hand
I will not believe be not unbelieving, but believe
Thomas’ Confession (28)
The nature of belief (29)
The Skeptic’s Belief
Skeptics can be brought to the knowledge of the truth when they are overwhelmed with the __________ or when they are forced into a position where they realize their assumptions have been wrong. You don’t have to fight with a skeptic. Simply present the truth and let our Lord work.
The Believer’s Faith
The Purpose of John (30-31)
Jesus’ Signs (30)
That You May Believe (31)
“Life in His name” is a quality of life in the present, not just a quantity of life in the future. Live in the daily reality that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and He is alive and with you.
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