Easter – Doubters Unite!

Easter – Doubters
April 16, 2017
John 20:19-29

In a closely contested race, the judges called it a photo finish. They looked at the photo to determine the winner, and it was clear that Alfonso crossed the line in first place, just ahead of Samuel. The judges were in total agreement, so the handed the 1st place trophy to Frank, who crossed the finish line third. Alfonso and Samuel didn’t break any rules, so why did Frank receive the trophy?

Let’s try another one – – Anthony and Cleopatra are lying dead on the floor. The window was open and there was water and glass all over the floor. Brutus was nowhere to be found. There were no marks on Anthony or Cleopatra. How did they die?

In the 1st situation, Alfonso and Samuel are horses. Frank is a jockey and he was riding Alfonso, and since Alfonso cannot hold the trophy it was given to Frank!

In the 2nd situation, it might help you to know Anthony and Cleopatra are fish. The dog, Brutus, knocked over the fish bowl, which broke and spilled water all over the floor.

Now that you’ve got the hang of it, let’s try one more. On Friday night, a man dies. He’s buried that same night. On Sunday morning, His friends arrive at the grave, only to discover His body is gone. What happened? I think we know.

That question has been debated for centuries. There are some who believe Jesus never really died on the cross, so there was no need for a resurrection. Some believe somehow Jesus didn’t really die while He was on the cross, but when they lowered Him, He regained consciousness, then went off and married Mary Magdalene and they had 3 children. I think their names were Moe, Larry and Curly! Yes, that’s my warped sense of humor! Because I don’t believe that!

I believe Jesus died on the cross, taking the sins of the world upon Him, He became sin even though He was sinless. He offered forgiveness to any who would accept the gift; then through the power of God the Father and the Holy Spirit, Jesus rose from the dead, He came back to life, He was seen by many people, especially the disciples, then ascended to heaven!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!!

But I didn’t always believe that! I didn’t grow up believing in Jesus. But I always appreciated Him, only because we would get 2 weeks off every winter for what people called Christmas Break! I also think my Chanukah presents were better when Christmas was just around the corner. We always got Good Friday off from school, even though it was a mostly Jewish community.

Let me say it again, I didn’t believe in any of this stuff about Jesus. I would have considered myself an agnostic, someone who believed there was a god, but didn’t believe in a God.

I grew up Jewish, but as I look back on my beliefs, here’s the strange thing about my strange way of believing . . .

I took these as facts. No question about it – – –

I believed God created Adam and Eve
I believed there was a Garden of Eden
I believed Noah and the Ark existed
I believed there were the 10 plagues in Egypt
I believed God parted the Red Sea

There were no doubts in my mind that these were true historical events. BUT, if anyone asked me if God could bring someone back from the dead, I would have said, ‘there’s no way God can bring someone back from the dead. That’s too crazy ridiculous.’ But I’m not alone. Other’s believe the same way, in fact, one of Jesus’ disciples was like me and He knew Jesus. Listen to this story . . .

19 On the evening of the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews,

Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you.”

22 And when Jesus had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.

25 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.”

26 Eight days later, Jesus’ 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.”

27 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 be unbelieving, but believe.”

28 Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Jesus said to him, “You have believed because you have seen me.

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Can you imagine it. Ten disciples had seen Jesus, but Thomas was left out in the cold. Don’t you hate it when something happens and you just happened to walk out of the room, or you just left school or work and something major goes down?

Thomas isn’t alone . . . is he? If we were to take a poll, I wonder how many of us would admit that at some point we were walking right along with Thomas, proclaiming “I don’t believe!” Show me! Show me, Jesus, then I’ll believe!”

After all, the disciples were still hiding behind closed doors. If they really experienced Jesus you would think they would have been out proclaiming the good news. Jesus even breathed the Holy Spirit upon them, but there they were, still hiding out. So, if I was Thomas, I might be saying, “Nope, I don’t believe you!”

Maybe I can ask – – – “whoever has not doubted, you can cast that first stone!” I don’t think we’d have many, if any takers.

Sometimes it’s not a matter of faith, it’s a matter of trust. And I’ll talk more about that next week – – – –

There were 2 brothers getting ready to boil some eggs to color for Easter. The older boy told the younger one, “I’ll give you $5 if you let me break 3 of these raw eggs on your head.”

The younger brother’s eyes got big, he asked, “Really!! You promise?”

The older one said, “I promise.”

With great joy and excitement, he broke the 1st egg, then the 2nd egg over his brother’s head.

Then there was a pause. The little boy asked, “where’s the 3rd egg?”

The older brother said, “It’s not happening. If I Broke the 3rd egg . . . it would cost me $5. So, I’m not!” (Don’t try this at home!!)

Have you ever been deceived? Have you ever had your trust in someone, in an institution, even in the church – – shattered? We struggle with trust – – don’t we?

There’s still lots of people who won’t eat at Chipolte! Who wants to fly United?

At times – – – it can be so difficult to trust – – – but we can have assurance – – belief – – and trust in our Heavenly Father.

Maybe you’re just like Thomas and you’re from the “Show Me State.” You struggle to believe in what you cannot see. You want to see and only if you see then you can really believe.

I was that way, I put God to the test. I demanded for God to show me He was real, then I’d believe. I challenged God to answer my prayer, and only if He did, then I would believe. I was a doubter. Sometimes, I’m still that way.

I was just starting to believe Jesus was real. But I had some serious doubts about a guy rising from the dead. I was taught Jesus was not real! I had a herniated disc. I had been in the hospital in my early 20’s for 9 days laying in traction. My back hurt so bad I couldn’t sit to eat. I had to lay down to eat.

After getting out of the hospital, and taking Physical therapy my back was a little better, but at times I would over do it playing sports. Not to different than nowadays.

As I was reading about Jesus and learning more about who He was – – I prayed a simple prayer, “Lord, heal my back, touch my back and restore it to health and I will believe in you and never doubt you.”

Have you ever prayed a prayer like that! God do this, then I’ll believe! Really, I will, just do what I want you to do! Well, that was about 32 years ago. Almost a whole lifetime. I think God chuckled, in a nice way at my request, because God knew what was going to happen in my life. God knew I was going to say YES to Jesus, in spite of my back. It was never healed! I still have back issues, I’ve just learned to live with it.

I challenged God — “God I doubt! I will only believe if you heal me!” God said, “Michael you will believe and I’m not going to heal your back!”

You see, fortunately for Thomas and for us, John continued the story. Thomas received his answer. His doubt would be removed forever.

Jesus suddenly appears in the room with all the disciples and He moves directly towards Thomas.

Jesus knew what the week must have been like for Thomas, everyone talking about receiving the Holy Spirit, all excited about seeing Jesus. . . But not Thomas.

You know what it’s like to be left out. You know what it’s like to be the last one picked, or to be the one who is the outsider, the only one who doesn’t know the inside jokes and stories?

Just like us, Thomas is that one disciple. Wrestling with his doubts . . . Could it have really happened? Are they serious?! NO WAY!! Wait, maybe I’m being pranked! The only disciple who had to go by the word of others. Until Jesus came back . . .

Jesus walks over to Thomas with a smile, with grace, mercy, love, encouragement, power and strength. “Here you go Thomas! Here’s my hands, here’s my side, go ahead, Thomas – – touch me.

PAUSE

Ah, Thomas, isn’t that great!? It’s me, Jesus! I AM who I said I AM!!”

Thomas gets it. Thomas can do nothing more than I imagine get this great big smile and shout out . . .
“My Lord and My God.”

Like Thomas, there are times we will be challenged. There are times we will doubt. Yet, in the midst of our doubting, our uncertainty, God will meet you right where you are. As we search, as we ask, as we question . . . God hears those prayers, He hears those cries, those whispers and He reminds us – – –

ASK! SEEK! KNOCK!!

7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. – Matthew 7:7

This is God’s promise to you and I.

Can you picture yourself in that room, the door is locked, you’re wondering, doubting, you’re wanting to believe, you’re really not sure what or who you believe in.

Where do you sit?

Do you sit with Thomas – – filled with uncertainty, yet seeking?

Do you sit with the others – – still excited from the week before?

Maybe you’re still on the fence – – neither excited nor doubting.

Now picture Jesus as He approaches you – – only you – – –
It’s you and Jesus. And He invites you to see the holes, to touch Him.

And before you know it – – you proclaim

My Lord – – – – and – – – – my God.

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. – John 20:29

Thomas Jefferson Bible ends this way . . . (Read from the Jefferson Bible)

Where’s our hope? If the story ends with the stone over the tomb, no risen Jesus, where’s our hope! There is no hope. But when we know Jesus has defeated death, it gives us hope, strength and power to continue living life, even in the midst of death.

As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 ~
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

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