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John 20:19-31 1
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”  24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus ), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” 26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though 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; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Background

This is a perfect set of Bible verses for the Sunday after Easter. The story in John’s gospel takes place exactly one week after that first Easter Sunday (John 20:26). We have just celebrated an event where Jesus shows us that there is life after death. He even shows us how to find it. Now is the time, after the story that we must come to terms with our own hidden doubts, and decide if our faith is real enough to believe in Easter.

Along comes one of the disciples, Thomas. We have given him the name “Doubting Thomas” and looked down at his weak faith. Yet, the world is filled with “Doubting Thomas’s. It is easier to find skeptics on the Sunday after Easter than it is to find reassured believers. So when we read that Thomas refuses to believe Jesus has come back from the dead because it is just hearsay, we find ourselves in a similar place, a world  demanding  physical proof that Jesus’s story is true.  “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). Yes, and why not? If it’s true, why can’t we have proof? We too want to see. We want to touch. We want to be there to remove all doubt from our faith.

Proof is what everyone prefers. Unfortunately, all of today’s people must come to terms with their time and place in history; we are here now and were not there then! God did not ordain it so that we should “be there” no matter how sincerely and prayerfully we wish it. We live in an age of wonders, of satellites that let us communicate around the world instantly. We have self-driving cars (well almost) and science is on the verge of conquering many diseases. We have science now, right?  However, when it comes to resurrection faith, we cannot see it ourselves,

Instead, God has given us the chance to be blessed. “Blessed are the poor,” said Jesus, and yet the least well off among us are wealthy by any realistic historical or global standard. “Blessed are you who hunger,” and yet we are only hungry when we are dieting. “Blessed are the meek,” and yet we can scarcely avoid pride at all that we have achieved.  It will be through the last beatitude that our best shot at the designation “blessed of God” comes to us. Blessed are they who can’t be absolutely sure. Blessed are they who believe the hearsay. Blessed are the eyes of faith that continue in hope despite the frustrations of this world. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (John 20:29).

However, the most amazing thing about the Apostle Thomas’s encounter with Jesus is that after three years, he finally really gets it! Jesus is more than just the “Son of Man,” or the “Son of God.” Jesus IS God.

Items for Discussion

  • How to you personally remove doubt in your own mind about something?
  • How is science a two-edged sword when it comes to removing doubt?
  • What is the role of the Holy Spirit in our belief system?
  • What is it about wealth (the opposite of POOR) that hinders one’s faith?

 

Revelation 1:4-8
4 John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. 7 “Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen. 8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Background 2

The Apostle John writes “to the seven churches that are in Asia.” Asia refers to the Roman province of that name; today it is western Turkey. Seven is the number of completion. To write to seven churches is to write to all churches. John’s greeting begins in a way similar to Paul’s letter openings: “Grace to you and peace,” and it continues with a three-point formula:

  1. First, the greeting is from “him who is and who was and who is to come,” a statement that echoes Exodus 3:13-14. Thus, the same God who was is also now. God has not retired! This, our God will continue to come.
  2. Second, the greeting is “from the seven spirits who are before his throne” (also in 3:1, 4:5, 5:6). (This is typically explained theologically as the Holy Spirit)
  3. Third, the greeting is from “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” Jesus Christ is further identified in three ways.
    1. Faithful witness”: the Greek word for witness also means martyrs.
    2. Jesus has been resurrected, and so He is the firstborn from the dead.
    3. Jesus is now “the ruler of the kings of the earth,”

The rest of verse 5 and all of verse 6 are a doxology (ascribing glory,) to Christ. Jesus is glorified because:

  • He loves us (the way Revelation is often read the love of God in Christ can easily be lost)
  • He freed or released us from our sins by His blood (in Revelation Jesus is always the slaughtered Lamb who died for us)
  • He made us to be a kingdom and priests (that is, he made believers a kingdom, each member of which is a priest to God; these are ancient privileges of Israel; see Exodus 19:6).

Verse 7 provides the first overarching theme of the book: Jesus will return. The first theme is one we automatically associate with Revelation, and John concludes it with a bilingual double-whammy: “So it is to be” (the Greek word yes), and “Amen” (the Hebrew for let it be so).

Verse 8 gives us the second overarching theme: God is God. Perhaps that is not so obvious a theme, but the constant battle in Revelation is between the true God, the God of Israel, the God of Jesus, and the false gods of this world epitomized in the emperor of Rome. In contrast to the false gods, the Lord, the one again “who is and who was and who is to come,” is the Alpha and the Omega.

Alpha, of course, was the first letter of the Greek alphabet; Omega was the last letter. In a sense, God is before the beginning and after the end.  Moreover, this God is the Almighty, the All-Powerful One. It is a title claimed by the emperor-as are Lord and God. “Here,” writes John, “is God. Beside him there is no other.” So is Jesus, the Son of God, existing before the beginning and after the end.

Items for Discussion

  • Who are the gods attracting people today?
  • And what does the true God say to us about them?

Discussion Challenge

  • How can the Christian Church survive in a “doubting world?”

Notes:

  1. NIV New Internationa Version Translations
  2. http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=561
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