[John 20:19-31] On the evening of that day, 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.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 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.”
Eight days later, his 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.” 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 disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Faith without Seeing, but Not without Hearing
Our Easter Sunday readings give us the account of what happened on the morning of Christ’s resurrection. Now, on the second Sunday of Easter, we’ve read the testimony of what happened on the evening of the day Christ was raised – and the account of related event eight days later.
If you remember, Christ was raised on a Sunday morning and then did not ascend into heaven until forty days later. Jesus was with His disciples and appeared to upwards of 500 hundred eyewitnesses time and again during those forty days [1 Corinthians 15:6]. Today we hear of Easter evening and of eight days after Easter.
On Easter evening, ten of the remaining eleven disciples were hiding in the upper room afraid. Their resurrected Savior, Jesus, appeared to them and said, “Peace be with you.”
Those ten all got to see. Jesus even showed those ten the mail marks in His hands and the place where the spear pierced His side. Jesus even invited them to feel that He has flesh and bones – that He was truly alive again, a resurrected body, and not a spirit. These ten saw and believed. Thomas is the one out of eleven who was not there.
The other ten disciples reported their testimony to Thomas afterwards, saying, “We have seen the Lord!” Thomas responds to their testimony, “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.”
Eight days later, what happens? Our Savior Jesus has mercy on “doubting Thomas”. Thomas is in the upper room this time. Though the doors are locked, our Risen Lord Jesus appears and stands among the disciples, saying to them again, “Peace be with you”, and then, speaking directly to Thomas, Jesus says to him, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”
Thomas believes. He responds, “My Lord and my God!” And then Jesus responds with that well known response, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
To be fair to Thomas, the other ten disciples all got to see the evidence too. With their own eyes and with their own hands, they beheld the bodily-risen Lord. They all see and believe. In fact, as we already noted, there were more than five-hundred eyewitnesses who saw and believed the Risen Lord Jesus.
It was the Lord’s will to show Himself to these witnesses. It was the Lord’s will to appear to these many who, having seen, believed. Those many saw and believed – and then those many had a testimony to give. They believed in seeing. Many after them would believe in hearing their testimony.
There is now faith without seeing, but there is not faith without hearing. You and I believe by hearing – by hearing the testimony of those eyewitness who had seen. That testimony is recorded for us in the Holy Scriptures. We hear and believe.
You see, when Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”, it may have been less a rebuke of Thomas, and more the case that Jesus was telling Thomas and the others how things would work from now on. They believed by seeing. Those after them would now believe by hearing.
Brothers and sisters, you will one day see the Lord Jesus bodily. “Every knee shall bow” – we will all see the Lord. But now, brothers and sisters, you are saved by faith. And this faith comes by hearing – hearing the Word of God.
So, there is faith without seeing. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” But there will not be faith if we stop hearing. In fact, as we stop hearing the Word of God – as we stop hearing the testimony about our Risen Lord – faith withers away like an unfed plant. Faith comes by hearing.
It is necessary, brothers and sisters, that you hear the Word of God. And that you hear the Word all the more. Not because you get a thumbs-up from God for being good and reading your Bible. No, but instead because the Word is what feeds and sustains faith in Christ.
What’s the danger right now? We have, for a time, now been made Word-poor, if you will. Just as a poor person – or someone temporarily down on their luck – might have to scrounge a little harder to get the food they need, we have been put in a position where you have to try a little harder to get the full portion of the Word of God that you need. Your usual routine of Sunday church has been disrupted. You now have to be a little more deliberate in making sure you get your full portion of God’s Word, lest the devil take advantage of this crisis.
Is the Word of God that important? Yes – you do believe by hearing the Word of God. And you are saved by believing, by faith. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” [Romans 10:17]
And listen to the end of today’s Gospel: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples (they saw a lot), which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you (who have not seen) may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” [John 20:30-31].
Hear what is written, believe, be saved. Brothers and sisters, we may have a long wait until we get to see. So, in the time we have, let’s be diligent in hearing the testimony of God’s Word so that we may hear and believe, and so be saved by faith. Amen.