The Second Sunday of Easter
[John 20:24-29] 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.”
Seeing, Not Seeing
“I only believe what I can see!” On the other hand, the Lord taught us that if men and women will not believe Holy Scripture then “neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” [Luke 16:31]. One who doesn’t believe won’t believe even if he or she does see. Many who saw Christ didn’t believe Him. When man saw God with his own two eyes, he crucified Him.
Yet, the man or woman who does believe, believes even without seeing. Faith in Jesus Christ is more certain even than what we see.
Today we read, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
It’s not that our Lord has anything against seeing. In the forty days from His resurrection to His ascension, our risen Lord provided an abundance of seeing. Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene outside the tomb. Jesus appeared to ten of the eleven remaining disciples in the upper room on Easter evening. And He showed them His pierced hands and side to be seen by them, just as Thomas also wanted to see.
After this, Jesus appeared to many more. Eye witnesses. The Apostle Paul writes, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas” - to Peter individually at some point - then to the twelve (the remaining twelve) —
— “Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive” - more than five hundred eyewitnesses, most of whom were still alive when the New Testament scriptures were written; which means they could have disputed any inaccuracies, if there were any, and could verify the accuracy - “though some have fallen asleep.” “Then he appeared to James” - James, the brother of the Lord - “then to all the apostles - beyond the twelve - Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me (to Paul on the road to Damascus).” [1 Corinthians 15:3-8]
Christ is not opposed to seeing and believing Him. He provided an abundance of opportunity for seeing after His resurrection. His ascension was witnessed too [Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:9-10]. And we will all see His return, all at once [Matthew 24:27,30-31; Acts 1:11].
What about Thomas? To Thomas’ great credit, he knew exactly what to look for - what to see - in Jesus. “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…”
Thomas knew that Jesus, the real Jesus, is the Lord and God crucified for him. “If it’s Him, He’ll still have those marks of the crucifixion in His flesh. That’s who He is for me - the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for His lamb. If it’s the Lord, let me see the nail marks!”
Jesus keeps the nail marks and spear mark in His resurrected flesh - not because He’s still suffering; “It is finished!” - but because that’s who He is for you, forever, never to die again.
Thomas only desires to see the very thing the rest of the disciples saw with their eyes - “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”[John 20:19-20].
The Lord does not hesitate to show 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 sees and makes the great confession of faith, “My Lord and my God!”
It would be tempting for those Christians who were yet to come - those Christians who would be born after Christ’s ascension to think, “We’re not blessed like the apostles in their time. They got to see! We do not.”
And Jesus once said to the Apostles, “blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it” [Matthew 13:16-17].
Nevertheless, your Lord and God, whose ways are not human ways, has made you and your time of not seeing as blessed as theirs: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Though you do not now see, you are greatly blessed to know the Lord. You know Him only because He has made Himself known to you. Only He could have done it. “Blessed are you… For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” [Matthew 16:17]. “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children.”[Matthew 11:25]
The wise and understanding who only believe what they see will not see or believe the one thing needed. But “those who are being saved” [1 Corinthians 1:18] believe in Jesus Christ whom they have not seen: “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.” [1 Peter 1:8]
You are justified - forgiven, counted righteous, made right with God - by faith in Jesus Christ - “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe”[Romans 3:22]. This faith is “the conviction of things not seen” [Hebrews 11:1]. Even the disciples who saw Jesus still had to believe who He is, which is unseen.
In fact, those who only believe what they can see are refusing to believe what they do see. For, “what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made” “So they are without excuse.” [Romans 1:19-20]
Enough can be known about God by what we see that man, woman, and child are without excuse. Salvation is by God’s grace - His unearned love - through faith in Jesus Christ: “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”; But, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” [Romans 3:22-23; Romans 10:9-10]
Believe in Jesus Christ. Don’t treat your senses and reason as the highest of all powers, since you know they can fail - and, in the end, they always do fail in each of us. Clearly there is something more.
Faith in Christ is the work of God’s Holy Spirit, at work in you through God’s Word [Romans 10:17]. It is a stronger and more sure and certain knowledge than the things you can figure out for yourself. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
Thomas is ‘Believing Thomas’. And Jesus is calling you who do not see to also believe.
You see many things which are no good and which trouble or burden you. You see many things which you love but which will fail or come to an end. Believe in Jesus Christ whom you have not seen but who alone has died for you and is now risen for you to never die again. Amen.