May 22, 2022

Would You Believe?

Passage: John 20:19-31

A small congregation in the foothills of the Great Smoky mountains in Tennessee was in the process of building a new sanctuary on a piece of land willed to them by a church member. Ten days before the new church was to open, the local building inspector informed the pastor that the church was built too close to the mountain behind the church. Unless they took away 40 feet of the mountain they would not be allowed to continue with the building project. The
builder felt miserable that he didn't follow the specifications more closely. The Church Board went to the town council, but were told that no exceptions would be made. The pastor was in his study praying when Jim, an elder came in. He was agitated and said, “I will believe anything when I see it.” Just as he said it, there was a knock at the pastor's door. It was a contractor who greeted him. He said, “Reverend, I'm from the next county and we have a construction where we need a lot of rocks and dirt. I drove by your new building and saw that you have a mountain at the back. If you would allow us to take away 40 to 50 feet of it, we will pave your parking lot and paint the church for you.” The pastor was overjoyed and when
the contractor left, he turned to Jim – “Would you believe now? And not only you, but all those in our midst who doubted whether we will be in our new church on the day we planned.”

This morning we're going to meditate on the event of Jesus approaching the doubting Thomas and how He brought Him to unconditional faith and trust in Him.
Whether you call him by his Aramaic name Thomas or his Greek name Didimus, the meaning of his name is twin. We don’t know from the bible who Thomas’ twin was, we don’t know for sure if he really had a twin. But there is one thing each one of us has to admit – “I
can easily qualify to be Thomas' twin.” You see, we all have our moments when we doubt, those times when we say, “There's nothing that's going to get me out of this situation.” Through the ages many asked the question, “Thomas, how could you have doubted Jesus
after all you have witnessed Him doing? You saw Him doing things that no man before Him could even dream of doing. And now Thomas you question the fact that He really came back from the dead?!” But then, we are in no way different from Thomas. Let’s learn from our

Gospel reading about how Jesus dealt with Thomas’ situation. Then we will get the answers we so desperately need for our own personal lives.
First of all Thomas functioned like many before and after him – he was a 1 Realist. Things had to add up for him – he wanted things to make sense. Even before Jesus’ crucifixion when He told His disciples that He was going to His Father’s house ahead of them
and they knew the way to the Father’s house, “Thomas said: 'Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?'” John 14: 5. You see, it was a human response of Thomas – he was standing with his feet on the ground, when saying that. As
much as Jesus opened the heavens for His disciples with His promise of the Father’s house, Thomas just couldn’t help to think – “Heaven seems like a distant reality to me. I see the oppression of the people God made promises to. I hear their cries and I see their  disappointments.” You and I can relate to the reality of this life. I will never forget the day when a Christian farmer who lost his crops in a hail storm cried in my office. Through tears he said, “I have always followed God's ways, but now I don't know if I have the ability to believe. I don't know what my wife and children will say if they hear me speak this way.” My dear friends, what do you think right at this moment of the whole picture of life? Do you believe with an open heart that everything makes sense? There is one thing we can’t do and that is to be hypocritical in our faith. Hypocritical comes from the Greek word hypocritis and it means that people put on a mask to pretend something. No, we have to be honest in the presence of God. It's only human to admit, “Father I have my feet just like Thomas on the ground when I look at life from my perspective. There are so many fears and influences, so many forces that I have to be realistic.” What a wonderful comfort it is to know that there is
another perspective in life that Thomas couldn’t see at the time – one that you and I quite often don’t see as well. It is God’s perspective. In this story of Thomas, we will learn how it
restored Thomas’ life and ours as well.

There was something else about Thomas – he was a 2 Pessimist. When Jesus told His disciples about going to Bethany to wake Lazarus from his death’s sleep, Thomas responded by saying, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” John 11: 16. He was the one of
the twelve disciples who always saw the half empty glass. And it didn’t help too much that he was absent when Jesus appeared to His disciples the Sunday evening after His resurrection.
To him, seeing was believing. We read in John 20: 25b, “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 it.” With that expression, Thomas represented the human race. We want to
have proof – formulas and science have to give us reason to believe in something. To some Charles Darwin’s Evolution theory, makes more sense than to believe that God brought everything into being.

What was Jesus’ way of dealing with Thomas? A week later when the disciples were gathered, Jesus appeared to them again and then He immediately turned to Thomas. He knew of the agony Thomas went through since the crucifixion. He knew that Thomas didn’t
doubt on purpose. It was something that he just couldn’t conquer by himself. But Jesus first satisfied Thomas’ human perspective. He offered His hands and side to Thomas. This is the proof Thomas! This will convince you once and for all, that “I am the Resurrection and Life.” But another perspective was more important to Jesus. A perspective that would answer any doubt or question for times to come. He told Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20: 29. The faith that we have in God is not based on our theology or dogma where we try to convince people that it is true that God created everything and that He is still in existence. Some people make it their calling in life to go to the Holy land and to locate all the places where Jesus walked and then with what they discovered they base their faith. No, our faith is based on what we believe in our hearts. Jesus reinforced 3 A Believing Heart for
His disciple Thomas. Hebrews 11: 1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” We haven’t ever seen Jesus in person, we haven’t seen Him walking from the tomb, but we have received the peace in our hearts, when He
came into our lives. To us Jesus says, “Do not be concerned about anything happening in the world. I have conquered the fears, the threats and forces of this world. Put your trust in me. Invest in me and I will secure your lives. I will always be the unseen presence in your lives.” In Cologne, Germany one can find a statue of the doubting Thomas sitting down. Behind him is Jesus with hands reaching out to him. Hands that he can’t see, but hands that
are there. The same hands reach out to you and me. Let's believe with our whole hearts – my Risen Lord will take care of me. The same thought He gave Thomas is directed to us,
“...blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” There is nothing we can point to in this life and think, this is my reinforcement, this is my insurance policy. No, in this life there isn't a foundation – our foundation is in heaven where Jesus is busy preparing our places. In this life we are instructed, “Put your trust in me. Believe in God; believe also in me. Would You Believe?” Let's put our unconditional trust in our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ.
Because He conquered death, only He can secure our lives.
Rev. Willem H. van de Wall

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