When We Have Conditional Faith

John 20:24-31

[24] Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, 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, 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.” [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 disbelieve, but believe.” [28] Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” [29] Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” [30] Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; [31] 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.

Many People had tried reaching the summit of Mount Everest. They tried, they never made it. Then in the 1950’s, Edmund Hillary became the first man recorded to have climbed to the summit of Mount Everest. Many had tried, and they all failed. Climbing the tallest mountain on earth is no easy feat, years of training and planning goes into it. While climbing, the explorers would use sherpas, local people who were acclimatized to the environment. Studies have been done that show that sherpas actually are able to function on less oxygen than the average person. They would actually have a hard time breathing at sea level.

While making their way up the mountain the sherpas would share, as a good guide, information about the area. Pointing out features in the rock and information about the flora and fauna. At one point, one of the sherpas pointed to a mangled, brown tuft of hair on a rock. He claimed it was from a yeti. The abominable snowman. Edmund Hillary could not believe it. He wanted to study these hairs and find the truth. It could not possibly be true. He would, years later, trying to find the truth lead a team that went through the Himalayas trying to discover the truth. Do yetis, exist? They never found any hard evidence. 

The reason he put in that effort to find out was that he would only believe it if he saw it with his own eyes. “I’ll believe it when I see it” Was his attitude.

What would go through his mind then, if that unbelievable thing came true? How would it change Him? 

It probably would change his whole life, the way he thought, how he acted. He would probably want to tell others about what he just experienced. He would be awestruck and full of wonder.

That is exactly what happened to Thomas in our text this morning, was experiencing. He hears something so unbelievable that he could only believe it until he saw it. But unlike Edmund Hillary’s search for the Yeti, the unbelievable thing to be true for Thomas and his whole life is changed. 

Walkthrough

Our text picks up right where we left off last week on that first Easter Sunday. The disciples are still gathered in the room where they met Jesus. Jesus had now left and just the disciples were in the room. We don’t know who was present in the room that evening. Was it just the apostles? Was Mary there? Where there more? We don’t know. We can say for certain that at least three people were not there. Jesus. Judas, who had already hung himself, and according to our text, and Thomas. If you look at the other appearance of Thomas in John 11 and 14 you will see that Thomas is both loyal and somewhat pessimistic. He is willing to die with Jesus, but when faced with uncertainty he is full of questions. 

The disciples would have certainly been excited! They just saw and experienced their savior, they were being sent out to share in Christ’s ministry, they have a new identity in him! But Thomas missed this encounter. So the disciples filled him in on what happened. Yet in Thomas’ pessimism, he doesn’t believe. He has doubts, he has reservations. He puts a condition on his belief. He says basically that “if I see the wounds, Then I will believe.” He gives his faith a condition. His doubting led to putting a condition on his belief.

How often, when we have doubts and reservations about everything we see in the bible, or hear at church do we say just as Thomas did “If this is satisfied, then I will believe what I hear” we have questions like “Is it worth it?” “Can’t I find happiness and purpose in other places?” “Won’t I just be stuck in some sort of archaic type of thinking?” “Isn’t Christianity exclusive? We live in a world all about inclusivity?” “Will I lose my friends?” 

We often have these doubts and only if those doubts can be satisfied will we decide to believe in scripture, only then will we put our faith in God. 

What we see in our text this morning, and what we will see when we too encounter the true Jesus, is that Jesus is the solution to our doubts. He speaks into our deepest fears and we are fully satisfied in him. IN Christ we truly experience God as “Jehovah Jireh” our provider. 

The next Sunday Thomas is with the gathered disciples again. This time Jesus appears and speaks directly to Thomas. Speaking into his doubts.  Jesus is saying “See for yourself” Jesus shows Thomas that his deepest doubts, desires, and reservations hold no power of Him. That when Thomas sees and experiences Christ, nothing holds him back. 

When we experience Christ. When we see what he has done, how he lived his life. How he shows love and patience towards us, all our fears, doubts, and reservations no longer need to take hold of us. 

Thomas drops his conditions and finds himself fully satisfied in Christ. He surrenders to God and starts believing in him. He listens to Jesus’ call to “do not disbelieve, but believe.” 

When we encounter Jesus when we hear the gospel. The question posed before us is, “Am I going to believe? Do I actually think that what Jesus did is true?” There are only two answers. To Believe or not. 

My prayer is that all who hear this respond just as Thomas did In verse 28. “ My Lord and my God” Thomas was overcome with awe and reverence. When he saw Jesus and saw the reality of the resurrection. He knew that all that he had heard from this teacher was true. That Jesus was God, in the flesh, come to the earth so that we may know him. Thomas was fully satisfied in Christ. His doubts and reservations no longer took precedence in his life. But he believed in Jesus. 

So What

This passage is the climax of John’s Gospel. John had just spent everything leading up to the resurrection of Jesus letting us know who Jesus is and what he had done. The resurrection seals the truth of all of that. Because Jesus resurrected, we know that what he said is true and who he claimed to be is true. That is John’s purpose for this book, which he records in verses 30 and 31. John wrote so that we may believe in Jesus and find life in him.

Thomas is an example of just that. He didn’t believe. He couldn’t believe, he had doubts and reservations, like many of us. But when Thomas saw Jesus and realized that everything he said was true he set aside his doubts and conditions and trusted in Jesus. 

We have spent the whole school year so far looking at the Gospel of John, painting a picture of who he is and what he has done. So the question posed before us, before you and I is this. “Will you believe that Jesus is who he said he is?”

If you have been walking with the Lord for hours, weeks, years or you just now by the power of the Holy Spirit are having your eyes opened to the truth of Jesus we can be encouraged to live our lives in light of our union, our identity, in Christ.

First, we can listen and learn from the early disciples. These 11 guys wrote down what Jesus taught, they were there, they were eye witness accounts to the events we have studied. We can listen to their words. Just as they told Thomas, “WE have seen the Lord” we can know they have seen Jesus and recorded the truth of who he is. WE learn what they learned and saw by reading the Bible. John 5 lets us know that all scripture points us to Jesus. So whether you are just now following Jesus or have been following him for years, listen and hear what those early disciples had to say and get into the word and find out who Jesus is.

Second, Be reminded of Christ’s patience. Jesus, when Thomas came with his doubts, did not scold him or tell him how dumb he was. He patiently said “look and see for yourself” Even more than our doubts, Jesus, recognizing all of our sins, still came and lived and died, so that we can be united with him and have salvation in him. 

Thirdly, Look at Jesus’ wounds. His wounds reveal the truth that he actually lived, he was fully man, yet he conquered death. His wounds show that he was truly resurrected. His wounds are a reminder of the truthfulness of our savior.

Fourth, Drop your conditions. Thomas had conditions for his belief. Yet Jesus says in verse 29, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Faith in Jesus cannot be based on having our conditions met. Faith is a gift from God. John Calvin puts it this way, Faith is “a firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ.” Our faith is based on Christ, not in having all of our questions answered. 

So lastly, Remember who Christ is. Remember the confession of Thomas “My Lord and My God” He is personal, he is close, he loves us, he lived for us, he died for us. We are united with him. Realize that in Christ you can and will be fully satisfied. That your deepest longings are met in him. You have purpose, communion, you are no longer defined by your sin, but are counted as righteous. Realize that Jesus is not just a magic genie, but we must unconditionally surrender to him

Live in light of that union, realizing that Christ is what truly satisfies, we can let go of our doubts and fears and trust in him.

Closing Prayer (from the Book of Common Prayer

Everliving God, you strengthened your apostle Thomas with firm and certain faith in your Son’s resurrection: Grant us so perfectly and without doubt to believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. 

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