John 20:24-29

Sermon preached on April 4, 2010 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

I had a relative who once told me that he didn't believe that man had landed on the moon. He thought it was all a NASA conspiracy. I was incredulous because he was an intelligent guy. I asked him how he could not believe it. He explained some of the reasons for refusing to believe it, like in some of the pictures supposedly taken on the surface of the moon the shadows appear to be wrong, that there's no stars in the sky, that there was something fishy about the way the U.S. flag was hanging in one of the pictures. He told me that it was all an elaborate fake, and that the moon walk pictures were really taken in some studio on earth and that the U.S. never landed on the moon at all.

I was incredulous that he didn't believe it. I thought to myself, "This is nuts."

On of my distant cousins told me of a similar experience that he had. He has lived in Toronto for many years but was originally from the Ukraine. In the late 1980's he invited one of our relatives, Gregory, from the Ukraine to come and visit him. I believe Gregory worked as a chauffeur for one of the Communist Party officials in the Ukraine. When Gregory arrived in Toronto my cousin was showing him around and as they drove by various car dealerships Gregory asked what all the cars were for. My cousin told him that they were cars that were for sale. Gregory told him that he didn't believe him. He thought he was lying. At that time there was something like a five year wait for a car in Russia. So as they drove by the various car dealerships with each of them with hundreds of cars for sale, Gregory refused to believe that there were so many cars available to buy in Canada. He told my cousin who was showing him around that it couldn't be so, that it was all fake, an elaborate charade designed to fool him. My cousin laughed and said to him,

"You think they put all these cars there just to fool you?"

Not long after the 40th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination I read a poll that said that only 25 per cent of the American public thought that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when he killed President Kennedy. Sixty-six percent thought it was part of a larger conspiracy. Seventy-four percent thought that there was some sort of a cover-up by the government. Recent polls have shown that more than a third of Americans believe that our government either assisted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks or took no action to prevent them so that they would have an excuse to go to war in the Persian Gulf region. I've even heard that something like 7 to 10% of people believe that Elvis is still alive. I think that number is way too high as I don't think that too many people really believe that Elvis is living. I suspect that a great percentage of people who said they believed he was alive were just joking.

But in all of those examples I've cited, I have some doubt about the foundation on which these people based their belief. If anyone seriously believed that Elvis was still alive, many people would consider them a kook. I think the same could be said about those who doubt that the U.S. landed men on the moon.

Unfortunately, in our society, many people place Christians in that group. They believe that Christians have no solid basis for their faith and that the faith of Christians is basically irrational. To them Christians are people who are deluded and who are foolish to believe like they do.

But nothing could be further from the truth. If there is one thing that Thomas' example teaches us it is that

Thomas should have believed even though he had not seen the risen Jesus.

Thomas refused to believe when the others told him that they had seen Jesus. He said,

"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."

This passage is about 'Doubting Thomas'. That's what he became known as as a result of this incident. It's not a complimentary title. Thomas was a doubter. John Calvin says of Thomas,

"He was not merely slow and reluctant to believe. He was downright obstinate… Thomas' stupidity was astonishing and monstrous."

Thomas' behavior reminds us of the two disciples Jesus met on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection. When Jesus met them their faces were downcast. (Luke 24:17) When Jesus asked them what they were discussing, they said they were talking about Jesus of Nazareth and that He, (verses 19f)

"He was a prophet,
powerful in word and deed
before God and all the people.
The chief priests and our rulers
handed him over to be sentenced to death,
and they crucified him;
but we had hoped that he was the one
who was going to redeem Israel.
And what is more,
it is the third day since all this took place.
In addition, some of our women amazed us.
They went to the tomb early this morning
but didn't find his body.
They came and told us that
they had seen a vision of angels,
who said he was alive.
Then some of our companions went to the tomb
and found it just as the women had said,
but him they did not see."

When Jesus heard their words, their words of doubt, of disappointment, of disillusionment—He rebuked them sharply. Jesus said to them, (Luke 24:25–27)

"How foolish you are,
and how slow of heart to believe
all that the prophets have spoken!
Did not the Christ have to suffer
these things and then enter his glory?
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets,
he explained to them what was said
in all the Scriptures concerning himself."

Jesus said they were foolish not to believe what the prophets had written. He said they were slow of heart.

Thomas was the same way. Although Jesus was more gentle with him—He did rebuke him for his unbelief. In verse 27 He said to Thomas,

"Stop doubting and believe."

Jesus considered Thomas' unbelief to be blameworthy and culpable. Thomas and the two on the road to Emmaus should have believed. Their unbelief was wrong and unreasonable.

Now, why would this be? The answer is simple.

Faith is based on the truth.

The biblical faith that we are called on to have is not an irrational commitment to something for which there is strong evidence to the contrary. That's what the world would have people believe about Christianity. They will tell you that it's blind conjecture.

But that's not true. Biblical faith is based on knowledge. Indeed, John Murray tells us that the connection between faith and knowledge is so strong that he actually says, (Redemption, Accomplished and Applied, p. 110)

"Faith is knowledge…"

Of course he is not confusing the two. He recognizes that it is one thing to know and another thing to believe and tells us that sometimes we have to distinguish between faith and knowledge and place them in contrast to each other. But the point that he makes is that,

"there is a knowledge that is indispensable to faith."

What we should understand is that Christian faith, in its various manifestations, whether faith in Christ or faith in the truth of God's Word—is that this faith is based on truth. The apostle Paul tells us about this in 1 Corinthians 15:3–8. He wrote,

"For what I received I passed on to you
as of first importance:
that Christ died for our sins
according to the Scriptures,
that he was buried,
that he was raised on the third day
according to the Scriptures,
and that he appeared to Peter,
and then to the Twelve.
After that, he appeared to more than
five hundred of the brothers at the same time,
most of whom are still living,
though some have fallen asleep.
Then he appeared to James,
then to all the apostles,
and last of all he appeared to me also,
as to one abnormally born."

Paul presents these things as facts. He then goes on to talk about how some people said that there was no resurrection from the dead. Paul wrote, (1 Corinthians 15:16–19)

"For if the dead are not raised,
then Christ has not been raised either.
And if Christ has not been raised,
your faith is futile;
you are still in your sins.
Then those also who have
fallen asleep in Christ are lost.
If only for this life we have hope in Christ,
we are to be pitied more than all men."

There is a very strong relationship, indeed, an indispensable relationship between biblical faith and truth. The reason that biblical faith is so reasonable, so good, so wonderful is because it is based on truth.

In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul continued, (verse 20)

"But Christ has indeed been raised
from the dead,
the firstfruits of those
who have fallen asleep."

Paul went on to encourage people to believe, to have faith and it was all based on the fact that Jesus had indeed been raised from the dead. The key to it all was the truth. If Jesus has been raised from the dead and you don't believe it, you're being very foolish. You're not acting in accord with the facts. In the same way, if Jesus has not been raised from the dead and you believe that he did—your faith is nonsense. The truth settles the whole matter.

J. Gresham Machen writes about how knowledge is integral to faith, (Faith, p. 230)

"At the present time it is the fashion to ignore this aspect of faith: indeed faith and knowledge… are often divorced; they are treated as though they belonged to two entirely different spheres, and could therefore never by any chance come into relation or into contradiction… true faith… is always based upon knowledge."

Biblical faith is most rational. It is based on facts, on historical occurrences, on the Holy Scriptures, on the truthfulness of God. God is true. He cannot lie. Since the Garden of Eden God revealed that He would send a Redeemer. Over many centuries many prophets testified to Him and His work and told what He would be like and what He would do. When Jesus came He fulfilled all the prophecies concerning the Messiah. At the end of His earthly ministry He appeared to many people and showed them that He was alive. Yet when some of those people told Thomas, he refused to believe. In one fell swoop he was dismissing thousands of years of prophetic teaching. In one fell swoop he was dismissing three years of wonderful teaching by Jesus. In one fell swoop he was dismissing all the miracles that Jesus performed. In one fell swoop he was dismissing the many predictions that Jesus Himself had issued regarding how He would be put to death in Jerusalem and rise the third day. Thomas was being most irrational. His doubt was not in accord with the facts.

There are some important lessons for us here.

The first one has to do with the state of our hearts.

Thomas' doubt shows us the sad state of the human heart. Unbelief is bound up in it.

What Jesus said to the two on the road to Emmaus is true of us all.

"How foolish you are,
and how slow of heart to believe
all that the prophets have spoken!"

Thomas demanded tactual proof before he would believe. He stated that he would not believe unless he saw the nailmarks and put his fingers in them and put his hand into his side. For Thomas, even seeing Jesus would not have been enough. He had to put his fingers in the holes. Leon Morris says, (John, p. 852)

"No skepticism could be more thoroughgoing than this."

This was a skeptic of the first degree. He did not believe and he would not unless certain outlandish conditions were met.

The lesson for us here is that

we need to put a bridle on our intellectual pride and humble ourselves under the truth of the Word of God.

If you give your sinful mind (the mind that loves darkness rather than light) free reign, it will do everything it can to suppress the truth of God. You who are Christians need to remember that the fall into sin has affected our minds as well as every other part of our being. As the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:6,

"The mind of sinful man is death,
but the mind controlled by the Spirit
is life and peace;"

The mind of sinful man is death. Your mind needs to be renewed by the Spirit. As Paul wrote in Romans 12:2,

"Do not conform any longer
to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed
by the renewing of your mind."

As David said in Psalm 131,

"My heart is not proud, O Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore."

Put a bridle on your sinful mind and where it would lead you. If you don't it will lead you to death.

The second lesson for us here is that

we ought to be in awe at Jesus' mercy to Thomas, in His mercy to us.

Jesus had died for His disciples, for His people. These are all unworthy people. Before He was arrested they couldn't even watch with Him for one hour. He was in agony facing the cross and they slept. After He was arrested they all deserted Him. Peter denied Him three times. And now, after all His suffering, after Him experiencing the great and agonizing horrors of death—Thomas makes a statement like this—that he would not believe unless he puts his fingers in the nailmarks.

Yet how does Jesus react to that? Does he tell Peter to rebuke him and have him fall dead in front of them all like later happened to Ananias and Sapphira? No. When He appears to them again He calmly invites Thomas to put his fingers in the nail holes and his hand in His side.

What love Jesus has for sinners. Jesus changed Thomas' doubt into belief. As Thomas said, only He could do it. And He did.

For those of you who are not Christians this means that

you need to ask God to get rid of your doubts, to get you see the truth of God's Word and the glory of Jesus Christ.

Perhaps you're waiting for me to do that and so far you're thinking,

"I'm not convinced. You've got to do better than that."

But the problem is that even if I were to do much better, it would never be enough. As it was with Thomas, so it is with you. Only God's intervention can save you. Left to yourself, you'll never be convinced, you'll never believe the truth. As 1 Corinthians 2:14 says,

"The man without the Spirit
does not accept the things
that come from the Spirit of God,
for they are foolishness to him,
and he cannot understand them,
because they are spiritually discerned."

John Murray, (Works, Vol. 2, p. 243)

"if faith in the Word of God is to be induced, there must be the interposition of another supernatural factor, a supernatural factor not for the purpose of supplying any deficiency that inheres in the Scripture as the Word of God, but a supernatural factor directed to our need. Its whole purpose is to remedy that which our depravity has rendered impossible, namely, the appropriate response to the Word of God."

Murray is referring to the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit. Nothing less will convince sinners. You need to have faith and that only comes from God. As Paul wrote to Christians in Ephesians 2:8,

"For it is by grace you have been saved,
through faith—
and this not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God…"

You need to ask God to give you faith, to enable you to believe in Jesus. Do that today. Do that or you'll be lost.

John Calvin says of the faith that you need to have.

"Paul contrasts it with sight (II Corinthians 5:7), meaning that it does not stick at considering the state of present things, not look around at what appears in the world, but depends on the mouth of God, and, relying on his Word, rises above the whole world to fix its anchor in heaven."

May God give us all grace to do so.