Sunday, April 04, 2010

[Matt's Messages] Resurrection Sunday "Missouri Thomas"

“Missouri Thomas”
April 4, 2010
John 20:24-31

John 20 is that great chapter that recounts the story of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
At the start of the chapter, Mary Magdalene finds Jesus’ tomb empty and is worried that his grave has been robbed.  She tells Peter and John, and they run to the tomb and find it empty, as well. John begins to understand and to believe, but Peter is puzzled.

Then Jesus appears to Mary, and she tells all of the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!”

And then Jesus appears to all of the disciples on that first Resurrection Sunday, shows them His hands and side, and they are overjoyed.

But there was one of Jesus’ disciples who wasn’t there that first Resurrection Sunday.

We don’t know where he was, but he wasn’t there when Jesus appeared to the rest of the disciples.

And because he wasn’t there, it was very hard for him to believe.

What was his name?

Thomas, right?

We often call him, “Doubting Thomas,” right?

 When I was boy, we liked to play a game in the car on vacation where we spotted license plates from all the different states.

Did you ever play that game?

I wanted to turn pro at the license plate game!

I loved to recognize a licence plate from half a mile away and rack up the points ahead of my family!

It was very competitive.  In fact, I don’t think I saw very many of the sights on our vacations, I was too busy trying to rack up the points at the licence plate game.

Grand Canyon?  No, I must have missed that.  But a saw an Alaska license plate!

Playing that game, we got to know license plates pretty well.

And each state’s plate had its own motto.

I was from the humble state of Ohio whose motto was, “Ohio - the Heart of It All!”  Very humble weren’t we?!

I always loved Pennsylvania’s.  I didn’t know that I was going to grow up to be Pennsylvanian, but I loved the PA license plate.

Both the keystone shape and the motto, “You’ve got a friend in Pennsylvania,” right?!

Okay, here’s a test for you.  What was the motto of the state of Missouri on their license plate?

What state are they?

The “Show Me State.”

Now, I always thought that meant, “Show me all the wonderful things in Missouri.  All the great things to see.”

But it turns out, I later found, to mean, “I'm from Missouri, and I won't believe I thing you tell me until I see it with my own eyes!”  I guess they're famous for the attitude, “seeing is believing.”

I think that Thomas could have been from Missouri.  Today, we’re going to call him, “Missouri Thomas.”

Because the other disciples tried to explain to Thomas that Jesus is alive, but he didn’t believe it.  He doubted.  He chose, in fact, to not believe unless he was given first-hand evidence.

“Show me!” his license plate says.  Missouri Thomas.  Let’s read verses 24 and 25.

“Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘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.’”

Now, let’s not be too hard on Missouri Thomas.

I mean, do you think that you or I would have done better?

Thomas was a very brave disciple.  In John chapter 11, Thomas is the one who encourages the other disciples to follow Jesus into danger–being willing to die with him.  Thomas didn’t keep that promise and go with Jesus into death, but neither did any of the other disciples, including Peter who had said that he would die with Jesus.

Thomas had just seen Jesus be betrayed, arrested, beaten, tortured, ridiculed, and killed.

Jesus was dead and buried.  Jesus was a corpse.

Pardon me for not believing that He is alive!

It was easier for the other disciples to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead–they saw him with their own eyes.

So Missouri Thomas says, “Show me.” v.25

‘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.’”

Now, I love this next part of the story...

Jesus is alive, and He knows what Thomas has said.

And in grace and love, He brings the proof that Thomas had required.

He didn’t have to, but He does.  V.26

“A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them [this time]. Though 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; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’”


Jesus is alive.  Death could not hold him.  Doors could not keep him away.  And he appears to the disciples with peace on his lips and to Thomas with an amazing invitation.

“‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Jesus knew exactly what Thomas had said, and now he lovingly holds out his hand to Thomas and invites him to believe.

No, it’s more than that, isn’t it?

He demands that Thomas believe.

Thomas demanded proof.  Jesus demands faith.


Jesus insists on faith.  “Stop doubting and believe.”  I like how the NASB translates this “Be not unbelieving but believing!”  Here's your proof Thomas, now believe!

Jesus loves us, but he demands our faith.  He loves us and He does not allow us room to half-way believe, to disbelieve in Him, to not trust Him.  He demands faith of all his followers.

And He is still inviting skeptics to consider his claims.

You might have been dragged here against your will.

Resurrection Sunday is one of those Sundays when people get drug off to church whether they feel like it or not.

If you are here and you’re skeptical about the whole thing, I understand.

I’ve been there, too.

I’ve struggled many times with questions about the reality of the resurrection.

If you’re in that boat, let me recommend to you 2 books that have been really helpful to me. 

This one is called “The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus” by Lee Strobel. And this one is called “The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism” by Tim Keller.

This one has sold over 2 million copies.  This one was in the top 10 of the New York Times bestseller list.  Both have been very helpful to me.

And to my friends.  I’ve got friends right here in this room that went from skeptics to believers because they read these books and worked through the evidence for themselves.

There is evidence that demands a verdict.  Jesus will accept no middle ground.  He demands our faith.  “Stop doubting and believe!”

Now, that might be a process for of us.  For many, many years (even after I had gone to Moody), I struggled with believing in the resurrection.  But Jesus would not accept my unbelief.  He brought me again and again to consider the evidence for the reality of his resurrection and insisted that I stop doubting and believe.  And he does the same with you today. 

I challenge you, if you do not believe, to read one of those books this week.  Because the Risen Jesus is demanding your faith.  “Stop doubting and believe!”

Because Jesus is really alive.


This is real.  This really happened.  Jesus said, “See my hands.  Reach out your hand and put into my side.”

Can you imagine?

It’s as real as if one of us went up and down the rows today showing each other our scars.  They were real.  Thomas could have done.

He could have reached out and touched the nail scars.

“Stop doubting and believe.”

Missouri Thomas stopped doubting immediately.  And he uttered the fullest expression of the worship of Christ that anyone had ever said up till that point.  v.28

“Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’”

And Missouri Thomas wasn’t swearing!

He was worshiping.

“My Lord and my God!”

Thomas was proclaiming his faith in Jesus.

He was proclaiming his worship of Jesus!

He understood what was happening now.

This Jesus is none other than the Lord.  None other than God Himself.

And He deserves total worship.  In my mind's eye, I see him falling on his face before Jesus.  Not even bothering to touch his hands or torso.  Just falling down in worship of the Risen Jesus.  “My Lord and My God!”

Notice those personal pronouns.  My Lord and My God.

He’s not saying that He isn’t the Universal Lord and God of all things.

But it’s personal.  He belongs to Jesus and Jesus belongs to Him.

My Lord and My God.

He worshiped Him as truly as you and I have come this morning to worship Jesus!

We aren’t here to memorialize a great and dead saint.  Saint Jesus.

No, no. We’re here to worship the risen, living Savior–Our Lord and Our God.

Notice what Jesus does NOT do here.  He doesn't say, “O no, Tom, don't worship me.  I'm not God.  I'm not your Lord.  Don't bow like that.”

NO!  He receives his worship.

Jesus allows Thomas to ascribe deity to Him, to recognize him as his Lord and his GOD!  The Risen Jesus receives total worship from Missouri Thomas.

And He wants our total worship today.

He not only demands faith from us but he receives our worship.

That’s why we’re here today.

Not just to worship some generic creator God.  But to worship the God/Man Jesus Christ!  We are Christians!  We worship the Lord Jesus, God Jesus!

We say, with all of our hearts and all of our minds and all our souls and with all of our money and with all of our strength, “Jesus!  Our  Lord and Our God!”

Stop doubting and believe.

And worship Christ the Risen King!

Now, notice what Jesus says next.

Jesus has been gracious enough to show himself to Thomas like Thomas had demanded.

But now He needs to gently rebuke Thomas and promise you and me a greater blessing.  V.29

“Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”


“Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”

Who is He talking about?

He’s talking about you and me.

We haven’t seen, yet we believe.

There is a special blessing for people like you and me.

You might get the idea that the most blessed people in the world are those who have seen Jesus and believed like the apostles and Thomas and eventually Paul.

But that's not what Jesus says!  Jesus says that there is a blessing (a special gift of God's grace) to those who believe without seeing him yet! 

And that’s you and me.  We have not seen Jesus yet except with the eyes of faith.  We know that He lives, but our eyes have not beheld His risen body, yet. 

We are waiting, waiting for that. 

Think about that for a second, the disciples didn't have something (a blessing) that you and I can have by putting our faith in Jesus!

Jesus is promising us a special blessing because our faith has not yet become sight.

Missouri faith is not as good and blessed as faith without sight.  Missouri faith says “seeing is believing.”  Jesus says, “believing without seeing is blessing.”  We walk, Paul said, by faith and not by sight.  Not yet. 

Peter, years later, reflected on this in his first letter, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are (blessed!) filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9).

Someday we will see him.  1 John 3 promises, “...we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”  But not yet.  Till then we hope and trust and obey and wait–and are blessed.

Missouri faith is not as good and blessed as faith without sight.  And that is a wonderful promise for you and me.  If you and I believe in Jesus then we will receive this extra blessing, this extra gift of God's grace that Jesus promises.

And John goes on to call it LIFE.  Look at verses 30 and 31.

“Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”


Start believing and be blessed with LIFE.

Abundant life.
Life to full.
Eternal life.
Forever life.

Blessed life.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of death.

I’m tired of my loved ones dying.

My last grandparent died in January.  Heather’s grandpa Lundeen died this week.

He was 91 and a half and knew the Lord.  So, death was great for him.  He got to go be with Jesus.

But that doesn’t make death good.  Death is an enemy.

It’s a part of the curse on this world.

Death is not the way things should be.

I’m tired of the sentence of death hanging over my life and life of all of those I love.

And I’m waiting for death to die.

You know that death will die one day, right?

Death is going to be thrown into the lake of fire, the second death.

Death is going to come to an end.

We know that Jesus has conquered death and brought life.

He brings life to all who believe in Him.  V.31

“These [things] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have LIFE in His name.”


Jesus has conquered death.

Stop doubting and believe.

If you are here today and not yet a believer, I urge you to turn from your sins and put your trust in the Savior, Jesus Christ who died for your sins to bring you to God.

Stop doubting and believe.

And start believing and be blessed.  Blessed with LIFE!

Worshiping Jesus our Lord and our God.