Believing is Seeing

Believing is Seeing

Luke 24:35-43, John 20:24-31

On Easter Sunday, we compared the accounts of Jesus’ Resurrection found in the four books of the Bible known as the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Each of these writers were tasked by God to give an account of the events that have been fulfilled through Jesus Christ, and that’s exactly what they do. In fact, each take a large portion of their writings to talk about what happened in just one week, the last week of Jesus’ life – what we know now as Psalm Sunday through Easter Sunday.

Each writer tells the story in his own unique way, but by comparing their versions to one another, we discover, how that in a world of uncertainty, we can absolutely be sure that the Resurrection is real, that Jesus is alive! As people of faith, we believe not only that the Resurrection happened, but also that it is the central aspect of our Christian conviction. Without it, there would be no Christianity.

Now Jesus’ resurrection was definitely the climax of each of the writer’s accounts, but it was not the end. The writers go on to tell of three things: 1. people witnessing the Risen Christ, seeing Him alive firsthand, 2. Jesus giving the Great Commission to share the good news and make disciples, 3. Jesus’ ascension to Heaven.

And one thing we find out from these writers and from Paul is that within the 40 days from Jesus’ resurrection to His accession to Heaven, He appeared to people at least 10 different times (and that’s just what’s recorded). Luke implies in the book of Acts, that there may have been more times that are not recorded.

  • To Mary Magdalene at the tomb.
  • To the other women as they ran from the tomb to tell the disciples the message they received from the angels.
  • To Peter by himself on the day of the resurrection (Luke 24:34).
  • To the two followers on the road to Emmaus also on the day of the resurrection.
  • To ten of the disciples (Thomas being absent) on the evening of the resurrection day.
  • To the disciples again 8 days later (this time Thomas being present).
  • To the disciples when fishing at the Sea of Galilee.
  • To the more than 500 followers at one time as mentioned by Paul in 1 Cor. 15:6.
  • To James (Jesus’ half-brother) also mentioned in 1 Cor. 15:7.
  • To the apostles one more time as they accompanied him to Mount Olivet where they saw him ascend to Heaven.

So we’re taking a few weeks to look at some of these accounts. These accounts are the next part of Jesus’ story, which makes them the next part of our story. These accounts go on to show and prove that Jesus rose and actually is alive.
Last week, we read about the encounter on the road to Emmaus where Jesus meets up with two disciples (not of the 12). The two followers had heard that Jesus rose from the dead, but they didn’t believe it. They had pretty much given up hope and just wanted to go home. Jesus made it so they couldn’t recognize Him and shared with them all of the Old Testament prophesies about the Messiah and tells of how Jesus fulfilled every single one of them. Not wanting to miss their opportunity to spend more time with this wise person who they were now intrigued with, they invited Him into their home for the night, and while breaking bread Jesus revealed Himself, and in that moment, disappears.

So the two decide, now late into the evening, this was absolutely amazing. Jesus just appeared to them, and they have to take the seven mile walk back to Jerusalem to tell the others what happened and that’s it’s true…Jesus is alive! And that’s where we’ll pick up today.

We’re still on the same day Jesus rose from the dead. So it’s Sunday evening at this point and the 10 of the original disciples are hiding behind locked doors (John 20:19) because they are afraid the Jewish leaders may do to them what they did to Jesus.

Luke 24:35-43
35 Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognized him as he was breaking the bread. 36 And just as they were telling about it, Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 37 But the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost!

38 “Why are you frightened?” he asked. “Why are your hearts filled with doubt? 39 Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.” 40 As he spoke, he showed them his hands and his feet.

41 Still they stood there in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder.

I don’t think they don’t believe, but rather they are shocked, trying to make sense of what they were seeing. So Jesus tries to help them by proving He’s real.

Then he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he ate it as they watched.

This last line makes this story so relatable. Ever find your kids just staring at you as you do something, like eating? You see them out of the corner of your eye and you’re like, what are you doing. It’s like they are just stuck in curiosity about whatever you are doing. These are grown men standing around the table staring at Jesus while He eats. Just a little awkward.
I get it and would 100% be doing the exact same thing. Other than Peter who Jesus appeared to earlier in the day, this is the first time the disciples saw Jesus face to face after His death and resurrection. And He’s right in front of them eating!!!

Put yourself in this story. You’re hiding out, scared, terrified of what might happen to you, you’ve heard the women’s testimony of what the angels said that Jesus is alive, it sounds too unreal so you don’t buy into it, Peter and John have seen the empty tomb, John was starting to get it, Peter then has an encounter on his own with Jesus (Luke 25:34), the two from Emmaus have a wild story about seeing Him, and now all of a sudden there Jesus is in the upper room with you behind locked doors.

Even though Jesus told them He would die and rise again, it didn’t make any sense. It didn’t make any sense because who dies and rises again! They didn’t get it…until now.

Put your mind around this, Jesus didn’t knock on the door and the guys left Him in. He was just there. He’s not a ghost and certainly not a figment of their imaginations since they are all seeing the same thing. He spoke to them. They could touch Him and feel that He has a body. And now He’s eating a piece of broiled fish to prove, in their disbelief and surprise, that He is real.

At this moment, they have a decision to make. Believe or not believe. Pretty hard not to believe when He’s fully right in front of you.

So even though they could touch Him, hear His voice, His body wasn’t like the ones we live in. He wasn’t like Lazarus, who Jesus raised from the dead with a restored human body. Jesus could disappear and reappear. He disappeared from the men of Emmaus’ dinner table, then to them and the disciples behind locked doors.

His body is immortal. No longer could his body be hurt, get weak, or even die. Pay attention because this is a demonstration of the kind of body we are going to have when we get to Heaven! How exciting is that?! I’ve always wanted to be able to disappear and reappear…..that would save me so much time.

Do you remember a few weeks before Easter when we looked at the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead, and in Martha’s grief, she expresses to Jesus that she’s hopeful of the Resurrection that will come when we all rise at the last day, like it’s so far off in the future? And Jesus tells her that the Resurrection is actually standing right in front of her. He is it. Jesus is the Resurrection and the life.

As Christians, we believe that when we walk on this side of the grave, we live with the light of eternity in our hearts, which means since Jesus is the Resurrection and the life, the power of the Resurrection and the promise of new life are not simply things that await us when we die. It’s a power that lives inside us now, and it shapes our hope and thinking. This then changes the way we live and means our lives today can have consequences for eternity, specifically for the ones around us.

So in this account, we get this amazing image of what our own resurrection and what our heavenly bodies will be like.

During Paul’s ministry, he wrote two letters to the church in Corinth, and he points out in both of them the kind of bodies we will have in Heaven.

2 Corinthians 5:1-4
For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. 2 We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. 3 For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. 4 While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life.

He also says in 1 Corinthians 15:43-44
43 Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. 44 They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies.

We’ll be transformed and full of glory just like Jesus. Our spiritual bodies will be more capable of things our present bodies are. No illnesses, no weakness, we won’t ever die. All I can say is that if our bodies are like Jesus’ in Luke’s account and what Paul is describing, I’m absolutely looking forward to this new body.

Let’s read what happens next from John 20:24-31
24 One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. 25 They told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”

26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”

28 “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.
29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”

30 The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.

John straight up tells us that his gospel records only a few of the many events in Jesus’ life here on earth. John says, “I’d love to give you more, but this is enough to show you God’s love, His mercy, and this information is enough for you to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, through whom we receive eternal life.

At Jesus’ first appearance to the disciples, Thomas wasn’t there. Now we don’t know where he was, but that detail doesn’t seem to be important. What we do know is that his friends did a pretty good job filling him in on what he missed. But he just didn’t believe them. You’d think he would trust 10 of his closest friends whom he hung out with for the last three years. But it’s like that wasn’t enough for Thomas. He wanted to see Jesus too. And you know what, I don’t blame him.

I don’t think Thomas didn’t actually believe, but rather I wonder if Thomas felt a little left out. Why didn’t Jesus show Himself to me too? He’s one of the original 12. Why was I missed?

Eventually he does see Jesus, but it was eight long days later. Which at that point, Jesus knows all that Thomas had said and how he was feeling, and not because anyone told Him. Jesus shows up, says hi to the guys, and turns right to Thomas. “Hey, go ahead do what you said you need to do. Touch the wounds on my hands and my side. Just don’t be faithless any longer.”

Thomas didn’t actually need to touch him. Instead he fell right to his knees. Thomas believed his friends the whole time, he just wanted his Jesus too. I think if Thomas was doubting anything, he was doubting that Jesus would show Himself to him too.

Jesus wasn’t hard on Thomas for his doubts. Despite any skepticism, Thomas was still loyal to the believers and to Jesus. He didn’t go anywhere. He stayed right there with them waiting and hoping.

Some people just simply need to doubt before they can fully believe. I know that sounds weird like it’s going against faith, but if doubt leads to curiosity and questions, and questions lead to answers, and if the answers are accepted, then doubt is a good thing and has done good work.

It’s when doubt becomes stubbornness and stubbornness becomes a lifestyle that doubt harms our faith. The key is that when we doubt, we don’t let ourselves stop there. We ask questions, we watch, we wait, and we deepen our faith when we find answers.

Doubting was not Thomas’ lifestyle, stubbornness was not Thomas’ lifestyle. Poor Thomas has been known as “Doubting Thomas” for way too long, and I would like to squash that. This was just a reaction.

In fact, in John 11, there’s another glimpse of Thomas when Jesus said to his disciples, we need to go back to Judea to wake Lazarus up, who had died. The other disciples feared for Jesus’ safety to do that, as well as their own, because just a few days before this, people in Judea were trying to stone Jesus. But Thomas was the only one who had courage and boldly said, “Let’s go; let’s go too and die with Jesus.” That doesn’t sound like a constant doubter to me.

Besides, this doubt about Jesus’ resurrection did end up of having a purpose for Thomas. It gave him the curiosity to stay put, to keep his eyes open and find the truth. Thomas didn’t run off and head home or anywhere else. Instead, he waited. He hoped. I imagine he was constantly looking over his shoulder for the next week, just waiting to have his turn to see Jesus.

And Thomas wasn’t the only one doubting by the way. What did Jesus say to the other disciples as soon as He entered the upper room?

Luke 24:38
38 “Why are you frightened?” he asked. “Why are your hearts filled with doubt?

Because this is just too amazing to believe! Have you ever just wished you could actually see Jesus, touch him, hear His words out loud? Have you ever wished that He would sit right in front of you and tell you that it’s OK, tell you just want you needed to hear, put His arms around you, to just tell you the answer to every decision you ever had to make.

That’s what Thomas wanted too. He wanted Jesus’ physical presence. He had been around it for three whole years. He just wanted his Jesus back.

While we are on this earth, we aren’t going to see Jesus face to face in the way that Thomas did, which is why Jesus said…
John 20:29
29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”

You see, God always has a better plan. God has not limited himself to one physical body. He wants to be present with all of us at the same time, every single person in this world at all times which is why He’s given us the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

Even now, in this very second, He is with every single one of us. You can talk to Him, and He will answer you through the pages of the Bible, through people, through experiences. He can be as real to you as He was to Thomas in that moment.

For Thomas, seeing was believing, but for us believing is seeing.

Some people think they would believe in Jesus if they could just see Jesus personally. But really, we have all the proof we need in the testimonies of the believers, in the Old Testament prophesies, in the New Testament witnesses, in the history of the Church the last 2,000 years, right here in this room and in the testimonies of our own lives.

A physical appearance would not make Jesus any more real to us than he is right now.
He is real…..He is alive.

Often, we have faith in God’s works when He finally gets us through the storms of our lives, when we finally can see that He did work and life is still ok. But what if we believed first? How much more would we see Jesus because we are looking for Him?

What would it have looked like if from the moment Thomas’ friends told him about Jesus, he believed that He too would see Him? He wouldn’t have been worried or sad for eight long days. He may have waited with excitement!

We can be disappointed and have disbelief, or we can believe and be ready looking for Jesus in all aspects of our lives and be excited knowing He’s with us, and that we CAN SEE HIM!

Use your doubt to make you curious enough to find the truth and believe in what you find, even if we can’t see it.