John 20:24-29 – Biblical Belief

John 20:24–29 (ESV) — 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.”

 

 

Introduction:

not with them” (vs. 24)

  • When Jesus first appeared to the disciples, Thomas was absent.
  • We don’t know why.
  • But that makes little difference to an important principle revealed here.
  • Whether for good reason or bad, when we are absent from the fellowship of our Church, we will miss out on the blessings of fellowship.

 

We have seen the Lord” (vs. 25)

  • When Thomas got the report from the other disciples his response is hardly surprising.
  • 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” (vs. 25).
  • We need to remember that as a second-Temple Jew, Thomas had no category of a risen Messiah or one person rising ahead of everyone else.
  • The other disciples and Mary Magdalene were no better.
  • They “got it” when they saw the risen Jesus just like Thomas did.

 

Interestingly, his statement sounds a lot like the post-modern skeptics of our day.

  • “If God exists, why is He hidden?”
  • “Surely, if He wanted me to believe in Him, He need only show Himself”
  • But, does seeing a resurrected Jesus mean you will trust in Him as Savior?

 

John then tells us that “eight days later” Jesus made His second appearance to the disciples (vs. 26).

  • This time, “Thomas was with them” (vs. 26).
  • And as before, “although the doors were locked” (vs. 26), Jesus just sort of appeared.
  • And as before, He said “Peace be with you” (vs. 26).
  • A dead, buried and risen Messiah says, “Peace be with you”.
  • You got think this is loaded with all sorts of meaning!

 

John then brings us to the moment that was set up in verse 24 – an encounter between Thomas and Jesus.

  • Jesus, as He did with Nathanael in John 1, reveals He knows what the disciples thought and said even when He wasn’t there.
  • And he doesn’t scold Thomas.
  • In fact, we need to keep in mind that, “but for the fact that Thomas and the other apostles saw the incarnate Christ there would have been no Christian faith at all” – D.A. Carson.
  • So, Jesus lovingly says 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” (vs. 27).

 

John doesn’t make clear if Thomas actually did touch Jesus.

  • But John does make clear what Thomas said.
  • In response to Jesus’ words Thomas said, “My Lord and my God!” (vs. 28).
  • This is well known as the strongest confession of Jesus’ identity in the Gospels.
  • Even more so than Peter’s, Matthew 16:16 (ESV) — 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
  • And to this response Jesus replied, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (vs. 29).

 

It is this last exchange into which we will dive deeper.

 

 

1) MY LORD AND MY GOD

 

At a minimum, before Easter, the disciples believed at least two things about Jesus’ identity.

  • (1) The disciples believed Jesus to be “a prophet mighty in deed” (Luke 24:19).
  • (2) They also believed Jesus to be the Messiah, the “King of the Jews”, “the Lord’s anointed, the promised redeemer” – N.T. Wright.

 

With Jesus’ resurrection these two views would have been solidified.

“The first and most obvious conclusion which the disciples would have drawn, as soon as they came to believe that Jesus of Nazareth had been bodily raised from the dead, was that he was indeed the prophet mighty in word and deed, and that he was, more particularly, Israel’s Messiah. This would not be because they had already believed that the Messiah, when he came, would be raised from the dead, but because the Jesus they knew had been tried and executed as Messiah, and this extraordinary and unexpected event (as it seemed to them) had apparently reversed the verdicts of both the Jewish and the Roman courts” – N.T. Wright.

 

But, from this, how did Thomas arrive at the fact that Jesus was “Kyrios” and “Theos” – Lord and God?

 

Kyrios:

“Kyrios” carries with it the idea of being Master or King over a particular realm.

  • “The concept of lordship combines the two elements of power and authority” – TDNT.
  • It also carries with it the idea of ownership.
  • And it is worth noting that the LXX uses “Kyrios” for the Hebrew “Yahweh”.

 

The realm that is in view here, it must be noted, is all of creation.

  • This includes those creatures who claim to be lord themselves.
  • In other words, to call Jesus “Kyrios” means He is “the world’s true lord” – N.T. Wright.

 

Importantly, identifying Jesus as “Kyrios” is more than the radical theological claim that He is “Yahweh”, the God of the OT, the God of Israel.

  • It is also an “in your face” political statement to all those who think they are in power.
  • Jesus is “Kyrios” of the Jews and the Romans!

 

So how did Thomas arrive at this conclusion?

 

The Jews and the Romans crucified Him as the Messiah, the King of the Jews.

  • Jesus’ words, signs and self title, “Son of Man”, all indicated that He did see Himself as the Messiah.
  • His disciples saw Him as Messiah.
  • And by His resurrection, the Father exalted Him to the throne where He, in fact, assumed His place as the Messiah, the King of the Jews and the Romans.

 

This was His vindication.

  • He was mocked by creation, but the Creator had the last word.
  • This is why the most quoted or alluded to OT verse in the NT is Psalm 110:1.
  • Psalm 110:1 (ESV) — 1 The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”
  • Colossians 3:1 (ESV) — 1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

 

Speaking on how Jesus’ resurrection and exaltation confirmed Jesus’ identity, N.T. Wright says:

“The New Testament writers draw on all these to express the point that…they had reached by other means: that Jesus was the Messiah; that he was therefore the world’s true lord; that the creator God had exalted him as such, sharing with him his own throne and unique sovereignty; and that he was therefore to be seen as kyrios. And kyrios meant not only ‘lord of the world’, in the sense that he was the human being now at the helm of the universe, the one to whom every knee, including that of Caesar, must bow, but also ‘the one who makes present and visible what the Old Testament said about YHWH himself” – N.T. Wright.

 

I think John captures Thomas revelation in his opening chapter.

  • John 1:18 (ESV) — 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

 

Theos:

“Theos” is Greek for “God”.

  • The Hebrew equivalent is usually “El”.
  • This proclamation of Thomas goes “hand in glove” with “Kyrios”.
  • The “whats” and “whys” from above apply here.

 

But, importantly, it profoundly links Jesus’ identity to God in the flesh.

  • It is a proclamation that Jesus is God incarnate.
  • And even better, that the Jesus standing before Thomas is the risen God incarnate.
  • John 1:1 (ESV) — 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
  • John 1:14 (ESV) — 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

 

One other significant thing to consider here is:

  • In Thomas, we have a second-Temple, monotheistic Jew claiming that the person, Jesus, is God.
  • In other words, as a result of resurrection, we have a Jew speaking in Trinitarian language.
  • We can add this to all the resurrection mutations that must be accounted for by historians.

 

 

2) SEEING AND BELIEVING

 

We mentioned that Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (vs. 29).

  • I want to be sure we understand what Jesus is NOT saying.

 

First, as we stated earlier, the reason we have Christianity and all its Jewish mutations is because the disciples and Paul actually saw the risen Jesus Christ in person.

  • Remember, 1 Corinthians 15 begins with the early Christian resurrection creed that cites the list of eyewitnesses that saw the risen Jesus Christ.
  • So, yes, they believed Jesus was “Kyrios” and “Theos” because they saw Him bodily standing in front of them after He had been crucified and buried.
    • Not discounting, of course, that the Holy Spirit had provided them with new hearts to “hear” and “see” this truth.
  • This physically seeing Jesus is necessary and fundamental to the birth of Christianity.

 

But, seeing the risen Jesus is a one-off event.

  • So what about the rest of us?
  • Our belief is based upon the historical testimony of the eyewitnesses (Thomas, Peter, Paul, etc.) as revealed in Scripture.
    • Not discounting, of course, that the Holy Spirit has regenerated our hearts thereby enabling us to respond with belief to this testimony.

 

So Jesus is not saying that a “seeing” belief, in this case, is not as real as a “non-seeing” belief.

  • And Jesus is not saying that because we haven’t seen, our belief has no object.
  • In other words, He is not saying that our faith is a blind faith.

 

Blind Faith – A Common Mistake:

A blind faith is just wishful thinking.

  • It is, as Greg Koukl says, irrationally hoping that thin ice will support your weight.
  • It is a faith that pretends it can exist when contrary to the facts.
  • This is not the faith Jesus is describing.
  • This is not the faith of the Bible.

 

Too many people think the opposite of faith is knowledge – such as Thomas’ need to see Jesus for himself.

  • They think that this type of belief does not require faith and so it is not as “good”.
  • This is false, false, false.
  • The opposite of faith is unbelief, not knowledge.

 

Can we have more faith?

 

And to speak of having “more” faith makes no sense unless your faith is a blind faith.

  • I fell through the ice because I just didn’t have enough faith that thin ice would hold me up.
  • I just need to have more faith that something that is not true will be true.

 

The NT never speaks of faith in this way (that I could find).

  • You will not find the command to have “more” faith.
  • A Biblical faith is qualitative not quantitative.
  • A Biblical faith is milk or meat not less or more.

 

Biblical Faith – Just the Facts:

A Biblical faith is traditionally described as consisting of knowledge, assent and trust.

  • We can rationally determine that a Biblical claim is legit – we can know it.
  • We can then assent or accept this knowledge in our minds as the truth, and thus authoritative over the pretenders to the truth and over our own lives.
  • And then we can trust in it with full assurance that it will deliver what it says it will.

 

Another way to look at Biblical faith is that “to have an object of our faith” is Biblical faith.

  • And, of course, the object of our faith is Jesus Christ and all the things we can learn about Him.
  • And the quality of our faith is related to the truth of the object of our faith and what we know about this object.
  • So, if the object of our faith is found to be false, our faith is false.
  • Remember, Paul said that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, we need to move on.

 

But a blind faith will continue on in ignorant bliss, completely detached from the truth.

 

A text from John gives us a beautiful picture of Biblical faith.

  • John 2:23–25 (ESV) — 23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

 

We need to know here that “entrust” is actually the exact same word translated as “believed” in verse 23.

  • In fact, it is the exact same word used for “believed” in our John 20:29 text.

 

So in this text, Jesus demonstrates a belief/trust (pisteuo) that is firmly based on knowledge, assent and trust.

  • The object of Jesus’ belief/trust would be the “many” who “believed in his name”.
  • However, Jesus knows something of this object.
  • He knows this because He, “knew all people”.
  • And the thing that He knows is “what was in man”.
  • So because Jesus knows something of the object that is problematic, He cannot assent to it.
  • He therefore will not trust in the object – the “many”.
  • No matter how much Jesus may love them, He cannot blindly “entrust himself to them” – or literally, He cannot “believe in them”.

 

Our faith, Biblical faith, is the very same!

 

BTW – Hebrews 11:1 makes clear that our faith is also wrapped up in what will happen, not just what has happened.

  • We can trust in the future promises made by the object of our faith – Jesus!
  • This is related to why Paul connects the resurrection of Jesus with ours.
  • If ours doesn’t happen, then Jesus’ didn’t happen.

 

 

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